The legal profession, like many other sectors, will see disruptive change with 20 per cent of the routine legal works likely to be automated in the future, predicts a survey conducted by BML Munjal University (BMU) School of Law and Vahura, a leading legal search and consulting firm.
The study 'Decoding the Next - Gen Legal Professional' surveyed working lawyers asking them questions on how the legal profession will shape up in the future. As many as 42 per cent of those surveyed believe that 20 per cent of the routine works like contract drafting and due diligence, etc will be taken over by technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain. In fact, 67 per cent of in-house (legal professionals in companies) respondents say 50 per cent of their work will be taken over by tech.
Does this mean automation lead to job losses in the sector? Prof. Nigam Nuggehalli, Dean, School of Law at BML Munjal University, says: "I think there would be job losses for that (routine) kind of work, but a lot of legal works like corporate governance and tax planning involve some intellectual inputs and judgments and that kind of work will continue. Corporate governance and tax planning are important parts of law practice, which won't go away. They will continue to thrive."
The survey captures the skills that would be considered most important for lawyers to survive and thrive in the competitive legal industry over the next three-five years. The top skill required would be one of understanding and anticipating client needs (81 per cent), followed by tech proficiency (74 per cent), commercial awareness (71 per cent) and time-management (57 per cent).
According to Prof Nigam, a lot of law firms are now looking for these soft skills in young lawyers, which are traditionally ignored by the law schools.
On the need for commercial awareness, Prof Nigam says law students should be able to understand law in its commercial and economic context.
"If you are learning contract law, you should be first able to understand what the contracting parties are trying to do - if they are trying to allocate risk, what the consequences of the breach (of a contract) are. These are commercial points, that a law student must understand to be a better lawyer," he says.
The survey also points to what lawyers and law firms would want in potential recruits. A majority of respondents (76 per cent) say that law schools should have an emphasis on and provide students hands-on practical training in contract drafting, pleadings and procedure and on building the fundamentals of law. As many as 72 per cent respondents cite the need to build skills in drafting and negotiation while 61 per cent say that law schools should train students in legal tech to make them future ready.
On the purpose of the survey, president of the BML Munjal University Akshay Munjal says that survey like these help them recalibrate as an educational institution. "What we teach today may not be relevant for students in next five years. So we have to do little bit of predicting for the future, and survey like these help us predict the future demands from our students."