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Should law students be afraid of AI? Nah.

Robot Lawyer

To most of you, the idea that artificial intelligence will have a huge impact on the practice of law won’t come as a surprise.

To anyone in the industry who has been watching technology closely over the last few years, the reaction is much the same.

But to a lot of people, the recent announcement by JP Morgan that they plan to replace 360,000 hours of billable time with their new contract review software (COIN for Contract Intelligence) seemed to be a huge shock. Are robots really replacing lawyers? And what does this mean for law students, who cut their teeth on much of the work that AI is looking to economize?

Terralex’s Lance Godard reassures us in a recent post that the sky is, in fact, not falling, and AI is actually an excellent opportunity for lawyers and law firms to step up. I’d posit the same is true for law students, and there are a few things you can do as you’re making your way through law school to prepare yourself for the law firm of the future, as well as your own career.

Stay in the know

It sounds like a no-brainer, but stay on the cutting edge of the technologies that firms are or may be applying now and in the future, and how they’ll be using them. Four key ways to do this:

  • Read: Identify who is writing about the future of the industry, and how to apply AI (like Jordan Furlong), and read what they have to say about it. The more you know, the more you can identify opportunities to use your own skills when you become an associate.
  • Attend: If you can, get to the tech shows, like ABA Techshow – that’s where you’ll learn what the most cutting-edge tech is, what’s happening now, and what’s happening next, and who the all of the various players are, both from a service provider and early adopter perspective.
  • Engage: Start to cultivate relationships with influencers. Use social media, or the relationships you’ve started at events, to build engagement with influencers in AI so that you can stay abreast of new developments, and how your particular skill set may be of value to your future firm.
  • Use: If you can, use the technology that’s out there. This may not always be possible, but even if you’re able to reach out to the service providers who are working with law firms so that you can see a demo and understand how it applies to firms, the more you know about the actual technology that is available, the more valuable an asset you will be to your future firm. Anything you CAN use directly or can get access to through your law school to be using regularly, you should be using and learning and improving on and giving feedback for, etc. You’ll immediately be heads and shoulders ahead of your classmates and even the associates and partners at your future firm, making yourself an invaluable commodity.

Get creative

Using the above knowledge and connections, start thinking proactively about how you can apply this to your future role as an associate at a law firm. Consider starting a blog where you write about the ways you’ll learn and contribute in a technology-filled world, so that firms can see, in a concrete way, how you’ll provide value as a professional.

LexBlog has made their services and software free to law students and professors, so that an excellent place to start to get a leg up in the blogging world.

Relationships are still paramount

I mentioned Jordan Furlong earlier, and you’ll want to read his piece on Getting Over Technology – the truth is, we’ve been here before. Whether it was the telephone, the photocopier, or email, there’s always been something that’s new to us that we’ve had to adapt to and adopt, that we’ve been convinced will destroy the carefully built castles of sand we have constructed.

But we’ve always persisted, because the law remains, at its heart, a business about people, and it will continue to be. So along with dedicating yourself to the study of the practice of law, commit to beginning the practice of networking now. Engage with classmates, start trying out networking events, connect to people in your potential niche on social media and read and write about what they’re doing. Meet both prospective future clients and prospective future employers, and show them you can offer value through your knowledge of the future of the industry and the law firm, and you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your competitors.

Whether you’re a law student, or a lawyer, the law firm of the future demands that we be adaptable, curious, engaged, and willing to be open to what’s next. Get creative about how you’ll offer that as a law student, and whether your days doing doc review are numbered thanks to artificial intelligence won’t matter.

Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s director of global relationship management. In this capacity, she works with the network’s executive director to identify and implement marketing opportunities both internally and externally and develop new approaches to business development needs. She regularly blogs at Zen & the Art of Legal Networking.