Chrissie Lightfoot

Chrissie Lightfoot

Whether you’re a sololawyer or a NewHuman lawyer in an international behemoth, to future-proof your career you will need to embrace the evolution and rise of SocialHuman Lawyer…

For those of you familiar with my futuristic work it will come as no surprise to you that it is only now, in mid 2015, due to the infiltration and movement of the ‘rise of the machines’ potentially threatening our cozy jobs in the legal world – which I predicted and have written at length about in numerous articles and my two books these past six years – that, at least, one Goliath in the legal eco-system has woken up to my message – We, as individual lawyers in all law firms, need to ‘get naked’ (a metaphor for ridding ourselves of the corporate veil, stripping bare, then clothing ourselves with a personal brand which extols one’s authenticity and pure humanness), tap into our emotional intelligence, differentiate ourselves with our niche(s), devise our unique personal brand, be creative – become entrepreneurial, innovative, imaginative and dynamic by harnessing support technologies – ‘be social’ (embrace social networking and social media, etc.), be a rainmaker and constantly skill-up and adapt in our roles, in a bid to future-proof our livelihoods, careers and businesses.

Ultimately, we need to become all of what I describe here – SocialHuman Lawyer.

NewHuman and NewTech
You may recall earlier this year the feature ‘Legal avatars could soon be reality in the Global Legal Post, wherein, citing from my latest book, Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw I say that in the very near future it is ‘perfectly possible and probable that blue-collar & white-collar robot legal staff will work alongside ‘pure blood’ lawyers and ‘hybrid humans’ (NewHuman).’

Let us not dismiss the reality that the use of AI in the legal ecosystem is already widespread and the world already has robot bricklayers, robot nurses, robot waiting staff, robot receptionists, robot saleswomen and humanoids. It’s therefore inevitable that robots will infiltrate the legal world, and much sooner than we may like to believe or imagine.

The businesses of law are increasingly relying on NewTech to bring about legal efficiency – a term I coined to describe the culmination of cloud-based systems software, cognitive computing, artificially intelligent machine systems and robots – and cannot be under-estimated or understated in relation to its likely impact, for better or worse. This trend is only going to continue and amplify as we advance into a Robotic Age with AI technology and legal businesses becoming ever more tightly connected. Accordingly, with all this NewTech take-up, AI in play, avatars, iCyborgs lawyers and Robot Lawyers in the wings, we need to concern ourselves with what it means to be ‘human’ and what our role(s) will be.

The roles that I envisage ought to be here now, and are likely to evolve very soon – read here if you wish to learn more  – are roles that I have been espousing since 2009 that require creativity, imagination and EI – the talent realm of the ‘pure blood’ SocialHuman lawyer. Until AI evolves to harness EI and creativity (which I have no doubt it will within 30 years), these two things will be the human lawyer’s domain and unique selling points; 2009-2045.

What the profession and clients regarded as top lawyerly talent in the past is not the kind of talent required or expected currently or in future. Lawyers will need to be creative about who, what, where, when, why and how they provide legal services and products. For example, this means being creative about how you market yourself.

I shared these views in at least three articles in Managing Partner magazine, the first as far back as 2011 titled iCyborg Lawyer; then Robot Law (Feb, 2015) and finally Machine v Human (Apr 2015)), along with my musings in The Naked Lawyer (2009) and then Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer (2014) that the relentless march of industrialization, wearable technology, AI and robotics will push the boundaries of what it means to be human, social and a lawyer in the next 30 years.

The entrepreneurial lawyer ‘David’s’ woke up to the potential threat of the machine back in 2010/11 and gradually throughout the next four years the small and mid-size firms began, slowly, to take note too, albeit piece-meal; usually individual lawyers taking the bull by the horns for themselves rather than the firm investing in them – with some exceptions.

Tipping point
But I am delighted to announce that I believe we have actually reached the tipping point, a la Malcolm Gladwell style (author of The Tipping Point).  Last weekend I jetted off to share my current and future vision, insights and suggested solutions with the partners of Allen & Overy who asked me to join them at their retreat conference in Amsterdam. After spending the day with the lawyers and support staff in the A&O Amsterdam office I am of the opinion that they are ahead of the pack in their thinking and grasp of the opportunities for their future, in no uncertain terms.

A goliath of the legal world is now well and truly awake. But will it be too late?

Pamela Bucy Pierson, the Bainbridge Mims Professor of Law at The University of Alabama School of Law, expressed in an article that  the legal market was tipping in favour of solo and small firms. In the piece,  Pamela discusses five market conditions that spell hardship for large and medium-sized law firms and opportunity for small firms, boutiques and solo practitioners. I shall share one with you here:

“Clients, especially large business clients, are moving more of their legal work from large law firms to smaller firms. Corporate Counsel, a publication by and for corporate counsel, reported on this trend, noting that corporate counsel had “come to think that they were throwing money away by sending all their work to big firms.” [Corporate Counsel, April 1, 2012]”

Whether you are reading this as a sololawyer, a lawyer in a boutique, small, mid or large ‘traditional’ law firm or (GC in a) corporation, or an employee (lawyer or non-lawyer) in one of the ‘new-breed’ businesses of law, remember this:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” (Maya Angelou).

Accordingly, if you focus on nurturing your EI and creativity, the chances are you will survive in whatever business of law exists currently and what lies on the Robotic Age horizon.

Chrissie Lightfoot is author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045. (published Nov. 2014 ), and its prequel bestseller The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell You! (Nov. 2010). You can pick up her latest book today by emailing or call +44(0) 207 566 5792.

This article was published in the Global Legal Post on June 29, 2015 and is reproduced with permission from the publisher and from the author.

Watch out for part two next week.