The Future of Law: The Legal Workforce of the Future

When most people think about the people who work in law firms and legal departments, they think of lawyers, paralegals and secretaries. However, increasing competition, new technology and a heightened focus on the business of law has fueled the growth of non-lawyer roles in the legal industry. 

In his work, in Tomorrow’s Lawyers, legal futurist Richard Susskind predicted a fracturing and disruption of the legal industry along with a proliferation of new roles within the legal industry.  A recent Robert Half survey found that nearly 60% of lawyers surveyed reported that their law firm or company plans to fill non-lawyer roles. 

Corporate law departments and law firms of the future are likely to employ a diverse range of non-lawyer professionals.  These emerging functions hail from a diverse range of disciplines including business, finance, technology and legal. Below is an overview of several emerging roles that are likely to populate the legal workforce of the future.

Technology-Related Roles

Technology-related roles in litigation support, e-discovery and legal technology are evolving as artificial intelligence, automation, emerging technologies and tech innovations transform the legal landscape.   E-discovery consultants and litigation support professionals help gather, manage and analyze the massive volumes of data produced in litigation. 

At the same time, law firms and corporations are increasingly relying on Big Data and analytics to drive decision-making and predict legal outcomes. Data-related roles such as Legal Analyst, Legal Data Scientist, Chief Data Architect, Legal Engineer, Legal Solutions Architect, Legal Operations, Legal-Tech Innovator, Data Quality Specialist s are beginning to emerge and proliferate within the legal industry.  These professionals analyze and synthesize information, develop software solutions, create legal service apps, and help law firms build new technology platforms.    

Regulatory Compliance

Unprecedented levels of regulatory change in finance services, IT, health care, and other industries is driving a demand for positions in regulatory compliance. In a recent survey by Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), more than half of the companies surveyed forecasted their compliance burden to increase in coming years.  Consequently, organizations are recognizing the need for risk managers and compliance officers to have an enhanced role within the business.  Common roles include Compliance Specialist, Information Security Risk Compliance Manager, Operations Compliance Manager, Senior Director of Regulatory Compliance and Banking Compliance Officer.

Legal Project Management

Over the last decade, legal project management (LPM) has emerged as way to contain costs and manage legal projects on budget and more efficiently. LPM applies traditional project management principles to legal service delivery, enhancing communication, productivity, efficiency and transparency.   LPMs leverage tools and techniques to support client relationships, advise on pricing and budgeting, establish best practices and coach attorneys on how to employ LPM in legal matters.  

Recent studies indicate that a growing number of U.S. law firms are using LPM to support legal work.  In addition to Legal Project Manager, new roles are cropping up, including Legal Designer, LPM Director, Knowledge Manager, Pricing Analyst, Process Improvement Manager, Business Change Lead and Innovation Manager.  In the future, it is likely that this trend will continue as law firms and corporate legal departments seek to work more efficiently and create new roles in the LPM arena.   

Marketing and Business Development

In the past, law firms underinvested in business development and marketing, leaving these essential functions to partners with a talent for rainmaking.   However, increasing competition, demands on lawyers’ time, and rising client pressures have created a strong need for legal marketing and business development professionals. These professionals provide hands-on business development, marketing support and growth strategy to law firms, training lawyers on marketing and business development techniques and helping to generate leads, develop client relationships and expand business.  These professionals take some of the pressure off lawyers to develop new business and raise brand awareness, allowing the lawyer to concentrate on billable hours and the practice of law.

Since competition and time demands on lawyers are not likely to decrease in the future, marketing and business development roles will be necessary to sustain and grow business in an increasingly client-centric industry.  Common titles include: Marketing Director, Business Development Manager, Client Relations Executive, Chief Growth Officer, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Account Manager and Head of New Business.

Legal Industry Talent Transformation

A cultural shift in the legal industry is ushering in new organizational structures and paving the way for a more holistic view of legal service delivery beyond the lawyer-paralegal-secretary trifecta. The law firm of the future will employ a mix of non-lawyer roles that is broader in scope and more diverse than ever seen in the past.  To keep pace with changing workforce demographics, firms will need to develop new talent strategies and accommodate a growing new range of capabilities and skill sets.   From training and onboarding processes, workflows, and technology platforms to new career paths and compensation systems, legal workplaces will need to evolve to cater to a reformed workforce structure in order to drive profitability, growth and innovation.

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