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Which trends are changing the face of the legal industry?

The legal profession has entered a time of transformation

Some trends pose a challenge for new graduates and experienced professionals alike, whilst others are creating new opportunities for those willing to acquire new skills and adopt flexible career trajectories. Here are some to keep in mind.

New digital technologies

The Investigatory Powers Bill and similar amendments in the US are making electronically stored information (ESI) discoverable in both criminal investigation and civil litigation (E-Discovery). In a world increasingly that is digitally connected, this field is primed for growth and requires lawyers who understand both the technology and the laws around it.

Some law firms are accumulating ESI of their own and licensing access through A.I. and data mining. As these resources expand, they will create jobs for those who can combine legal skills with IT.

Intellectual property law is expanding on the back of the same technologies – the filing of patents, copyrights and trademarks is expanding worldwide. The most active sectors for patents, unsurprisingly, are electronics-related, so again graduates well grounded in technology can fare well.

Job market dynamics

In times of recession, competition is more intense. Law graduates are finding it hard to walk into jobs in traditional law firms at a time when these firms are competing with each other for the most experienced specialists.

In contrast, opportunities outside of traditional law firms have never been better. Commercial companies are building up their own in-house legal teams, and they are hiring paralegal and support services from outside (legal process outsourcing or LPO), as are law firms. For a younger generation willing to work digitally and flexibly, this brings new opportunities. One group that will welcome this trend will be women lawyers wishing to continue their career but raise a family at the same time.

The connected generation

Networked technology allows legal professionals to work from anywhere. Social networking is changing how legal professionals recruit, find jobs, research, find witnesses, and contact clients. LinkedIn and Facebook are helping to develop careers and market services.

By enabling flexi-time and telecommuting, the need for the traditional workplace diminishes.

Law in a global market

In a connected world, law firms have to collaborate with foreign counsel, and some have even merged across borders. Far from stemming this tide, Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency guarantee an explosion of work fleshing out new international relations. The greatest opportunities will be for lawyers focused in commercial law, agriculture, employment rights and immigration.

Law for a greener world

Governments recognise that green legislation pays at the ballot box and industries are anxious to be eco-friendly, so recruitment of lawyers who focus in fair trade, organics, green development and renewable energy is growing.

New service delivery and billing models

Conveyancing was once the exclusive preserve of solicitors, but not any more. Other areas of law are set to follow. Opportunities will arise for graduates to become paralegal technicians, legal document preparers, or facilitators in online dispute resolution. Fixed fees may supplant billable hours, but by creating easier access to legal services, revenues will continue to grow.

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