Members of INTA’s Young Practitioners Committee speak out about their changing roles, the impact of technology, and other relevant issues as they look to the future. Sarah Morgan highlights their insights.
Tackling intellectual property (IP)-related subjects ranging from the disruptive impact of technology to how to attract the best and brightest talent, INTA’s Young Practitioners Committee is a melting pot of ideas.
“Unfortunately, many of the roles traditionally undertaken by lawyers or those in the legal profession will be automated by computer software.” - Sarah Dixon, Chrysiliou IP
To give the INTA Daily News insight into what the future of the IP profession thinks, committee members from around the world shared their views on some key issues at the forefront of young IP lawyers’ minds.
Looking into the Future
What Does the Future of the Legal Profession Look Like?
Ms. Dixon: “Unfortunately, many of the roles traditionally undertaken by lawyers or those in the legal profession will be automated by computer software. This will require those in the profession to think more creatively about the type and nature of the services we offer to clients.”
Mr. Dinar: “There may be a tendency of many senior lawyers/IP practitioners to employ non-lawyers to assist them. I also believe that in the future we will be focusing more on subscription-based services to replace the stressful, never-ending chase for billable hours.”
Ms. Chichisola: “Today we can no longer separate the technical lawyer from the lawyer with a commercial profile. We must all have a commercial approach, consider ourselves service providers, and apply all our emotional intelligence and soft skills to make us visible and make a difference.
“The world has changed, our profession has changed. We need to work as a team, have critical thinking, be creative, have a multidisciplinary look, and generate synergy with the environment to generate new opportunities.”
“Social media play a key role in raising my work profile. I have been sharing tips and tricks on IP in Indonesia via Instagram, YouTube, and WeChat, and my clients find the content helpful.” - Emirsyah Dinar, AFFA Intellectual Property Rights
What Are the Biggest Threats to the Legal Profession?
Ms. Shrestha: “Political and administrative regimes pose the biggest threats to the legal profession. Corruption, bad practice and precedence, abuse of authority, political instability, and a lack of sufficient human and technological resources are all a big problem in the legal profession. If these hurdles are not being resourcefully subsided, these can be demotivating to a young practitioner.”
Ms. Fischerova: “The United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, of course, comes to mind, along with the many consequences it will have after the transition period on various areas of life and work.
“Technology development is another challenge that might be a threat to many small legal businesses that simply cannot compete with the tools large law corporations can offer. They will have to find a niche that multinational corporations cannot offer, focusing on efficiency and a personal approach.”
Ms. Cantor: “One threat is the negative reputation lawyers seem to have, in combination with higher rates and newer technology options. I know that some people who need legal documents drafted would prefer to try to handle it themselves by printing something off a website rather than pay for and deal with a lawyer.
“With so much information easily accessible online, people sometimes think they can act as their own lawyer to draft a document or solve a problem, when they should really be consulting a professional.”
“Corruption, bad practice and precedence, abuse of authority, political instability, and a lack of sufficient human and technological resources are all a big problem in the legal profession.” - Kripa Shrestha, Pioneer Law Associates Private Limited
Do You Expect Technology to Replace Lawyers, Particularly Trainee Lawyers?
Ms. Depypere: “No. The human factor plays a role that is too big for that in our profession. That is why I also think the human factor is our added value. Trainee lawyers will do fewer purely administrative tasks.”
Mr. Skelton: “Unlike a lot of people who worry about technology, robots, or artificial intelligence (AI) taking their jobs in the future, I don’t think that will happen. Of course, there is—and will continue to be—a significant increase in the use of technology in legal practices, but such technology should be seen as a way of freeing up practitioners to concentrate on connecting with their clients to understand their business needs.
“Roles for young practitioners may shift slightly in the future in response to advances in technologies or greater connectivity in the global economy, but firms should still look to use the varied skills and experiences that fresh eyes can bring.”
Ms. Abo Ali: “Technology has always surprised us. I believe technology will keep on improving our daily work and practice. There are many smart tools that can replace/reduce a lot of work for lawyers/trainee lawyers, and this will keep on increasing. However, I don’t think that AI will replace lawyers or trainees due to the need of human interaction with this technology.”
Ms. Cantor: “I don’t think technology will replace lawyers, but it may change the way we do our work. More automation will hopefully help make things more efficient. Perhaps I am being naïve, but I don’t see technology being able to replace some of the critical thinking skills, judgement calls, and personal relationships that are so key to our day-to-day work.”
“A lot of us are living far away from friends, family, and loved ones, and that added bit of support, whether it is from a work or social perspective, goes a long way.” - Talal Farrukh Khan, United Trademark & Patent Services
What Are Your Concerns for the Future of the Legal Profession in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Mr. Dinar: “I think our profession is needed more than ever now. COVID-19 presents opportunities in other fields that remain unaffected by the pandemic, and it is up to us to take those opportunities and stay relevant.”
Ms. Fischerova: “One of many challenges that might perhaps be unique for lawyers is that the legal profession has been traditionally very conservative with respect to the way of working. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the great majority of lawyers were primarily working from their offices and not many had the option to regularly work from home. This entirely changed in the past months and practically everyone had to switch to remote working from one day to the next.
“For some this caused difficulties related to technology and getting used to a new way of working and communication. That said, I think that the pandemic has been here for long enough for everyone to adapt to the new standard, particularly in view of all the modern technology we have at hand.
“In addition, the forced change brought along the flexibility many law firms were missing. But, as always, there are two sides of the same coin, and it is important to ensure that everyone in the team feels included as, when working remotely for a long period of time, team spirit is at stake.”
Ms. Depypere: “In the short term, the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for every profession. My concern for the short-term future of the legal profession is that clients will consider lawyers’ costs to be non-essential costs, which will therefore be subject to cost-cutting.
“However, I do believe that in the long term the COVID-19 pandemic will also have its silver linings, in the sense that it pushes us to be more flexible, appreciative, and creative. It has shown us that nothing can be taken for granted and that is always a good thing to be reminded about.”
“The pandemic has been here for long enough for everyone to adapt to the new standard, particularly in view of all the modern technology we have at hand.” - Alena Fischerova, BomhardIP
What Are Your Concerns for the Future of the Legal Profession in Light of the Racial Injustice Movement?
Mr. Khan: “This is a major concern. There are flaws in the legal system that need to be addressed on every level. This includes access to legal education but also expanding legal services to those who cannot afford them and having more diverse decision makers.
“The profession needs to evolve to better reflect the society it is supposed to represent. In this day and age, people of color, LGBTQ, and other minorities are hardly found in law firms, with even fewer in leadership positions. The profession as a whole needs to evolve from some of its traditional thinking and mindset and to be open to nontraditional ideas.”
Ms. Abo Ali: “The racial injustice movement has helped in spreading awareness and educating people/firms around the globe about diversity. This change is very noticeable on social media, advertisements, and workplaces. The message of the movement is to confront racism and aim for better equality between humans.
“Personally, as a Black woman living in Sweden, I have never experienced any racial injustice whatsoever. Here people value you for who you are and what you do rather than your skin color and gender. This is a very important statement that I should share with my colleagues around the globe as a Black woman who moved recently to this country. However, this does not deny the fact that racial injustice is alive in many places.
“I hope firms will start to open more for diversity in the coming years, because this is the only way to prove that they champion the movement and acknowledge its message.”
“I hope firms will start to open more for diversity in the coming years, because this is the only way to prove that they champion the movement and acknowledge its message.” - Rema Abo Ali, Brimondo AB
Bursting the Bubble
Is the Legal Profession Doing Enough to Promote Diversity and Inclusion?
Ms. Dixon: “We could be doing more. While it is vastly improving, many firms are still stuck in a bubble of hiring the same type of people often from the same universities and from similar backgrounds.
“In Australia, there are statistics which show that while a high percentage of the intake of graduate lawyers are women, a significantly lower proportion of these make it through to partnership. This is not unique to the legal profession, but it shows that there is much that can be done to level the playing-field.”
Mr. Skelton: “In Australia, there is a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives throughout law firms. A few years ago, the Law Society of New South Wales established a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, of which I have been a member for three years, to represent a wide cross-section of the profession and assist individual firms with such initiatives.
“The committee has developed projects including a Charter for the Advancement of Women, thought-leadership events for the International Day of People with Disability, and fostering opportunities for greater visibility of practitioners from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“I’m also an Executive Councilor of New South Wales Young Lawyers and planned the organization’s first entry into the famous Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in 2017 (when Australia was considering the same-sex marriage issue; it eventually passed marriage equality legislation), in which members of the organization marched with the Presidents of the Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of New South Wales under the banner of ‘Equality under the Law.’”
Ms. Shrestha: “Nowadays, the legal profession is diverse and inclusive. From gender to caste, to fields of practice, in my view, it is continuously being diversified. The government and law schools play a primary role in promoting D&I. In Nepal, inclusion is taken very seriously and individuals of any and all backgrounds are encouraged.
“To make it more diverse and inclusive, opportunities to learn and prosper should be given to those from less-advantaged backgrounds, women’s education should be promoted from the grassroots level, and most importantly, moral support should come from an individual’s own home.”
“In Australia, there is a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout law firms.” - James Skelton, Swaab Attorneys
Attracting the Best
What Do Young Practitioners Want from Their Law Firms/Inhouse Departments?
Ms. Fischerova: “Young practitioners want meaningful work, not merely to execute orders without seeing a purpose in their tasks. They need to feel integrated, included in the firm’s goals and wider strategies, to be considered as co-pilots on the common journey.
“In addition, the young generation seeks flexibility in a broader sense including mobility. While in other professions flexible hours and work from practically anywhere have become widely accepted, in the legal field it is not yet the case. It will become unavoidable to align the rather rigid way of working in the legal field with the rapidly growing trend of greater work flexibility and possibility to have easier access into other jurisdictions in order to be able to expand practice overseas.”
Ms. Chichisola: “Young practitioners are looking for flexibility, a balanced combination of work and personal life, and challenging cases to work on.”
Mr. Khan: “At this moment in time, support would be high on the list. A lot of us are living far away from friends, family, and loved ones, and that added bit of support, whether it is from a work or social perspective, goes a long way.”
“ I also think the human factor is our added value. Trainee lawyers will do fewer purely administrative tasks.” - Lisbeth Depypere, CMS
How Important Is Corporate Social Responsibility to Those Looking to Join the Legal Profession?
Ms. Fischerova: “That might depend on geographical and cultural particularities, but in my view, young people in general look more for socially responsible companies as they then feel more committed to their goals.”
Mr. Khan: “I feel young professionals, especially millennials, are more aware of social issues. They want to contribute outside the office environment but at the same time they want to improve their own company or law firm’s environment. They want to be part of a profession that shares their goals and values.
“With the wide variety of social, political, and environmental issues faced by society today, millennials want to contribute without having to worry about the impact on their careers. Rather, to them, the two go hand in hand. It is essential for those organizations and individuals who have achieved success to share their knowledge and success with those who are not so fortunate.”
Ms. Cantor: “Corporate responsibility is very important to those looking to join the profession. For me, not having as much time for pro bono as I would like, I feel that I am able to give back in a way by serving as the lawyer for our corporate citizenship department and supporting their projects.”
Ms. Al Ardah: “With the ascendancy of economics, competition, and technology, unrestrained corporate governance and social responsibility has become increasingly important. Corporates now have social responsibility at the top of their priorities. In the world we live in, it is important to try and make change—corporate social responsibility is lawyers’ chance to make a change beyond the business world.”
“In the world we live in, it is important to try and make change—corporate social responsibility is lawyers’ chance to make a change beyond the business world.” - Rasha Al Ardah, Al Tamimi & Co
What Is Your Advice for Young Practitioners?
Ms. Dixon: “Remember that there are always options—your path doesn’t need to be dictated by tradition or what others do. It is so important to find somewhere you feel comfortable, supported, and happy. Try to find yourself a mentor who you can look to for advice and support. It is not an easy industry at times and having someone there to guide you helps.”
Mr. Skelton: “Give everything a go: offer to help with a matter that might not be in your comfort zone to expand your experience, volunteer at a local community legal center or similar to get exposure to different types of clients, or engage with a membership-based organization such as INTA to increase your network. All these things are important when building a successful practice.”
Ms. Abo Ali: “Don’t stay still and feel comfortable where you are in your career. Use the feeling of being comfortable as a sign to jump up to another stage. Be open, speak up, and ask for help. I know it’s not easy sometimes, but it’s the only way for us to reach where we want to be.”
Ms. Chichisola: “Try not to focus only on the day-to-day tasks, but occasionally try to see the whole picture, understand the business and the trends, and generate and maintain the contacts that you gradually gain.”
Ms. Cantor: “Network, network, network! You never know where your next opportunity will come from—whether that’s a new client or a future promotion or a new job opportunity. Work hard and ask a lot of questions; there is no such thing as a dumb question.
“Even though you should absolutely work hard, do your best to take care of yourself. It’s not easy to do and it isn’t something you’ll be able to do all the time, but make sure you are doing it whenever you can, especially as we navigate through the difficulties of the pandemic.”
“Network, network, network! You never know where your next opportunity will come from.” - Allison Cantor, ESPN, Inc.
How Can You Remain Visible and Raise Your Work Profile While Working Remotely?
Mr. Dinar: “Since the start of the pandemic, I have been doing a lot of online seminars and information sessions for my clients and the general public. I normally collaborate with associates overseas to talk about the topics that may interest them.
“Social media play a key role in raising my work profile. I have been sharing tips and tricks on IP in Indonesia via Instagram, YouTube, and WeChat, and my clients find the content helpful.”
Mr. Khan: “I like to write and contribute to my firm’s blog through LinkedIn, and I engage with colleagues online through Twitter. Participating in online webinars and events such as INTA’s 2020 Annual Meeting & Leadership Meeting is also a good way. At the moment, people who would not normally attend in-person events are tuning in, so your chance is there to interact with people whom you may have never met at an in-person event.”
Mr. Skelton: “Writing topical articles or contributing to government submissions is a perfect way to remain visible and raise your work profile. Many local law societies, Bar associations, and industry organizations such as INTA provide members with these kinds of opportunities.
“Additionally, working remotely means you can use the time you once spent commuting to the office on other projects.
Volunteering with charities and not-for-profits in areas of interest is a great way to enhance your commercial acumen.”
Ms. Al Ardah: “One of the most important aspects to advancing your career is by staying visible and raising your profile, whether it is within the firm or outside. With remote working, lawyers need to double their efforts. I have found video calls to be very effective, and they allow people to become closer to each other. However, you should be careful not to overdo it!”
Ms. Chichisola: “I believe the secret lies in two key factors. On one hand, in the quality of daily work and in your response time. The client sees this and values it, and it is the best cover letter. On the other hand, it is very useful to be able to take the time to participate in webinars, networking spaces, and social media with useful content for colleagues, potential clients, and clients. By combining these interactions, I believe that visibility can be maintained, and you can continue growing.”
Ms. Depypere: “You can remain visible and raise your work profile by keeping in touch with your clients, and by reporting about legal developments that may be of interest to them. As most people are working from home, we have seen that a lot of our peers are giving webinars.
“From my point of view, it is essential to make the difference content-wise, and you can do this by trying to pinpoint issues which may interest your clients and peers, but which have not yet been discussed by many others.”
“The world has changed, our profession has changed. We need to work as a team, have critical thinking, be creative, have a multidisciplinary look, and generate synergy with the environment to generate new opportunities.” - Mariel Chichisola, Ojam Bullrich Flanzbaum
INTA 2020, technology, IP lawyers, software, legal profession, artificial intelligence, global economy, COVID-19, pandemic, racism, equality, social media