Why in the near future even lawyers will need to understand code

Once the profession made do with quill and ink, but now it’s dealing with technologies like AI.

By Rebecca Ryan Litigation partner, Mathesons

AS WITH MANY other industries, the legal profession faces growing challenges from the disruptive power of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.

We are seeing technology change the way we do business, with modern software creating new ways to provide legal services to clients. Much of this innovation can make life easier for lawyers and allow us to do more for our clients at lower costs.

It is not only the legal industry that is experiencing innovation at breakneck speed – every industry is open to disruption, and companies that have dominated for decades are facing challenges. We can anticipate these challenges and work with clients to find innovative solutions.

The legal profession has shown itself to be adaptable in the face of technological change, but developing a deep understanding of the language of the industry is crucial.

For many clients, code is the voice of their business. As lawyers, understanding that code is becoming key to understanding our clients’ businesses.

Effective legal representation, particularly of clients operating within the technology sector, requires at least a basic knowledge of the fundamentals of coding.

Leading the way

The US is leading the way in this area with many law schools now offering courses in programming. This means that graduates are entering employment with skill sets that are beneficial to the firms they work for.

US clients increasingly expect modern lawyers to have a basic understanding of programming – something which is integral to their daily operations. We anticipate similar trends to emerge in the Irish legal sector.

Dublin is continuing to grow as a leading global tech hub for large enterprises and startups, and is positioning itself as a leader in fintech.

To maintain and promote our reputation as a centre of excellence for multinational and domestic technology companies, we need to embrace every competitive edge.

Arming Irish lawyers working with technology companies with an understanding of code will help us to stand out in the post-Brexit competition for business.

Tech-centric collaboration and innovation needs to become part and parcel of how lawyers operate. Fostering a culture which places lawyers at the forefront of technological change will benefit both the legal industry and the clients we represent.

There was a time when lawyers had to draft legal documents by hand with a quill and ink. Now, we’re able to communicate with clients at the speed it takes to write an email or send a text.

With new technologies like AI, for example, we can draft legal documents quicker than ever before, drastically reducing the hours spent on time-consuming due diligence and discovery tasks.

If we embrace these innovations – and those yet to come – the legal profession will not only avoid the risks posed to their business, but excel in the new era of change.

Rebecca Ryan is a litigation partner and the leader of the ‘Smart’ programme at Matheson.

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