Almost 3 years ago, I started my first year of law school. Since that time, I have been hearing a lot about how the legal profession is changing. Many people have told me that the golden age for lawyers is coming to an end or that it already has. Technological advances are changing the way we practice law in almost every sense. Even as I began law school, the profession has changed from the way it was practiced before. The internet has completely altered how legal research is conducted. Information is at ones’ fingertips and there doesn’t seem to be a need to spend hours in a dusty library searching up case law book by book. At this current point of technological advancement, I’m comfortable with how things are because I grew up with these innovations and I feel fully prepared to integrate them into my future practice.
The problem is that things are continuing to change. The way we are being taught to do things in legal practice is in danger of being out-dated by the time we graduate from law school and are actually ready to practice the law. In this class, we have had many guest speakers talk to us about the constant evolution of the profession and how a majority of core legal work could be handled easier and in a more efficient way by computers. Considering what most of us have spent on our legal education, this is a frightening concept. What if we don’t end up making what we planned to? What if the number of jobs shrinks even more after we graduate? What if our loans pile up and we have to start working at Starbucks to make ends meet? These are concerns I’m sure we all have in the back of our minds and they’re creeping ever slowly to the forefront, especially for us third year students.
While these things do scare me as well when I think about them too much, I still believe that the overall big picture will remain consistent. People need lawyers to help them navigate through their legal issues and, in my opinion, no amount of technology will get them to the point where lawyers will not be needed. I think that technology will make things more efficient in the long run for both parties involved; lawyers and their clients. A program like Knomos for example, will help lawyers in their research efforts. The user friendly way it is organized even means that clients could use it as well to educate themselves on the pertinent legal issues before meeting with a lawyer. The Civil Resolution Tribunal is another example of innovation that helps the profession. While not really a technological advancement, it allows clients to resolve disputes online in cases of small claims and some strata disputes. This saves clients time and helps avoid backlogging the court system with these types of issues.
These are positive improvements that will not take away from the services lawyers offer. Despite the advancement of online resources, I believe that in general, people will always prefer to talk to people. Clients will want to discuss their important problems with an educated person who can respond like a human being. I think the value of this is understated these days. Whatever legal issues the client has, it is almost assured that those issues are of the utmost importance to them and they will not want to be filed through a system by a computer without human contact. It’s the same reason I punch the “0” button somewhere around 15-16 times when the Shaw automated voice comes on. I don’t want to press buttons to hear responses from a machine and I believe that I am not the only one who thinks this way.
So in the end, I believe that lawyers will always have a prominent place in the professional work force. Technology should not be viewed as a threat, but it should be embraced as something that can and will change the way in which we do what we do. We have to learn and grow with it to survive. It is an evolving tool at our disposal that will not take away from what we can offer, but instead open up our options so that we can offer more. We can efficiently manage our time and use the analytical skills gained from our education to better serve our clients. Further educating ourselves on these technological advancements will allow us to maintain our positions in the professional realm for now and in the future.