Digitalisation is spreading everywhere and accelerating and simplifying processes while challenging existing structures. The era of digitalisation is forcing entire professions to rethink traditional working methods. Lawyers are also facing new challenges amid a growing legal technology sector. Markus Hartung, Director of the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession (Bucerius CLP), said: “In future, the lawyer’s profession will require more project managers and specialists who can work with legal technology.” The centre at the Bucerius Law School in Hamburg conducts research into the interfaces between law, economics and management.
Computer programmes take over junior lawyers’ tasks
According to the latest study published by Bucerius CLP and the Boston Consulting Group last year, the use of new technologies will have a significant impact on the legal sector. In view of constantly rising volumes of data, the ability to map, analyse and interpret legal data will be key to the success of lawyers’ practices. The study also highlights problematic aspects which would effect newcomers to the profession. Computer programmes would take over 30 per cent to 50 per cent of junior lawyers’ tasks in future and putting jobs for lawyers starting their careers at risk. Many parts of the legal sector will have to reinvent itself to meet the opportunities and challenges, the study found.
New learning goals in law studies
The syllabus at the Bucerius Law School already has content to meet growing technology demands. A seminar called Coding 4 Lawyers gives students practical insight into the functions of servers, domains and programming a webpage.
“The seminar is always fully booked,” said Hartung and has called for the inclusion of mathematics in the syllabus. He added: “Probability calculation is the basis of artificial intelligence. When lawyers base their expert reports on evaluations of software, they should also understand how they arose.” Other learning goals such as recognising new technological fields of application or relaying digital input will also become part of instruction.
No fear of digitalisation
However, digitalisation often has an ambivalent effect on the work of lawyers, said Hartung. The rising number of fledgling, legal technology start-ups focusing on air passenger rights or tenancy law is strengthening consumer protection on the one hand. Such start-ups use algorithms to calculate the possible success of a lawsuit and only charge their clients when they win a case. This allows lawyers to work on far more lawsuits and in shorter time periods which is a clear win for consumers.
On the other hand, Hartung, who is also Chairman of the German Association of Lawyers (DAV), has the interests of his professional group at heart. The terms of competition are not equal and pose a conflict for lawyers, who must charge clients for labour costs. Legislators must encourage fair competition. But regardless of the situation, the Bucerius Law School will also endeavour to ensure that digitalisation is not seen as a threat and to make the opportunities for lawyers more transparent.