Contributed By: Damian Turco
With technology evolving at a faster than ever rate, there’s significant opportunity for nearly all professions to take advantage. And in the legal field in particular, there’s a lot of low hanging fruit to grab. Here’s how law students and lawyers new to practice can capitalize on emerging technology:
1. Be a lifelong learner
Commit to continuously learning about what legal technology exists and what’s likely to come down the pipeline. There are many great resources that can enable you to do so. Try LawSites by local tech guru, Bob Ambrogi, set up legal tech newsfeeds on Google News or Apple News, and consider attending the ABA’s annual TechShow. Develop a better sense of what’s out there and what’s in the works, in the legal industry and beyond.
2. Choose a practice area wisely
Applying technological innovations to a growing law practice will undoubtedly involve failures and require unwavering perseverance. Which means that choosing a practice area that you’re truly passionate about is of the utmost importance. Passion can be easily thwarted if your heart isn’t in your practice area. Avoid that by doing your research. You can do so by speaking about practice areas of interest with lawyers who have been there for many years as well as your law school professors. In turn you'll develop a better sense of what it takes to be successful in that area.
Related: How to Decide What Type of Law You Should Practice
3. Determine what problems exist that could be solved with technology
Within your chosen practice area, develop a strong sense of the challenges and opportunities in serving clients for which technology might offer a competitive advantage. If your passion is family law, housing, or consumer debt, recognize the massive justice gaps that exist and how you might adopt technology to serve more people in need. If your dream is to assist entrepreneurs, think creatively about how you might out-tech LegalZoom and deliver a better, more appealing service to your clients. If your passion is helping immigrants attain legal status, figure out how tech can help you more immediately communicate the ever-changing status of the law and how it might impact their cases. Be creative and keep and stay curious!
4. Take a law practice management class in law school
You may or may not be interested starting out with a practice of your own right out of law school. The purpose of taking a law practice management class for some will be preparing to hang a shingle, but regardless law practice management courses are overall incredibly insightful in teaching lawyers the business of law. That’s relevant whether your name is on the door or you’d simply prefer to work for an established organization. You can bring technological innovation to someone else’s firm and you’ll be viewed as a rising star if you do it successfully. However, if you wish to do so, you’ll need to understand the business and be prepared to make a case for change.
5. Be scared, but don’t run away
Practicing law, when you’ve never practiced law, is intimidating. Dealing with opposing counsel can prove to be challenging. Walking into court for the first time can be both awe inspiring and terrifying, all at once. And bringing an innovative technological idea to the legal industry to better serve clients will be frightening. It’s normal to worry about how you will be perceived.
Change isn’t always welcomed with open arms, but that doesn’t mean it won’t yield a great and worthwhile outcome in the long run. You, significantly more than your more seasoned colleagues, have what it takes to capitalize on a legal tech evolution. Don’t miss the opportunity.
It’s an exciting time for lawyers, the practice of law, and for the society we serve. Lawyers are inherent problem-solvers, and new lawyers in particular are uniquely positioned to create positive change in this space. With the next generation of lawyers embracing all that technology has to offer, there’s no limit on the advancements that will come as a result.
Damian Turco is an '08 graduate of New England Law | Boston and founder of Turco Legal, a divorce and family law practice with locations in Andover, Boston, Newburyport, and Newton. He’s also a co-founder of JusticeApp, a consumer-facing mobile app designed to help people better navigate the legal system.