People skills in an era of advancing technology

By Yves Faguy May 1, 20181 May 2018

People skills in an era of advancing technology


With automation promising to shake up the legal industry, lawyers are understandably fearful that machines will replace them. But even as technology becomes more widely deployed, law firms will still have to focus their efforts on hiring the right people, says Mark A. Cohen, a legal strategist and a keynote speaker at the 2018 CCCA National Conference in Toronto.

In the battle for talent, there will be a premium on a mix of contemporary skills. These include an understanding of technology’s role in legal delivery, project management, marketing and data analytics. 

Lawyers will also have to go back to basics. “Just knowing the law won’t cut it anymore” says Cohen. “Law is and always has been an information business. Not just knowing it, but communicating it persuasively to solve problems.”

What makes the current marketplace different is that the tools lawyers need to analyze and communicate that information have effectively broadened, says Cohen. 

Legal education has a role to play in helping students develop these skills. And it will be crucial for the modern lawyer to understand where the market is headed. “Education has to have a closer alignment to the marketplace’” says Cohen. Lawyers at the start of their career need to be aware of the rise of the in-house community, the emergence of new legal service providers, and new forms of collaboration among law companies, such as managed legal services provider UnitedLex taking over a large portion of GE’s legal department.

Meanwhile, law firms eyeing the talent coming out of schools would be wise to focus their hiring efforts knowing that diversity will be the hallmark of a new legal culture, says Cohen. “The most overlooked factor [in law firms] is culture and people,” he says. “Whether it’s millennials and diversity, there have to be changes made so that there is a broader spectrum of perspectives in our industry.”

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