Tomorrow sees the return to work for most of us and I thought it would be fun to set out a few predictions for 2016 and then review them next New Year’s Eve. So, here goes:
1. Further dissolution of the traditional legal professions
I think this is a fairly safe one to start off with. There’s no doubt in my mind that the repercussions of the Legal Services Act 2007 are still unfolding even 9 years later. Advances in technology and the innovative use of said technology has opened up new frontiers to explore. ABSs and inter-professional firms have not been fully exploited and yet we are stuck with the same definition of a ‘Solicitor’ and a ‘Barrister’. Even CILEx, who have purposely set out to capture as much of the legal services regulation market as possible have not redefined the role of a ‘Legal Executive’ although they have made a determined attempt to expand it to include ‘Paralegals’.
It’s only that term ‘Paralegal’ that defies definition. It is all encompassing and I think that is a good thing. I can see 2016 revealing a further dissolution of the traditional legal professions with the term ‘Lawyer’ or better still ‘Legal Service Provider’ being a holistic term covering a wide spectrum of new and innovative services and occupations. Who regulates those….well, that will be interesting!
2. Increase in CILEx membership
Tied into (1) above but a separate prediction in its own right. This year, 2016 will see the continued increase in CILEx membership as growing ranks of Paralegals flock to join the representative body partly for recognition, partly for representation and partly for regulation. Paralegals will choose to do this and get on with their professional careers rather than chase the pipe dream of someday qualifying as a Solicitor or Barrister. Until the SRA and BSB wake up to realising that their professions need to be redefined, both bodies will see a declining increase in membership.
3. Further development and integration of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in legal practice
This year will see the inevitable development and greater use of AI to provide quicker, more detailed, and more accurate analysis and risk assessment of data held by legal service providers. The human mind simply cannot compete at the speed of computers and neither should it. That is what the computer is there to do. Instead, AI should be embraced as a means of liberating the more mundane, elevating the human part of the equation to a strategic, communicative, and leadership role better suited to the niceties of dealing with other human beings (aka clients/consumers).
4. New roles (for humans) in legal services
Although the words in brackets are a bit tongue-in-cheek, they have a serious note. If we are to leave the more mundane to computers, if we are to embrace AI as I suggest, then how do we adapt? Well I think that the increased use of technology in the provision of legal services will lead to new roles for legal professionals, those roles being ‘Legal Technician’, ‘Legal Systems Developer/Manager’, Legal Database Manager’, ‘Legal Analyst’, ‘Risk Analysis’, etc. Legal professionals in 2016 will start to take an interest in the software development side of things since an understanding of what goes on “under the hood” is essential if you are to use the machine so to speak.
5.Announcement that Kaplan will be the sole assessor of the proposed Solicitors Qualifying Exam
I’ve saved the best, most outlandish prediction until last. Whilst everyone lamented the exit of Kaplan from the LPC provider market, it was a canny bit of business actually. They knew that that market was disrupted, was shrinking, that they could not compete with the larger providers. So, they made a strategic retreat, have taken the opportunity to regroup, and will I think place themselves in an ideal position to bid and possibly win the vacancy to be the SRA’s chosen independent assessor of the SQE. Given that the changes to the route(s) to qualification as a Solicitor are due to be concluded in 2017 (believe that when we see it), it would seem sensible to make an announcement in the year preceding. Maybe then people will acknowledge that Kaplan’s move was pretty smart.
So, there you have it. Five predictions, five stabs in the dark. Just set a reminder for Saturday 31st December 2016 to review these. I’ll either be acclaimed as the new Nostradamus or the new Russell Grant, let’s see shall we?
Happy new year!