There is often an assumption made about technical skills for lawyers. That young lawyers or law students (Millennials) in Kenya entering the profession have the technology skills that my generation (Generation X) and the one that went before me (Baby Boomers) lack.
A life brought up with a smartphone in hand equips them to tackle legal technology in a law office standing on their head. Or does it?
Technology is shaping the practice of law and changing how legal services are being delivered all over the world and more so in Kenya. Lawyers entering practice today require an understanding of the relationship between law and technology.
So law students need to work to develop relevant skills and competencies to market themselves to law firms, being able to demonstrate technological acumen is an increasingly valuable addition to the portfolio of skills that will help your application stand out. I have captured essential technical skills that any lawyer will find useful in their legal service
Technical Skills For Lawyers
To build your technology skills set, begin with the essentials- you should be able to demonstrate proficiency in common office software such as Microsoft Office Applications (Word, Excel e.t.c) and Adobe Acrobat. Mastering the knowledge in these applications provides a foundation from which to build on. Our learnerscoach platform is a great place to familiarize and practice using technology tools to give you confidence to engage with new forms of technology. Call or email us if you need a short course on this.
In practice, a lawyer will draft a variety of different documents including letters, agreements, contracts and court forms, being confident in advanced find and replace, Mail merge, review tools, track changes and formatting in Microsoft Word is essential. You may be collaborating with colleagues through digital case Management Systems, Office 365 and Google Drive, knowing how to use those tools is critical for future success. Find an opportunity to work with a student colleague to create and edit a document, spreadsheet or presentation using Google Docs. You can call or email us if you need a short course on this
Understanding how to create an effective presentation or poster in Microsoft PowerPoint and or open office impress is important, you might be involved in a client presentation or a training event. This will boost your overall presentation skills. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube which will help you refine your skills. We can also help you if need be, just comment below
You may be called upon to build a database or create a project plan, learning about the features and functionality of Microsoft Excel, Access and MS Project will make you more confident in inputting and working with data.
Most law students will be very familiar with email and text but there are other tools that facilitate team communication like Slack, Google Meet, Big Blue Button, Skype, Quip and Trello Students need to be confident using online communication tools to effectively collaborate with colleagues
Law students don’t need to have an in depth knowledge of every technology application but an important skill is the ability to think critically about the use of technology and how it will impact on clients.
Do lawyers need to learn to code?
This is a debate that rears its head from time to time on social media. Once you have mastered basic tech skills consider whether you want more advanced tech skills such as the ability to program/code. If you are interested you can reach out so that we offer you short course on programming basics.
Understanding how digital technologies work and developing literacy in code helps to stand out in a crowded market place. If you not quite ready to develop your computational skills having an awareness of how legal technology is impacting on law is something that is achievable.
Not every law student needs to know how to code but they do need to have a basic understanding of technology to communicate and work with the coder so they can identify the legal issues relating to its use
My view is that if you need detailed coding done, just hire an expert to do it for you. I wouldn’t expect a lawyer to do the tough coding stuff. Just like you wouldn’t expect a coder to represent you in a court of law.
Additional Technologies You Need to Learn
- Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning – AI is computer technology that aims to replicate intelligent human behaviour or to perform specific tasks that require human intelligence. AI is being used in law firms to review documents for discovery, legal research using automated searches of case law and legislation, contract and document analysis, proof reading and correcting documents.
- Blockchain Technology – Blockchain is used in crypto-currencies you may be familiar with Bitcoin but Blockchain has enormous potential beyond a financial use, which is only starting to be realised. Smart contracts are an area in which blockchain networks can be used to automatically facilitate, execute and enforce the negotiation or performance of an agreement. A smart contract has been described as a computer programme that acts as an agreement- the terms are pre-programmed and it has the ability to self-execute and enforce. Have a look at this book which is an advanced blockchain platform.
Law firms will expect students to have basic tech skills, but in today’s fast moving legal landscape keeping up to date with how technology is changing legal practice is also essential.
As your skills and experience evolves, you’re going to have to keep up with the world of technology and innovation. Whether it’s getting to grips with AI or even the most basic IT skills, it’s super important to pay attention to moving trends and keep up with the increasingly changing legal world.