When it is suggested that lawyers need to improve their ancillary skills – marketing, business development, use of social media – the response is mixed. Solicitors who have worked hard at law’s core professional skills and knowledge are hard-pushed to see why this is not sufficient to thrive. That each ancillary skill comes with a list of comparatively insubstantial jargon is unhelpful – solicitors are schooled in scepticism.
Joining that list of non-law skills, as Gazette columnist Joanna Goodman relates is ‘Legal IT’, which is set to make an appearance in some US law schools. Leading the debate on IT’s place in the law is a client. Kia Motors corporate counsel D Casey Flaherty set law firms seeking selection as Kia’s external counsel an IT competence test – which all of them failed.
It is worth seeing this from the client’s point of view. Clients, corporate or individual, are not asking that lawyers learn to write computer programs. Neither are they hell-bent on asking for a ‘commoditised’ product that undermines professionalism. Instead, clients are asking their legal advisers to mirror the way they go about their own business. Used well, technology is about simplifying life, thereby freeing us all up to focus on the clever professional things that add value.