Advanced technology gives lawyers “a wonderful opportunity to develop EQ” or emotional intelligence, the head of national firm Shoosmiths’ non-legal services division has said.
Tony Randle, a commercial lawyer, said the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in contract review was already delivering “revolutionary and disruptive” change for commercial lawyers and the next 10 years would see “increasingly disruptive” technology.
“In the future there will be a place for lawyers and technology, not lawyers or technology.
“Lawyers will be able to supercharge their very human attributes in terms of engaging with and understanding clients much more deeply, and empathising with them.
“It will leave clients with a much better experience of lawyers and the law.”
Speaking at a Westminster Legal Policy Forum seminar on legal tech last week, Mr Randle, partner and head of Shoosmiths8 Connected Services, said technology would provide lawyers with a “wonderful opportunity” to develop their EQ, as opposed to IQ.
Another important set of skills that lawyers of the future would need was in change management, he went on, because they would face an environment where change would be “the norm”.
“There have been many dystopian predictions about how much legal work will be replaced by machines.
“Machines won’t replace lawyers. Lawyers who understand technology will replace those who don’t.”
Mr Randle said AI was already sufficiently advanced to replace “a good proportion” of the thought processes relied on by the older generation of commercial lawyers.
However, there was no need for lawyers to become “technology experts” or to be trained as coders.
Instead, they should know enough about technology to understand where it could solve problems for their clients.
“They need to able to see the potential of technology. More lawyers need this understanding to have great new ideas on how to meet client need.”
Mr Randle said the connection between law and technology was “vital to the profession” but there was still a “massive disconnect”, with the two sides speaking “different languages”.
He added: “Technology has the ability to make lawyers’ lives less stressful. They should not fear technology. It creates far more scope for them to have a lower stress and more rewarding professional life.”
Dr Anna Elmirzayeva, senior tutor and national lead for legal technology and innovation in professional development at the University of Law, said the university took a “holistic approach” to the issue, with “people skills” such as emotional intelligence and creative thinking coming first.
Future lawyers needed to understand “functionalities” rather than specific tools, because they may well not be using the tools they studied at university.
“Students and future lawyers need to understand that the profession can no longer dictate to clients how they are going to receive a service.
“A lot of the push is coming from clients. Appreciating how clients want the service delivered is essential.”
She added: “You need high EQ.”