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Wherever you look, it has become clear, that the legal market is facing profound change and today’s classic lawyer may become a highly endangered species. While a lawyer works out proposals for solutions based on in-depth discussions with clients and extensive literature research, a software generates courses of action by guiding the client through decision trees and examining large amounts of data for patterns. LegalTech start-ups are mushrooming and increasingly occupying the offices of their investors. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, e-billing, chatbots, blockchain and smart contracts are slowly becoming everyday terms amongst lawyers. The pressure is increasing steadily and one can feel that major change is already underway. But how do we jump onto that already running train? Do lawyers need to learn a programming language? And how can we, as a new generation, successfully and sustainably position ourselves in today’s rapidly changing legal market?
Digitisation is not a new trend and, at 25 years of age, I can claim to be a “digital native”. This new generation is inherently capable of using all applications on computerized devices that are needed on a daily basis. However, as a future lawyer, I still do not know how to write a program from scratch and neither does the vast majority of my colleagues. We are caught between a rock and a hard place and do not know how our careers will develop.
Unlike many experienced lawyers, in particular senior partners in reputable law firms, future lawyers usually look at digitisation with anything from openness to euphoria. We can only imagine what tomorrow’s programmers will be able to do in the near and distant future. Already today, our data is being tracked, connected, merged and sorted. We think we are just checking Google Maps to find a route. However, the next time I use this app, it already knows where I live because I am frequently there; which hotel I am staying at because I received a hotel confirmation by e-mail; where I dined out yesterday, because I made an online table reservation; and when I commute to work because I buy my ticket in the train app. As alarming as this may sound to some people, this reflects the very close future in which we can and will make use of Big Data.
Although some, in particular, repetitive work, such as file processing for due diligence, will sooner or later be automated in the legal market, I do not anticipate a decline in the demand for legal services. In addition to new legal issues concerning the use of AI or robots, further legal questions will most definitely arise, which we are currently unaware of. For example, is a programmer liable for the AI he or she has developed in case of any misuse?
Furthermore, it will be necessary for (future) lawyers, especially those of the Generation Y, to act as trend-setting intermediaries.
Our goal should be to make our needs and those of our clients understandable for IT specialist as well as to use modern technologies in a beneficial way. Therefore, it is essential that we familiarise ourselves with the terminology of IT and, more importantly, with the respective skills, in the same way as todays corporate lawyers should be familiar with economics. I am not saying that in addition to a Masters in Law (or Law and Economics) we will also need an IT degree in order to practise law successfully. But, just as it is already advantageous today for a lawyer to understand the corporate strategy and key figures, how to read a balance sheet and what a SWOT analysis is, it will become increasingly important in the future to know as well, which programming or scripting language is suitable for what purpose, what a source code is and how the front-end of a website is linked to the back-end.
Executive School Programmes:
 Staub, Leo: Die digitale Anwaltskanzlei. [The digital law firm.] In: ZFO 06/2017, P. 344 ff.
 Cf. i.a. Staub, Leo: Anwaltsmarkt: Im Umbruch. [The revolution in the legal market.] In: Legal Tribune Online (LTO), dated 8 September 2017, available at: https://www.lto.de/persistent/a_id/24393/ (retrieved on: 6 December 2017).