Why law students who understand technology have an advantage that will grow and grow

ULaw Visiting Professor Colin Ettinger, a partner at Irwin Mitchell, thinks an Uber-style revolution could be around the corner

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After his recent YouTube interview on the future of the legal profession (embedded below) caught our eye, Legal Cheek Careers got in touch with ULaw Visiting Professor Colin Ettinger to hear more about what the changes he predicts will mean for today’s wannabe lawyers.

Ettinger, who is head of personal injury at Irwin Mitchell‘s London office, had some interesting insights to share…

Legal Cheek Careers: You think change is coming to the law. Tell us more about this.

Colin Ettinger: I do. In the not too distant future I think there is going to be some kind of Uber-style revolution, or perhaps evolution, that will affect the legal profession. To a large extent, the conditions are already in place, with pressure on law firms to reduce costs and a climate of tech innovation. There is also an enthusiasm to help more people gain access to justice, which ties in with innovation.

For example, at the moment in clinical negligence there are many claims which are never pursued because they don’t make economic sense. A lot of the time it boils down to the cost of reviewing medical records and other research outweighing the potential value of the claim. So the development of a technology to speed up the review process could open up a whole new segment of lower value cases. It’s surely a matter of time before a major breakthrough happens.

Legal Cheek Careers: How can wannabe lawyers prepare themselves for this?

Ettinger: If you are someone who is IT adept, you will stand a much better chance. I’m not speaking on behalf of my firm here, but, in my field of personal injury law, I would actually look at someone with a computer science degree in preference to any other graduate. We are seeing a lot of new software designed to help lawyers do their jobs more efficiently and someone who could marry legal knowledge with a proper understanding of IT would be very well-positioned.

Legal Cheek Careers: What other qualities do you think are desirable for young lawyers?

Ettinger: They need excellent technical legal skills, good client skills, business sense and ideally an entrepreneurial streak. Usually, when you take on a new trainee or paralegal, you can tell quite quickly if that person is going to be adept at doing the job.

Legal Cheek Careers: Do you prefer students who come through a particular route?

Ettinger: No. We take a combination of trainees, apprentices and paralegals, who if they are good we offer the chance of a training contract to.

Sometimes academic training can be less important than experience acquired on the job — for example, we have someone in my group who came to us aged 18 working in the filing team and is now going through the chartered legal executive qualification process. He is a bright man who is currently working on several big cases.

The great advantage of someone like that is that he understands all the internal processes having been at the firm for a number of years. It’s that mix of knowledge and skills that you want. Also, from a social mobility perspective it is important to cast the net as wide as possible.

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