Robert F Kennedy in his 1966 speech that referenced an ancient Chinese curse said, “We live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind.” While Kennedy was speaking to his generation, his words ring true for 2017 and the Technological Age that is currently unfolding.
Many of us in the legal profession are faced with overwhelming feelings of uncertainty as we decide which of these technologies to embrace, absorbing into our practice, and which to reject. Indeed, Law, as with many other professions is currently in the grip of the broadest (and fastest) set of changes to the way that we currently do business. With many people naturally being resistant to change, it is not surprising that quite a few law firms have flatly rejected the change brought about by new technologies. It seems that some, will flatly refuse to adopt new ways of doing business, until they are literally cornered into making the change.
It is a topic that legal critics such as Richard Susskind have written about for many years now. These evaluations are often accompanied by a warning that such resistance will inevitably be disastrous in the long term; with those incapable of embracing this new way of doing business being left behind. For me, I’m not confused as to whether we should be embracing the changes brought by technology. My dilemma is which of these new technologies should be embraced and which should be discarded for their potential to undermine the quality of the professional service that we, as lawyers, provide.
While Welden & Coluccio Lawyers has demonstrated leadership in harnessing professional software to customise, streamline, and provide a more consistent standard of service to our clients; I have often wondered how far this technology can be pushed before we move into a place where digital technologies replace the nuanced wisdom of a skilled legal practitioner. In other words, do we really want robots doing the work of lawyers?
I think this is something that, to a degree should be resisted. Indeed, from our daily practice, it is concerning to see online legal platforms operating under the premise that a Will (for example) can be produced for a set fee, following the clicking of a few drop-down boxes and completion of given subject fields.
You see, such an approach (perhaps reminiscent of McDonald’s move to streamline the production of hamburgers), while it may lead to a more affordable and accessible product for the consumer (and greater profit to the owner), comes with huge risk. You see, unlike the hamburger business, the delivery of legal services is fraught with risk. While it would be wonderful to be able to enter data into a computer and have a solution identified for a pre-determined flat fee, the type of work that lawyers undertake, being based on human emotions, will never make this a viable option.
Quality legal services require an attention to detail that can only be delivered via a face to face engagement. Lawyers not only read and apply the Law but we are skilled at applying this Law to real people. It requires judgement, careful evaluation of the circumstances, and always an understanding of the people you are dealing with. This last bit is perhaps the most important.
Quite often during meetings, an answer is provided, whereby the manner of that answer raises concern or further questioning. After a while, the original answer is extrapolated in such a way, that the original answer has completely changed.
This is why trials are so risky and why lawyers always want to cross examine their opponents.
Creating an Estate Plan is not a one way meeting; it relies on the skilled lawyer asking probing questions and not taking answers at face value.
While Welden & Coluccio Lawyers continue to celebrate and embrace the widening options made available to us through new technologies, we remain ever-critical about how these may be applied for the benefit of our clients whilst maintaining the highest quality with regards to the services we provide.