The future of technology has always provoked speculation and excitement as to how it will change our lives. For lawyers, however, tackling new developments in technology can often be both confusing and stressful, as they will be responsible for keeping up to date with changing regulations (or even help shape them themselves!).
For this week’s post, I spoke with Héloïse Vertadier, who recently completed a research position for NASA exploring the legal world of all things tech, including robotics, AI, blockchain and much more! Fascinated (and very jealous), I asked her a number of questions about the future world of technology, how the legal industry will respond, as well as what NASA have to say about it all.
What was your recent experience at NASA like? How does something as stereotypically ‘mundane’ as the law manifest itself in the stereotypically awe-inspiring world of space?
HV: “My experience at NASA was both incredible and unexpected. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to be sure it wasn’t all a dream!
I worked at Ames as a Research Scholar/Intern for three months this summer, on a paper named “Legal and Ethical Framework for Robots and AI”. I had worked in the blockchain and the space industry before during my year at the International Space University (Strasbourg, France). I was thankful that ISU gave me this amazing opportunity to go to Ames in order to keep working on the implication of these new technologies on the law and our society in general.
Law can often be seen and perceived as restrictive – especially when it comes to innovative fields like space. At the moment, space law is quite old. The “Corpus Juris Spatialis” was created between 1967 and 1979 and is composed of five main treaties that were negotiated in the UN:
The Outer Space Treaty
The Rescue Agreement
The Liability Convention
The Registration Convention
The Moon Agreement
When we see how space exploration has evolved – even during the last decade alone – it is no surprise that these treaties, signed during the Cold War, are having trouble being enforced today. This is especially true considering the absence of any recognised international regulatory body. Having said that, the international context we find ourselves in today makes it impossible to create new treaties or even to modify the existing ones. Instead, we have to see them more as guidelines that establish principles of behaviour for the signatory parties rather than a codified set of vigorous, boundary laws.”
Many have speculated that we are on the verge of another industrial revolution with the rise of technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and next-level robotics. What are your thoughts on this and how do you think this affects the legal sector?
“AI and blockchain technology will surely be game-changers in the future. Law, as well as many other disciplines, will have to evolve in order to keep up. As for AI and the use of robots, the main legal area that will be impacted will be the question of liability: who exactly will be liable if an AI damages something or breaches a contractual arrangement? That is a really big question because, for now, no one knows where AI will lead us. Some experts have speculated that there is a 50% chance that AI will overrun human intelligence by 2045.
AI presents great opportunities, but also some great threats, so the idea is to create a framework that is precise enough to handle these changes, but also flexible enough to not asphyxiate technological development. In my opinion, it is fundamental that lawyers, policymakers and engineers collectively engage in conversation in order to create an evolving legal framework that can accompany any change.”
The continuing development of this technology has also raised several moral questions – say, our co-existence with a superintelligent AI. How do you think humans and AI will, or must, ethically co-exist in future?
“I think that studying how AI will interact with humans can be done in three particularly interesting scenarios:
The psychological aspect: humans project a lot their emotions with their devices. Such involvements, whether they are positive or negative, can be dangerous because they will be unilateral. The real danger is that humans could easily personify and anthropomorphize machines and create a unilateral relationship with them.
AI as an inventor or an artist: here, the infamous case of the “Monkey Selfie” is interesting, because it demonstrates the legal difficulty to attribute ownership to a work of art created by a non-human entity.
AI for medical uses: a robot surgeon can operate remotely, either in the same room with a machine or as an intermediary. The surgeon controls the gestures that are made by the machine and he/she sees on a screen what is happening, or even from a very distant place. In addition, a team from the Chinese Tsinghua University and iFlyTek AI created a robot driven by an AI named Xiaoyi – “little doctor” in English – that passed a medical entry exam in August 2017, exceeding the average performance of (human) students.
All of these points raise a lot of questions, be they ethical, legal or otherwise, and to me that’s fascinating.”
For many solicitors beginning their career in the legal sector, the further incorporation of advanced technology within the legal sector can present itself as both an opportunity and a challenge. What do you think the lawyers of tomorrow will be expected to know about LegalTech? What about how they will use it?
“I think it is fundamental that the lawyers in training today are trained to understand these challenges. Today, we lack professionals that are specialized in these areas. We need new blood, new ideas and we most certainly need hard-working, focused and rigorous lawyers that understand the need to develop this area of the law.
Today, people often laugh or smile when we talk about AI and robots. It’s normal and expected, because there is a lack of common knowledge about these technologies aside from common media portrayals. The lawyers of tomorrow that will want to explore this area of law must be aware that their challenge is in two parts:
They will need to promote the global knowledge of these topics;
They will need to create a new set of rules and laws to fit the particular legal questions raised by AI and robots”
I’d like to extend a big thank you to Héloïse for speaking with me and granting an insight into the world of law, space, AI and tech. You can visit her LinkedIn profile here.
Thank you for visiting my blog and for your interest in downloading my new e-book to understanding, developing and utilising your commercial awareness. You can download a PDF of it, for free, at the link below:
I wrote this book to try and distill everything I knew about commercial awareness, that I had learnt both in my studies and going through the Training Contract application process for legal jobs. I’ve done my best to keep the advice given as broadly useful as possible so that anyone, from any industry, can take some actionable steps to try and improve this vital skill.
In the book, I cover:
What commercial awareness actually is
How to best develop it as a skillset
How to utilise it in interviews, or in your day-to-day practice
If you liked, or didn’t like, the book and would like to give feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me on LinkedIn. I would be extremely thankful for any recommendations or endorsements you may want to give on my profile with regards to my understanding of commercial awareness as a skill, or if you found my mentoring helpful. If you’d like to leave feedback via email and would be happy for me to potentially post/quote an anonymised version in future, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
“We are led to believe that the route is ultimately LLB>LPC>TC consecutively and anything that goes against the grain is not to be given a thought. I disagree.”
The typical stereotype of a paralegal can conjure some unfortunate, negative imagery – a solely administrative role, acting as a yes-man to junior lawyers with little-to-no hopes of future career progression. As the legal sector has evolved, so have the responsibilities of a typical Paralegal. Many now complete work that is at least on a level with trainee solicitors, if not far greater, with the opportunity to work with clients directly and take on more personal responsibility. Despite such changes, traditional and historically-outdated myths have still persisted, primarily due to the views of more ‘traditional’ legal professionals and a lack of education or promotion of the role at university.
The Paralegal profession deserves better (and is better) than such misconceptions. The role is worthy of proper recognition in its own right, rather than continuous comparisons to other career routes or roles in the profession. To try and break such stereotypes, I collaborated with over 20 Paralegals from a vast variety of backgrounds to sort the fact from the fiction about what a Paralegal really is in today’s legal industry.
What made you want to become a Paralegal?
The Paralegal role is appealing for a wide variety of reasons. It is one of the few legal roles that is flexible enough to allow for part-time study of a legal course, such as the LPC or GDL, as well as often being open to anyone regardless of their degree or previous experience.
“We all know how much of a long road it is to qualify and I didn’t want to take a year out before the LPC, nor did I want to graduate and go back to my mundane waitressing job. It was right before graduation that I decided to apply for a paralegal position to fund my masters, which I then switched for the part-time LPC. I would recommend becoming a paralegal or at least having a few months of paralegalling experience before applying for TCs, to anyone. I receive a lot of “wow how on earth do you do it all?!” comments but it’s definitely doable!” – Abi Simpson
“Following graduation, I did not think twice before I applied for paralegal positions as I wanted to continue working in the legal field. I was only picky about specifics of my future job – I was really keen on in-house, preferably with international companies and in the tech industry. Funnily enough, it took me merely two weeks to receive an offer that ticked off all the above boxes.” – Dominika Westfal
“I wanted to pursue an alternative route by building my experience as a paralegal to then use that to apply for opportunities later on. I also wanted to put the skills I had learnt from the LPC into practice, so paralegalling was a great way of doing this.” – Zainab Hassan
“Firstly, I felt that this was one of the useful ways I would be able to develop a variety of legal transferable skills required for a career in Law. Secondly, I foresaw that the nature of the role would help prepare me for the type of challenges I will be expected to handle in future or that I may encounter as a trainee lawyer. Acquiring paralegal experience has allowed me to make mistakes earlier on and test out the type of work or duties I may have to undertake whilst on the VS and/or TC. I feel that this experience could be beneficial for people who have a neuro-diverse condition such as myself, as it allows one to build confidence and improve on where the condition lacks.” – Sarah Bamidele
What do you think is the best perk about working as a Paralegal, either in your current role or for how it may impact your future career trajectory?
Given the ability to work in a wide variety of legal sectors, Paralegal roles grant an immense insight into the industry. This is vital for allowing individuals to discover their preferred practice areas, as well as develop a broad, adaptable skillset to use throughout their career.
“The experience! I have learnt so much and it has more than prepared me for life as a trainee. I have also made many contacts along the way from a number of different law firms who have helped me in so many different ways.” – Ellie Llyod
“It’s the best way to actually test if being a solicitor is actually for you. It gives a chance to verify if you are okay with the pace of work, whether commonly cited ‘intellectual-stimulation’ is what you genuinely crave or is it too much at times, what areas of the law interest you, the list goes on forever. Being a paralegal you get to develop pretty much the same skills that firms require from its trainees, which puts you in great stead when that time actually comes. It equally helps with the application process itself too. I can’t recommend it enough.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“I am not limited to one area – I can work on employment, commercial contracts, corporate finance, intellectual property on the same day. Additionally, working for a company that has a significant international footprint, I get to experience the realities of working with colleagues and professionals from overseas on issues which cross different jurisdictions.” – Dominika Westfal
“Definitely learning on the job. Studying and working is a lot for anyone to handle, but it’s great to be able to put knowledge into practice and apply what you’ve learnt for your exams and assessments! I’d like to think my job has put me in good stead for when it comes to applying for TCs as hopefully, they would see that I know the ropes and would hit the ground running. It shows a lot about your dedication to the profession and your future career.” – Abi Simpson
“You are forced to learn and constantly be challenged. This is an invaluable skill that will help my future pursuits to becoming qualified. You experience a variety of legal practice areas as well.” – Sarah Bamidele
“You basically get the experience of a trainee! So, if you do then start a Training Contract, you are able to continue working hard and excel at your work.” – Zainab Hassan
What are the biggest misconceptions about working as a Paralegal?
“I am often met with two polar-opposite misconceptions. On the one hand, lay people usually assume that I am a qualified lawyer already which results in long explanations as to why it is not really the case. On the other hand, however, some people think that my role is purely administrative. Of course, there are administrative tasks that I am handling on a day to day basis, but I also get involved in a lot of legal projects.” – Dominika Westfal
“That it’s only for people who failed to get a TC. This might be partially true for some, but considering the frantic competition in the legal market, it really helps to approach this process not with self-hate and doubt (which I did for a while), but rather by thoroughly thinking through your strengths and goals to plan ahead.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“One misconception is that you don’t get given the good work. I think that you need to be proactive and make the associates you are working for aware of what you would like more involvement with. Another misconception is that you aren’t going to progress with the firm you work for but this is all down to you and how you fit with the firm.” – Ellie Lloyd
“That a paralegal is another name for a legal PA or the photocopier of the firm. Whilst there are some admin aspects to the role, this is not always the case! In smaller firms, you’re given more responsibilities and opportunities to undertake a variety of tasks which would usually be reserved for trainees and associates in larger firms. In my previous paralegal role, I was nominated to be an in-house company secretary and in charge of shareholders agreements! Moreover, I cannot exaggerate it enough that securing a paralegal role is not a cop-out to qualifying! It’s actually incredibly useful and can discount you up to 6 months off of your TC (upon application and submission of the relevant documents to the SRA) known as ‘time to count’ or ‘period of recognised training’.” – Abi Simpson
“Some people state that paralegals are for people that are ‘yes men’, only capable of getting the work done and falling short on the other qualities that makes a great lawyer. I totally disagree as I feel I am a creative thinker and a problem solver. I have come to appreciate that I will probably be working three times as hard to break into the legal profession at a global city firm given my background, disability and university grade. This is why I have had no choice but to opt into the paralegal route, to acquire more legal knowledge and experience that will enhance my skills and allow me to understand commercial law better, as I never knew what it involved until I started working as a paralegal at a US Law firm and attending commercial law-related events.” – Sarah Bamidele
What’s the best way to try and secure Paralegal opportunities?
Much is made of the traditional solicitor or barrister routes to qualification at university. Paralegals, however, are now starting to draw some more attention for the flexibility and benefits the role can bring – especially when it comes to future career progression.
“Try and get some work experience and then make several applications for paralegal roles. Law firms will see something in you if you are passionate about the work! Legal recruitment agencies are really helpful too.” – Zainab Hassan
“Begin looking in the run-up to summer and Christmas when individuals may be leaving their post to embark upon their TC or LPC.” – Abi Simpson
“It is paramount that paralegals have an understanding of the key issues, even if they lack direct experience. If you can talk about it and show that you are capable to learn quickly you could be hired despite a lack of direct experience. I was able to land my first paralegal job having shown a keen interest in law, demonstrable determination and how I would be committed as well as add value to the firm and this resulted in being hired without having the LPC or previous paralegal experience.” – Sarah Bamidele
“Try to connect with people directly through LinkedIn. This is much more efficient than trying some general number/email networking and potentially never hearing back.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“Check out F-LEX to gain some work experience, attend networking events and apply to as many paralegal roles as possible. I always wanted to start in a Corporate role, but I still applied for roles in personal injury, catastrophic injury and commercial insurance as well.” – Ellie Lloyd
How do you think the role of Paralegals may change in the future?
Much has been made of how the Paralegal role will function in the future of the legal industry. With the advent of innovative Legal Tech solutions, as well as shifting qualification routes under the SQE, it seems the role is now open to more opportunities and responsibilities than ever before.
“A lot of people believe that the role of the paralegal will be overtaken by the likes of AI and machine learning. Whilst that sector is growing, I think that the paralegal is paramount to supporting fee earners with their workload. It goes without saying that AI and machine learning inevitably poses accountability concerns and a lack of humanity in the workplace. However, I think many people will be turning to (and a large number already have) this alternative route to qualification. Taking time out as a paralegal before embarking on your TC is not a diversion from the goal, it’s simply the scenic route! We are led to believe that the route is ultimately LLB>LPC>TC consecutively and anything that goes against the grain is not to be given a thought. I disagree. What employer is going to turn down a paralegal who needs little training and can demonstrate dedication in their commitment to the profession?” – Abi Simpson
“It is definitely going to be impacted by the SQE and the wider reform of the qualification process. How exactly? I’m not so sure. I think no-one knows yet, but we are likely to see many more people going into paralegalling once the stigma of the ‘TC-fall outs’ slowly dies out. – Aleksandra Owczarska
“With the SRA making changes to the routes of qualifying, I think there will be room for more paralegals to qualify through the equivalent means of qualifying. The law industry is extremely competitive and as there are more applicants than roles available, this may continue in the future. Whether this actually deters applicants or not is an interesting thing to watch out for.” – Zainab Hassan
“The introduction of the SQE will surely have a significant impact on how paralegals are perceived. Since “the period of recognised training” totaling 2 years will open the doors to qualification, many paralegals will be able to qualify without completing training contracts. I could write a whole essay on this issue, but for now, I will just say that indeed big changes are coming!” – Dominika Westfal
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring solicitors, particularly those considering applying for Paralegal opportunities?
“Give it a go and consider paralegalling on an equal footing with any other job application. It’ll be an important step on your way through your career and opens many doors.” – Aleksandra Owczarska
“Do it! Being a paralegal straight after university was the best thing I did for my development. I would say make sure you really take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid to ask questions.” – Ellie Lloyd
“Spending time as a paralegal most definitely trumps numerous work experience stints. Vacation schemes are good for making yourself known to big firms, however paralegal experience is invaluable and is always something you can pull out of the bag during application questions and interviews to demonstrate your practical knowledge and understanding of the workplace.” – Abi Simpson
“There are plenty of great, professional-looking resume templates on Etsy which you can buy just for a few pounds. I found that I received plenty of responses from recruiters once I invested in a nice looking CV – many of them admitted that my applications stood out for that reason.” – Dominika Westfal
“To go for it! They need you just as much as you want the job. Be yourself and genuinely consider the questions in the application and interview process. Imagine the job/life you want and work your hardest to get it. Most of all, don’t give up and be sure to ask for help – there is plenty around.” – Zainab Hassan
“Be proactive, sociable and make the most of every opportunity you can. Put yourself forward for as much as possible and try and mimic the professional qualities of your supervisors and the lawyers around you. And most importantly, don’t give up – keep applying for paralegal jobs, training contracts, vac schemes and constantly look for areas to develop, progress. Don’t let rejection or negative feedback set you back but use it as a springboard to develop. Ignore anything that seems personal and twist it into something you can use for self progression.” – Anonymous
“Absolutely apply for that paralegal job. You will gain invaluable experience from solicitors and lawyers at the tops of their friends and learn practical skills that cannot be taught in a classroom, and enjoy a challenging, fast paced but compassionate role. The experience, skills and networking gained will make all the difference when it comes to securing a training contract (or equivalent) in the future.” – Anonymous
This article would not have been possible without the collaboration of a great many people. Their insight and commentary on the Paralegal role was truly eye-opening and I hope it inspires aspiring lawyers to appreciate the role for what it is – an inimitable opportunity to develop your skills and garner real experience for your career. At the end of the day, all members of a firm have to collaborate in order to work towards the main goal of any legal service provider – serving clients’ needs. It’s time outdated misconceptions made way for a true appreciation of how important the work Paralegals undertake truly is.
I’d like to thank the follow people for their contribution to this article:
“I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I’d make a difference.”
Studying law at university can be an invigorating intellectual challenge at times and a mentally taxing workload at others. Being able to balance the demands of your studies and social life is difficult, especially whilst also trying to be considerate of your future career plans and employability. Countless websites, blogs, podcasts and posts all offer their own advice for making the most of your university degree and I hope these law-specific ones will be of use to you regardless of what year you are currently in. Whilst not exhaustive, here are some key tips to help you manage the valuable commodity of time throughout your studies of law in the most optimal manner.
It’s no surprise that throughout your law degree you’ll be inundated with a plethora of reading, coursework, essays and paperwork. Keeping on top of all of these documents should be a top priority. Everyone works in different ways – be it on paper, a laptop, or through other means – and as such you will need to organise your work in the most effective way that accounts for:
Security: How secure are your files and notes? What would happen should you lose them? Do you have a backup or recovery option should that happen? How can you make sure you only allow access to your files to those you want to share them with?
Accessibility: Can you access your files from anywhere, or at any time? Can you access them across a variety of formats (mobile, desktop, smartboard)? Is your access reliant on any one network or device that could fail or break?
Shareability: Should you need to collaborate with others, how easy is it for you to share or develop your notes? Can you do so in realtime? Is this reliant on having a physical device, such as a memory stick, or access to a specific digital user account?
Usability: Once made, can you easily navigate through your notes, particularly by searching for key terms or cases? Can you utilise colour coding or highlighting to categorise your notes? Can you amend, comment or erase sections of your notes as necessary?
Go Beyond Your Textbook
A law degree is packed full of intellectually stimulating reading, cases and arguments – but law is increasingly starting to offer so much more than that. With a new wave of legal tech investment, alternate service provisions and a blending of the legal sector with a multitude of others, the average career path in the world of law is starting to fluctuate. Be sure to make time to network, attend keynote events and do some of your own research on what it is you want to specialise in. That way, you can augment what you learn in a textbook with some of your own passion-driven interests and further reading. When it then comes to applying for graduate roles, you’ll have a wide variety of experience and insight that can help demonstrate your interest in a particular field, firm or company.
First Year DOES Count
There’s always been somewhat of an urban myth that your first year of university doesn’t count and is therefore not a priority in the long-term. Whilst it is technically true that your first-year results won’t contribute toward your final degree classification, it will certainly contribute to your efforts to secure work experience or vacation scheme opportunities at university. Such first and second-year opportunities can be vital in helping you kick-start your career. Extremely poor first-year grades (for the sole reason that you did not take the year seriously, free of mitigating circumstances) will not only be a potential drawback on your initial applications, but will also not allow you to properly develop your writing and exam skills that will be vital throughout the later stages of your degree. The fundamental, basic concepts you will learn throughout your first year will also underpin everything you look at later on in your studies. Hit the ground running as best you can!
Think About Post-Degree Paths
Following on from the previous point, law is a unique industry that can start recruiting for your post-law-school graduate role as early as your second year at university. The fact that opportunities can open up so early means its vital to keep on top of application deadlines and what recruiters are looking for from their candidates. Schedule a meeting with your careers advisor to learn more about what pathways a law degree can offer, or try it yourself by attending law and non-law career fairs and events. Networking early is never a bad thing to try!
Keep It Short
Given the mass volume of information and paperwork you’ll have to process during your degree, you need to make sure your notes are up to scratch come revision time. Make sure to revisit key topics and build a concise set of notes you can quickly reference to understand the key points from any concepts or modules you’ll be tested on. Having easy-to-find, resourceful notes – be they digital or physical – will save you countless hours of unnecessary re-administration and research come the exam period, when you’ll most need your time. Making sure you’re as set up as you can be now by avoiding procrastination will help you tackle any tough deadlines or workloads later on.
If you don’t know something or are unsure of it – say so! Law juggles a lot of new concepts that you will likely not have learnt about before commencing your degree and it can easily feel overwhelming at times. There is no shame in using every single resource the uni can throw at you as and when you need it – it will be nothing but beneficial in the long-term, both for your mental wellbeing and (hopefully!) your final degree classification.
Be A Student
Law is an intensive course and you may have lots of lectures, reading lists or seminars to tend to (hopefully not too many of all three!). Make sure to make time for extracurricular clubs and activities, law-related or not. Not only will they help you manage your stress and improve your social circles, but also be great additional experiences to later talk about on an application or in an interview.
Build A Routine
Perhaps the most important and vital tip til last – build a routine! It will be nigh-impossible to even attempt the above tips without a solid foundation of a routine which must account for:
To do this most effectively, hack your habits! Take an honest assessment of which 10 negative habits you want to try and work out of your day-to-day routine (poor sleep, skipping meals etc.), as well as 10 positive habits (going to the gym, reading for 10 minutes etc.) that you want to encourage. Take 5 minutes to consider what you would like your life during your degree to look like across every axiom of your life – friends, family, health, studies etc. Then, spend 5 minutes thinking about what will happen if you allow your negative habits to spiral out of control and take hold of your progression through uni. Doing so will help you visualise where you feel you can focus on most to help you move toward that first plan for yourself and away from the latter. This is an example of future authoring, which I would heavily recommend to anyone, as it really helped me plot a pathway through how I wanted to approach my time at university.
I hope the above tips help you, regardless of what stage you’re currently at in your degree. If you’ve got any questions or want to learn more, feel free to get in touch with me at the links below or by email at email@example.com.
“Everybody and their mother has a book and a podcast these days.”
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Jaysen Sutton, founder of The Corporate Law Academy, in his ‘Trainee Talk’ podcast series.
TCLA aims to assist aspiring commercial solicitors in their journey towards a Training Contract, providing a number of guides, resources and mentoring contacts. The online learning platform is full of really useful information that is invaluable to helping you through the application process for commercial firms – from online applications right through to assessment centres and interviews. TCLA also runs a number of networking conferences and events, designed to help you learn more about what a trainee’s responsibilities are, learn more about a certain sector of commercial law, or to simply develop your professional network.
Their podcast series, ‘Trainee Talk’, interviews current and future trainee solicitors at various law firms on a broad variety of topics. During my podcast episode, entitled “Leveraging your Unique Selling Points”, I spoke about:
My journey into the world of Law and securing a Training Contract
The development of this blog and my plans for it in the future
Mental health and wellbeing within the legal sector
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness – especially for Law students
My advice regarding networking, drafting an application and interviewing
…and much more! You can find links to the podcast episode and TCLA below.
“No one else in this market is focused on viewing the legal market in this way.”
It has long been well-known that the very nature of being a lawyer forces you to be reactive to changes in the law. After all, it is the very basis on which you give your advice to clients and guide them through their needs. What is just as important, however, is for lawyers to be understanding of the way they go about that process – that is, a knowledge of how legal services are best provided and a self-awareness of their own internal processes for doing so.
For this article, I spoke to Brian Stearns of ‘Workstorm’, a platform designed to streamline such processes and to help make lawyers collaborate as efficiently and confidentially as possible.
So, what is Workstorm all about?
BS: “Workstorm is a workstream collaboration platform in a similar category to other solutions like Slack and MS Teams. We believe that Slack and MS Teams have shown there is a viable market for organized, persistent messaging as a supplement to email, as well as using digital workspaces as a mechanism to connect disparate information systems. In response to those demands, Workstorm has developed a platform that addresses the unique needs of law firms and other professional services firms. In essence, this involves fostering both internal and external client collaboration, supporting the information governance needs necessary for managing confidential client information, and integrating with the key technology tools already in use by firms.”
So what’s wrong with the current traditional approach to or reliance on workstream management, like email?
“It’s clear that law firms have unique data management requirements. Key clients, particularly banks, may require law firms to manage data on-premises behind their firewall. Law firms also have ethical requirements to file and retain information related to client records. On top of all that, they have general housekeeping requirements that may dictate the regular deletion of information.
Firms have spent the past 20 years trying to figure out how to do this with email, but the use of email is changing. For starters, filing with email alone is a huge burden. The email you send and the response you receive are unique, distinct files that must be managed. By contrast, a closed-loop chat group can be treated as a single file for archiving or deletion of any documentation. This offers up tremendous opportunities for law firms to increase the efficiency and productivity of their legal teams. They can dramatically reduce the time spent searching for, sharing and filing email, and better spend that time elsewhere in their business.
Additionally, membership to such chat rooms can be governed so that information isn’t inadvertently shared with the wrong people – a huge security concern of both firms and clients alike. Everyone has experienced hitting “reply all” by mistake or forwarding an email to the wrong person based on email’s auto-populate features. It can be funny in a lot of cases, but it really isn’t funny when those emails contain sensitive information. With chat platforms, conversation channels can be open to everyone for visibility and transparency, or closed off only to those that need to know based on ethical walls. Workstorm is currently the only provider in this collaboration market who is thinking about privacy and confidentiality in the same way firms do. Open and transparent communications don’t work in an environment governed by ethical (and statutory) walls.
Finally, products like Slack and MS Teams have taken the approach of integrating with hundreds or thousands of third-party applications. How are firms thinking about the implications on how data is stored and transferred between these third-party applications? For example, if a lawyer can turn on an integration with a third-party project management solution, then has that tool been properly vetted by IT?
Workstorm has undertaken the strategy of natively building the key communications tools within our platform so that firms can reduce the number of unnecessary vendors and data transfers. For example, we have messaging, task management and video conferencing built directly within our platform, so you don’t need to go elsewhere for it. And beyond our native features, we seek to integrate with the core tools in use by law firms, including their own homegrown solutions. To put simply, no one else in this market is focused on viewing the legal market in this way.”
It’s clear these tools have the potential to solve a lot of firm and client concerns. In short – why Workstorm?
“Our objective is to serve the unique internal and external collaboration needs of professional services firms and their corporate clients. We are looking to work with firms that have an interest in collaboration software, but where adoption is still early and there is no established solution. We believe that we can act as that solution and address the unique security and privacy requirements of law firms.
By serving the professional services market, we also recognize the need to work with the core technology tools that are in place at these firms. For example:
We developed version 1 of our iManage integration in 2018 and are currently enhancing that integration.
We have an Outlook integration for email and calendar management.
We have data exporting and archiving capabilities and are currently developing system admin capabilities to set data deletion and retention policies at the conversation level.
We have signed on as integration partners with Relativity, Intapp, Kira and HighQ, and have developed prototypes for those integrations, which we will start building this year.
We will continue to seek out new integration partners that cover key areas of the law firm workflow, such as other document management systems, legal research platforms, time and billing systems, matter management systems and even CRM solutions.
In short, law firms seeking to adopt a workstream collaboration platform should ask and answer three questions:
1) does the software provider think about privacy and confidentiality the same way law firms do?
2) is the tool designed at all levels for both internal firm and external client collaboration, and 3) does the tool integrate with the firm’s core technology stack?
Right now, we believe Workstorm is the only platform on the market that can answer “yes” to all three questions.”
I’d like to thank Brian Stearns for taking the time to speak with me and to discuss how firms internally operate and how Workstorm is looking to change that. I’d also like to thank Workstorm for collaborating with me and sponsoring the production of this article. If you’d like to learn more about Workstorm, or Brian, you can do so at the links below.
“If you are trying to take a difficult decision and you’re weighing up the pros and cons, you have frank conversations. Everybody knows this in their walk of life.”
Even though the journey to becoming a lawyer is a long and hard one, and even though they are often an integral part of the economic and social (and obviously legal) fabric of society, they aren’t generally liked or recognised by the public in the same way. Lawyers have an image problem. In fact, a 2014 Pew survey found lawyers last among ten professional categories in “contributions to society.” That’s a tough fact to swallow and a tough act to follow when it comes to changing how lawyers are perceived in future.
However, it’s somewhat ironic that perceptions change sharply when a person needs one. As soon as you need a lawyer and you need one fast, opinion changes. When you are in trouble and you are sat at your computer, with the words “how much will it cost to hire a lawyer” typed into the Google search bar, lawyers will become your saviors.
So, is being a lawyer a blessing? Or a curse? This article explores a few sides of each argument.
Flexibility – there are a huge amount of career options available to you in the legal field. With a broad variety of practice areas – from criminal to corporate, or prosecutor or defence lawyer, there’s a huge swathe of variety when it comes to the work lawyers do.
Who employs who – lawyers have the freedom to either work for themselves, set up their own firm, or join a multinational organisation to name a few!
Opportunity – lawyers have some of the best opportunities when it comes to secondments, both domestically and abroad, remuneration and the ability to work with a huge variety of different industries.
You get to talk, a lot – if you love a debate or an argument, you literally get to do this for a living! I can’t confirm or deny if this was one of my main reasons…(hint: it was).
Intellectual challenge – it is a job that demands and promotes intellectual growth. Lawyers are expected to find creative solutions to problems and remain up to date regarding changes in the law.
Expectation – at times, you will be expected to work long hours and have slightly unpredictable hours for particularly busy weeks involving deadlines.
Qualification – law school is very expensive, regardless of where you study. In the UK, you can expect to pay tens of thousands of pounds to ensure you meet each step of qualification in order to practice.
Restricted choice – for some areas of law, you may have little choice on who to take on as a client.
At the end of the day, as with any career, you ultimately need to balance the pros and cons of pursuing a certain career to decide if it’s for you. This article touched on just a few of those – no doubt there are many more!
“Everything you want in life is a relationship away.”
Everyone knows that applying for first year opportunities, vacation schemes or training contracts can be a competitive process. As a result, taking opportunities to speak to and connect with the firms you’re interested in or applying to is of paramount importance. Typically, this has involved visiting law fairs, conferences or other networking events.
A new approach to connect with firms allows you to network from your bedroom! Vantage, a free online platform launched last year, has been designed to help you do exactly that. This post details what it is and how you can get started.
How it works
As detailed on their website:
“Vantage matches candidates to fantastic opportunities at law firms in a much smarter way than ever before. Using contextual recruitment, Vantage showcases people from every demographic, searches for top performers from every institution and puts your grades into context.”
By completing an online profile, which takes less than 10 minutes to complete, firms can search for you based on a number of factors including your subject of study, year of graduation or area of interest. This means that, when a firm contacts you through Vantage, you know that they are genuinely interested in engaging with you specifically. This is hugely different to other options such as law fairs, that can often lack that ‘personal’ element.
Who you connect with
Vantage boasts an impressive cohort of recruiters. You’re able to connect with an impressive array of leading firms, including:
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
Clyde & Co, Dechert
Herbert Smith Freehills
Slaughter and May
So if you want to hear about vacation schemes, training contracts, insight days, work experience and much more, check out Vantage at the link below. You can also follow Vantage on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at the handle @vantage_app to keep up to date with news from Vantage and the firms they partner with.
“An expert is someone who knows a lot about the past.”
Trying to work out what you are ultimately going to do with your law degree is an exciting, open world of many possibilities. Should you decide to pursue a career in the legal profession, it’s quite likely you’ll end up specialising in one area of law. It’s something that most legal professionals eventually do – and for good reason! This article breaks down some of the reasons lawyers decide to specialise in the profession.
There’s always demand for specialist lawyers
Legal problems are often complex and no two are the same. It’s no surprise, therefore, that clients are always looking for an expert in the law relating to their problem – right down to the niche, minute details. There will always be someone, for example, trying to locate a ‘truck accident lawyer in Tampa‘, or a ‘copyright lawyer in Hong Kong’ for their case. Providing you specialise in an area of law niche enough to draw attention from clients, yet broad enough for them to be a large enough number of them, you’ll almost certainly have clients needing help with their specific problem. As such, there’s not too much to worry about when it comes to ensuring there’s enough clients out there to work with.
You’ll get (really) good at what you do
It’s no surprise that the more you know about a specific area of the law, the more effective you will be in advising clients. When you specialise, being able to understand, analyse (and hopefully win) your cases will become easier. Being able to identify common patterns and crossovers between past cases and your current ones are hallmark skills of an experienced, specialised lawyer. Ultimately, the more cases you win, the greater the demand will be for your services. This helps your raise your own profile and reputation within the industry, potentially meaning you can hold yourself out to a higher standard and as such charge a higher rate.
The chance to do work that interests you
Specialising enables you to always be working on things that interest you. Specialising helps give yourself more of a say over the tasks you’re doing, so that you’re ultimately doing more of what you enjoy and less of what you don’t. You’ll have more control over what topics of law you really enjoy, versus those you don’t. Simple!
You can make more of a difference
When you specialise, you get the opportunity to dig deeper into a subject, more so than a general solicitor would who is only glossing over it. Once you become knowledgeable enough in a subject of law, it is likely you will start to notice things that others have missed more frequently and much sooner. You will find new ways to win cases for your clients, or at least to help get the outcome they want. Eventually, you’ll have the opportunity for other legal professionals to follow your example, or to mentor others. You might even contribute to society more generally. For example, if you specialise in helping people appeal against benefit rejections, your cases are testament to the fact that the system is not working. The notion that big legislative changes only happen in the realms of human or civil rights law aren’t true – there’s opportunities to enact real change in almost any area of law!
It builds your reputation
It is seriously difficult to stand out from the crowd when you generalise. The work that you do is much less likely to be noticed by others for its (lack of) niche element. When you specialise, the opposite happens. It is far easier for people to understand what you have to offer and how you personally provide that value with your expertise. For some lawyers, it can be the make-or-break of their personal brand.
Specialising is great for networking
This follows on from the previous point. When others in the legal industry have an issue that relates to your specialist area, there is a good chance they will turn to you for guidance. This is a fantastic way to build your network – something that can only help your career.
The chance to speak publicly on the subject
Finally, building on from the networking point – if you want to fast track your career, making yourself available to speak at events is a great way to do it. When you do this, your profile will raise significantly and people will (hopefully!) learn from what you have to say.
If you’re still not sure what specialisation is all about, you can check out this article for some further reading.
Most lawyers have traditionally worked in a conventional office environment, surrounded by colleagues in one physical location. It’s historically allowed for the levels of collaboration and group work that are necessary for legal solutions to come to fruition.
However, the increasing availability of cloud-based technology and digital connectivity in the 21st Century has started to challenge this status quo. Now, if you are a lawyer looking to either expand your own practice or make how you work more successful, you now have the ability to consider starting up a mobile law practice.
Also known as ‘virtual law firms’, fully-mobile firms allow lawyers to work on the go and meet the customer wherever they are at any given moment. They allow lawyers to upgrade the way they can provide their services and improve their bottom line. Even meeting halfway on this concept – an increased digital presence for traditional brick and mortar firms – has several benefits.
You might be wondering what one of these fully-fledged, ‘mobile law offices’ might look like. The truth is, it really can vary! For example, it could be a briefcase-type affair, where a lawyer can walk up to a client’s premises with just a briefcase in hand, fully capable of servicing their needs. Modern technology allows for a plethora of tools to be accessed all in one place – client documents, live chat with other colleagues, or legal research on-the-go.
A mobile law firm could also be a vehicle, such as an RV, that has been completely transformed into a portable office that the client can step right into and have their issues sorted out there and then. Such options are great for a lawyer that wants to move around with their support staff, stay flexible in where they can be located at any one time and ultimately deliver their services to wherever their clients need them.
What’s ‘wrong’ with the traditional setup?
The idea of an entirely mobile or virtual law firm might seem strange given the current analogous nature of brick and mortar firms that can require clients to come to you directly for face-to-face contact.
The need to depend on this setup is slowly becoming less and less necessary with current technological capabilities. The internet alone allows for incredible levels of connectivity and improved communication services that can make it easy to provide legal services as efficiently as in a more traditional setup. The technology is flexible enough to allow brick and mortar firms to either explore this digital space, or fully transform into a mobile, ‘virtual’ legal service provider.
In today’s busy world, the value of a mobile service, especially in legal matters, cannot be overestimated. There are numerous benefits to it. They start with you, the lawyer, and trickle down to your clients.
What are the benefits of creating a virtual law firm?
Starting a mobile law firm of your own has numerous benefits that didn’t exist just a few years ago. Technology can now assist with many things like communication, research, and storage of information in ways that it couldn’t before. This, in turn, helps to reduce overheads and maximise efficiency.
For example, take a scenario where you might want to offer legal services in another city or part of the country, but are limited by traditional setup costs like rent and security. Setting up a website will allow you to access that market and its clients easily whilst saving you a lot of money. It also opens up new avenues for marketing, client interaction and market research.
Modern applications and services (many of which are free) have now also made it easier to conduct business in a digital environment. For starters, you can communicate with any client via email, hold conference calls, or even chat face to face on applications like Skype and Zoom. So instead of the client traveling to you and vice versa, everything can be done over a secure internet network, saving all parties lots of valuable money and time.
When it comes to legal research, many institutions have also uploaded their information into online databases that you can easily access via the internet or access portals. The internet has also made researching clients much easier as their information and business needs can be readily found online.
In starting a mobile office or digital expansion, you would find that the habit of having to store information or records in file cabinets en-mass is no longer applicable. By the use of virtual services, you can save your information on the cloud where it is safe and easily accessible wherever you are in the world.
But, perhaps the most significant benefit of having a virtual office is that it will allow you to find new clients in ways that are fast and cost-effective. For example, using a funnel system, you can set up an automated service to get clients and use your own personal skills to convert them to loyal customers. Sites like Linked In, Facebook, and YouTube among others can also be invaluable when it comes to marketing the services of a law practice. For example, uploading an advert on YouTube outlining some of your popular services is an increasingly popular method for advertising and will likely generate greater interests, clients or parties that will look you up or hire you.
Using social media apps to generate advertising content is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to reach millions of people across the country (and indeed worldwide) to tell them about your law practice. It is also a great way to cut down on marketing costs. It beats canvassing for clients through adverts on television, or billboards that often miss the target, are expensive, and rarely get you the types of clients you were looking for. Targeted advertising through social media means you are speaking directly to those you really want to be advertising to.
All these advantages of having a virtual law firm help cut down on costs and bring your services closer to clients. Working online helps lawyers create an identifiable reputation and brand in faster and more innovative ways than solely working from a brick and mortar location. A favorable review online can travel far and wide to places you would never think of and bring you many clients that you would not reach otherwise.
Should I start a mobile law firm?
Even if you already have a brick and mortar practice, there is no harm in creating a virtual division to meet the needs of the clients that may find it hard to get to you in person. In fact, it may help you widen your scope and significantly increase your client base. As you will see here, starting a virtual firm requires a bit of work, but can promise a huge payoff in meeting the needs of busy clients all over the world. Still, the importance of firms creating, developing and maintaining a digital presence in the 21st Century cannot be overstated.
Many thanks toRosenfeld Injury Lawyers for helping collaborate on and sponsoring of the writing, structure and insight of this article. I do hope you found this glimpse into the world of virtual law firms interesting.
Historical notions about what careers are have shifted greatly in our modern world. Many people are turning away from their current careers and seeking new careers in the legal world. Retraining as a lawyer, passing the bar or getting qualified and then setting up your own legal firm is an increasingly viable option for many. But why are so many people turning to the legal sector? Read on to find out why so many people are pursuing a career in law.
The ability to make a difference
From helping a victim of a crime get the justice they deserve, to helping a family win a legal case after a mishandled birth – more information on birth injuries, including infant seizures, can be found here – lawyers get the opportunity to help people in some of their darkest and most desperate moments. They have the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives and facilitate their needs in times of help. The role of a lawyer, although stressful and demanding, can be also be incredibly rewarding.
Lawyers are traditionally some of the best paid professionals. Your earning potential will be ultimately defined by your years of service, specialist knowledge within a particular legal sector, as well as your location. For example, many city based lawyers can be paid more than those living elsewhere.
Those who enjoy challenging their minds on a daily basis simply thrive in a legal position. Lawyers have to use their intellect and logic in order to work on each individual case. They have the ability to work on a broad variety of issues, such as helping create business mergers, developing strategies for court and using critical thinking to ensure they get the best results for their clients every time.
Thanks to TV and film, the role of a lawyer these days is often seen as one that is full of glamor and prestige. The Hollywood stereotypes of fast cars, slick suits, clever arguments and confidence in the courtroom evokes a sense of charm and almost celebrity-like influence. Whilst some of those stereotypes are certainly played up for television, very real contributions – whether you work for a legal firm, or set up your own – like assisting friends, neighbours and local businesses becoming a pillar of the local community are rarely provided by other professions.
You’re always learning new skills
The legal world is fast paced and always changing. As a result, most lawyers need to be on top of their knowledge in their specific area. Not only that, but you’re always working on your communication skills, as well as your ability to analyse and think logically. All these transferable skills can be applied to other life situations too!
Many thanks to my sponsors for helping to collaborate on the writing of this article.
“What we seek is some kind of compensation for what we put up with.”
We all know that if you’ve recently been involved in an accident because of someone else’s negligence, it’s likely that you’re entitled to some form of compensation. It’s a simple concept in theory, but unfortunately not always in practice, especially if you’re on your own. Being able to receive your compensation may require the help of a personal injury lawyer. Many people, however, don’t fully appreciate the importance of getting an injury lawyer in such scenarios, or believe that they could simply do the work themselves. This article will explore the reasons why one should get one involved.
Nearly all lawyers rely on their inimitable experience to do their job. Injury lawyers will be experienced in cases like yours – especially those that have a good track record. You might have to undertake a lot of research to get your compensation without a lawyer, which is time consuming and stressful – especially when you’re recovering from an injury! In fact, what could seem convoluted and complicated to you may be a simple, easy-win case for a lawyer. Therefore, it’s important to speak to a lawyer to get perspective from someone with experience. You’ll be much more likely to celebrate success and receive compensation.
If you’ve been directly involved in the accident it’s likely you will feel passionate about what you deserve. A lawyer will be able to direct this passion and argue your case in a much more objective manner. They’ll still be passionate about getting your compensation, but they won’t succumb to personal any bias that could lead to losing the case. They’ll be able to make the best decisions on your behalf without any emotional attachment, which is essential in a courtroom.
They know the jargon
Lawyers study for years to become experts in their field, and therefore they know technical jargon inside and out. You might find it difficult to understand the information you’re given by yourself without any formal training or experience. Conversely, your lawyer will be able to answer any questions you have and provide you with a good understanding of the next steps in layman terms. Without one, you’ll have to do a lot of research yourself, which can be time consuming and difficult.
They could be free!
One of the best prospects about hiring a personal injury lawyer is that if you win the case, you might not have to pay any legal fees! It’s always important to discuss fees with your lawyer before you sign any documents, as there may be fees for other services (such as reviewing medical records). These fees should be laid out clearly in writing before you hire your lawyer, so that you don’t then need to worry about hidden costs later down the line.
They get settlements
Lawyers are persuasive – it’s what they do for a living. Experienced in arguing their point, negotiating and finding holes in their opponent’s arguments, they may be able to get a better deal that you wouldn’t be capable of. For example, they may be able to get you a settlement, which means you can receive a payment without ever having to go to court. Even if your case ends up going to trial, they’ll represent you and work tirelessly to get what you deserve.
Many thanks to my sponsors for both collaborating on the writing on and sponsoring of this article.