Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Human Attorneys v. Techno-torneys

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We all know the competition is fierce in the legal job market; but did you know that your competition has expanded?  The Great Recession caused firms to downsize.  Clients began asking for flat rates and adjusted billable hours by canceling inexperienced attorneys who might spend too much time on their case.  This caused jobs to decrease, but the work still needed to be done.  Technology has stepped in to fill that void.
Attorneys used to spend hours upon hours sifting through documents for a client.  The billable hours added up.  In recent years, these jobs have been replaced with document review agencies.  Doc review can be done electronically, which cuts the time for sorting files, tagging categories, and determining what information is relevant.  With a faster process, firms can hire fewer attorneys and the client saves money.  Judges are even endorsing predictive coding.  Two years ago Judge Peck of the Southern District of New York said that “[Predictive coding] certainly works better than most of the alternatives, if not all of the alternatives.”  Unfortunately, these “alternatives” include law students who want summer associate positions and jobs upon graduation.
However, it’s not just doc review technology replacing attorney jobs.  New online resources offer many people the ability to do some legal work on their own without being or having an attorney.  For example, business owners (usually smaller businesses) are able to find fill-in-the-blank contracts for free or minimal cost, saving time and money yet still getting the job done.
Most shockingly, however, techno-torneys can now be found in your own pocket!  A free smartphone application called Shake is said to allow users to simplify contracts most commonly used for such things as hiring freelancers, Craigslist purchases, and small business exchanges.  Users walk through a template library, answer simple questions, and then the contract is complete.  Shake has received a 4star rating and praise from Business Insider, FindLaw, and Forbes.  But does the app make things as personalized and protective for the client as an attorney would?  HERE is one man’s opinion.
If techno-torneys are just beginning, what will the legal job market look like in ten years, five, or just two years?  Keep an eye on where the trends are headed.  Get ahead of the trend and find a legal niche like this.  Or consider a degree in computer engineering instead of law.

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