Law Firm Technology Jobs

Law Firm Technology Jobs

Law firm technology job roles run the gamut, from software engineering to sales and marketing. But, since legal technology is still in its nascent days, many professionals work in software engineering and data science roles and would typically spend the day collaborating with other team members on design projects. 

Many software engineers are going back to school to study for law degrees to capitalize on legal tech opportunities. Likewise, many lawyers study software engineering and data science to transition to legal tech startups and legal operations firms where legal knowledge gives them an edge in the job market. 

Reasons to Be Bullish About Law Firm Technology Jobs

  • Still nascent: As far as legal tech goes, we are just starting to scratch the surface. There is a tremendous amount of work that remains to be done. This means that there is a massive opportunity on the horizon. Specific greenfield areas include predictive analytics, privacy management, enterprise legal management, e-discovery, and robotic process automation. Because the industry is still young, competitors can copy each other and survive because the market is huge.
  • The rule of law: The growth of law technology jobs is an excellent macro indicator that the rule of law is entrenched worldwide, and that is a good enough reason to be bullish about legal tech. Property rights, financial transactions, and interaction with the state all rely on the rule of law. 
  • Investor Interest: There is a lot of investment interest in legal technology that has led to law firm technology jobs growth. Legal tech startups such as Clio and Legal Zoom have secured hundreds of millions in funding. There are numerous acquisitions and generally lots of activity creeping closer and closer to the Wall Street Journal’s front page every day. 
  • Consolidation & Failures: People newly employed as law firm technology consultants need to brace themselves for possible job insecurity when companies merge and startups go out of business. There is a large number of tech startups in areas where the commercial viability of technology remains unproven. For example, explainable AI, data and analytics governance, and digital ethics are just some of the areas hyped for a long time without any meaningful indication of the commercial direction they will take. 
  • Commoditization and Obsolescence: Legal tech that may be bleeding edge today can quickly become obsolete or commoditized. 
  • Averse to technology: Traditional lawyers and the judiciary are very protective of the legal profession and are ambivalent to technology’s encroachment in certain areas. In fact, there are areas where the bench in some jurisdictions has banned technology outright. For example, France recently banned judge analytics – the technique of using predictive analytics to see a judge’s pattern of rulings in particular types of cases. If more of this happens, then the growth of law technology jobs will slow down. 
  • Talent crunch: There is currently a huge talent crunch. New law graduates from the most prestigious universities are almost guaranteed a well-paying and stable job for the first few years. The same goes for software engineers. Therefore, to get into the legal tech services industry and work for a legal tech startup or start one, a law or software engineering graduate from an ivy league university must have passion and risk tolerance. Legal tech startups have a tough time hiring attracting qualified talent due to this fact. 

For most of the legal profession’s history, staff categorization has either been lawyers or non-lawyers. This is how legal organizations have always thought about their people. The reality is that these have not been equal designations in terms of status within the organization. Lawyers have always done all the “real” work, gotten all the perks, made the most money, and been considered the organization’s lifeblood. Non-lawyers have traditionally been various support staff with no real formal status irrespective of their educational credentials and experience. 

This has important implications for how we think about careers. For lawyers, there is a well-defined career path. A junior lawyer typically starts as a junior associate in a law firm, becomes a permanent associate, senior associate, and ultimately becomes a partner. In company legal departments, junior lawyers would typically start as junior in-house counsel and move up the ladder to section manager, General counsel of a division or department, and general counsel of the entire company. This meant that there were two kinds of people that mattered in law firms, associates and partners. Partners were all equity holders and had voting rights in decision making.

Today, lawyers’ career path has begun to fray somewhat as more and more categories of lawyers have grown inside law firms. The first significant shift was in the 1970s when a new category known as a non-equity partner emerged. These senior lawyers have all the perks but no interests or rights in the firm’s assets, profits, or

property beyond their compensation agreement. There are now many other iterations in law firms, but most recently, there are now contract lawyers. 

The Era of the Contract Lawyer

There is a massive explosion in the number of contract lawyers in many firms that otherwise present themselves as classy firms with partners and associates. 

In reality, many of these firms are taking on contract lawyers for weighty litigation matters, mergers and acquisitions, and other specialized deals. Some firms have made these lawyers somewhat connected to the firm. The most obvious example of this is lawyers on-demand, a foreign law practice based in Singapore, making it possible for law firms and corporate legal departments in various places worldwide to access secondments to fix expertise gaps quickly. What it means to be a lawyer within a classic law firm has changed profoundly. In response, law firms and legal departments have tried to figure out how they will integrate these new kinds of lawyers into the system.

For people pejoratively referred to as non-lawyers, there hasn’t been a clear career path. An individual may go from being a secretary to an administrator, and that’s about it. There hasn’t been much of a formalized organizational structure. But, recently, there has been some progress for people who have different kinds of roles. 

The traditional legal practices in terms of labor and expertise are now at odds with what clients want. Clients, especially corporate legal departments, are pushing for more unbundling and repackaging legal services and moving towards value billing. 

In turn, this is producing many new competitors, many of which are not law firms or in-house legal departments but different kinds of organizations altogether. This puts pressure on the traditional law firm business model where they have made money with rate increases, leverage, and focusing on bespoke work. 

Counsel in corporate legal departments also needs to figure out how to outsource work across a much more comprehensive range of providers. As they do this, they also have to worry about data security, governance, risk and crisis management, and fragmented regulatory regimes. These are becoming increasingly problematic due to; the integration of the global economy, the increased speed of transactions due to advances in information technology, and boundary-blurring. 

With all these complex multidisciplinary issues, companies are turning to law firms that have become more specialized. Lawyers are becoming specialized at an increasingly early age instead of a few decades ago when junior lawyers were not allowed to specialize but had to rotate around different departments to ensure they became well-rounded in all law branches. This is a significant mismatch, and the result is a lot of market pressure to create different kinds of people with varying skills. The market demands people with sufficient broad legal knowledge and deep substantive expertise in a particular discipline. Much of the deep expertise needed these days is in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This knowledge is necessary to engage in multidisciplinary problem-solving. In particular, there is a proliferation of law firm technology jobs. Many law firms are now hiring law firm technology consultants to serve in these new roles previously run by a management committee. 

The most interesting of these is the legal operations role where the department head carries the title Chief Legal Operations Officer or Chief Innovation Officer. The term “Legal operations” or legal ops is used to describe processes, activities, and professional teams that facilitate legal departments to attend to their customers more efficiently by implementing business and technical practices to legal service delivery. Legal operations departments refocus legal professionals on their core business of providing legal advice by taking over the strategic planning, finance, m project management, and technology functions. 

This role has been exploding over the last several years. But, as these roles multiply, law firms’ challenge on the one side is how to integrate them without them being merely meaningless designations or increased bureaucratization, and on the other side, if no one is given the job, then how does the job get done? 

Law Firm Technology Jobs Career Advice

If you are in the legal technology industry or work in a law firm’s tech department, the following are some useful pointers to advance your career. 

  • Stay current: Due to the rapid advancements in technology in this space, people in this industry should keep up to date. There are many ways to do this, such as following thought leader blogs, tech news websites, bar association publications, and attending relevant seminars, webinars, and workshops. If you are a lawyer, keep your legal skills up to date and participate in continuing legal education. Also, ensure you maintain your practicing license. Provide pro bono services and interact with consumers to understand their pain points and emphasize – you can channel these perspectives into product development.
  • Avoid education silos: Many people running legal tech startups are not lawyers. If you want to get into this space, don’t assume that you need a law degree to develop a product innovation that has utility. 
  • Make your own path: As we mentioned earlier, the legal tech industry is yet to have a clearly defined career path. So do not be afraid to see how the trends progress and where the future leads you. 
  • Passion: You don’t have to know everything to be successful. For example, while many lawyers are doing it, you don’t have to get a software degree to work in legal tech. Likewise, a software engineer doesn’t have to go back to school and take a law degree. It would help your career if you were passionate and willing to learn on the job and through informal self-education. 

Where to Find Law Firm Technology Jobs

If you are interested in a career in this industry, you will most likely end up in a legal tech department at a law firm or get a job at a legal tech company. But where do you find these jobs? There are several ways to go about this:

Regular Job Websites

The first is to monitor regular job websites online for legal tech jobs. For example, go to LinkedIn.com, Angel.co, Indeed.com, and others and use relevant keywords to search for a desired vacant position. You can also subscribe to job alerts and get email notifications whenever there are job openings in legal tech. 

Specialized Job Websites

Some websites specialize exclusively in law firm technology jobs. Examples include cloc.org, ArtificialLawyer.com, LegalProfessionals.com, and many others. 

Legal tech firms often post job openings on their websites’ career pages – another way to find jobs in this industry. 

Stanford Law School Codex

This is a curated legal technology resource of the Stanford Law School. It is divided into various categories where you can find all the companies operating in your sphere of interest. Navigate the webpages of these companies and see if there are open vacancies. 

Social Media

Subscribe to specialized groups and pages such as Legal Hackers and other relevant legal tech social media pages. 

Find a Problem and Start Your Own Company

Look for an area where there are dissatisfied legal service consumers and find a way to solve it. Disruption often starts with unhappy customers.

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William Goddard

William Goddard

William Goddard is the founder and Chief Motivator at IT Chronicles. His passion for anything remotely associated with IT and the value it delivers to the business through people and technology is almost like a sickness. He gets it! And wants the world to understand the value of being a technology focused business in a technological world.