“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune
If you believe the press, the legal community has no future.
I don’t buy it.
I buy the notion that lawyers can be and in some instances are being replaced by machines, but I don’t accept that our industry will be nuked in the next decade…or two.
There’s one caveat, however.
Lawyers need to become more human.
You heard me.
Instead of trying to compete with AI or hold it in abeyance, lawyers should consider how they can bring more:
Intelligence — smart thinking et al. — to their work.
And whilst I’m a big Science Fiction fan and expect robots to get smarter, I don’t expect them to be engineered or capable of displaying said emotions any time soon.
(This is a hackneyed and stereotypical argument. Indeed, if you’ve read any of Arthur C. Clarke’s books or Isaac Asimov, I’m quite sure that they’ve milked this theme to death.)
The issue though is always the issue; namely, lawyers’ emotional quotient is trained (or bullied) out of them.
God forbid they might bring their true self to work, let alone the person you know outside of work…once they’ve consumed an ocean of alcohol.
But it’s true.
At least on my watch — qua solicitor and CEO.
And clients need it.
No, they really need it.
I don’t mean to suggest that lawyers should abandon all impartiality and wear everything on their sleeve.
But I know, as a purchaser and supplier of legal services, that what clients crave more than anything else is more…humanity.
Oh sure, if you’re an in-house lawyer of a behemoth organisation, you might want/need to employ the brightest and the very best — the Magic Circle cohort exist for a reason — but for everyone else, your choice is very likely to be on a human level.
You know the drill: people buy from people, not bloody robots.
The issue then is how lawyers undo all that left-brain adaptation and connect with their soul. It’s not easy; and in fact, I’d say for many — having been subsumed by the ‘system’ — it’s too late. That or they simply don’t buy the humanity point:
“I’m the expert. And if clients don’t like me or my advice, they can look elsewhere.”
(That’s my polite version; I can think of a few people who’ve adopted slightly courser language.)
For everyone else, assuming you buy my humanity point, I don’t suspect you’ll find this type of training offered by the usual CPD suspects. That’s not to say that EI, soft skills, and leadership courses aren’t awash in the market, but trust me, you’re not going to learn much by hanging out with other like-minded folks, all trying to a get grip of this.
Instead, you’ve to do some critical examination, i.e. look within:
Who am I?
What are my values?
Do I live them in my work, always?
If I wasn’t earning or hoping to earn mega bucks, would I still be the same person?
Why law as opposed to anything else?
How can I serve my soul as much as or more than my clients?
Do I love myself? (I don’t mean the delusional, ego version. I mean the person who is very, very comfortable in their own skin.)
What’s my purpose?
And before you cast this off as another navel-gazing post, let me ask you this. How much personal transformation have you witnessed in the legal profession in the last 10 years?
In my case, the answer is nada. Zip. Not a millimeter of personal change; and I’m even taking account of the millennials who’ve joined the cohort of generation ‘X’ (and before) who are most at risk of being knocked off their PEP pedal stool in favour of machine learning.
In my case, when I look at my trajectory up to 2010, I can see that I too succumbed to the stereotypical lawyer I’m castigating so heavily: I was transfixed with making it to the top — i.e. partnership — and, in the process, I shunned my soul which, by and large, was seeking meaning in my work — not effing money.
Trust me, to even admit this is hard. Not hard in the sense that I’ve not spoken about it before, but hard in the sense that I pissed so much of my life away chasing a dream that was never mine but worst still corrupted me.
I accept that my peccadillos are mine and mine alone but I’d be surprised if you too hadn’t questioned why you’ve so much skin in the game if the price you’re paying is a complete aberration of your humanity.
In the end, you might not give a damn. Sure, the clock is ticking but by the time AI has caught up with your practice area, you’ll be long gone and it will be someone else’s headache.
Then again, if you see yourself lasting the distance, you’ll (expect to) exist by dint of some hackneyed phrase that suggests your clients won’t buy all this machine learning nonsense. But they will. And only a dummy believes otherwise.
But then again, if you’re willing to adopt a different posture and question your assumptions that enticed you into the profession in the first place, you might find that you come out the other side not just a better, more humane lawyer but a nicer person to boot.
Note: In case you’re interested, I’m now on Patreon where you can read more of my work for free or subscribe for a very nominal sum to a few pieces that are created especially for patrons. I also offer coaching on a one on one basis and you can find out about it here.