Are Business Lawyers Becoming Obsolete?

Lawyers and legal services are already being commoditized by technology in ways unimaginable 15 years ago. In the business world, tasks that used to be done by lawyers are now routinely being done by technology using form builders, and the internet has replaced lawyers as the go-to for legal advice. Lawyers aren’t the only professionals to be supplemented by technology, but the question becomes are small business lawyers becoming obsolete? No, and here’s why.

Technology is automating more and more professions and there are numerous claims that the legal industry is one. Here’s the common statement about how technology will replace business lawyers: business lawyers are working in a “form-driven practice area” and technology will simply be able to draft these without the need for a lawyer. That much is true, technology will continue to increase the ability for computer programs or AI to draft documents in a faster and more efficient way than a lawyer probably can, but that’s simply production, putting together a document, and you don’t need to be a lawyer for that. In fact, lawyers who have a “forms-driven practice” should welcome any technology that helps with production and use it to deliver more efficient and faster services to clients.

Even acknowledging that technology will replace some of the tasks normally performed by business lawyers (namely drafting and document production), the answer to rather business lawyers are becoming obsolete is a resounding “no”. In fact, business lawyers are becoming more valuable than ever to small business owners. Technology provides lawyers more tools and gives them an opportunity to become even more valuable to their clients. Business lawyers should be using technology to automate repetitive and routine tasks where possible in order to free up time to focus on the higher-level legal and risk challenges and opportunities that businesses encounter.

Why isn’t a good business lawyer going to be replaced by technology and automation? Here are a few reasons:

It’s going to be hard for technology to replace the “creation” aspect of legal services provided by small business lawyers. Creation is the ability of the lawyer to understand all of the nuances of a particular business; what the goals are and strategize how to resolve issues, spot opportunities and help the business plan for the future depending on the specifics of company goals. There isn’t going to be a software program, app or form generator that can replace the counsel and critical thinking that a lawyer can provide a business. If you’re a small business owner it’s in your best interest to find a lawyer who fully embraces the advisory role of legal services, the creation, that’s the benefit of legal services that technology isn’t going to be able to replace.

Most businesses are looking to build strategic partnerships with high-level service providers (accountants, lawyers, etc.), and technology isn’t going to be able to provide that type of relationship. Truly valuable attorneys are strategic partners with their clients, not someone who can put a form together, but a resource who understands the subtleties of the company, how decisions are made, and the business's appetite for risk. Lawyers should be advisors who can analyze situations and scenarios in real-time while taking into consideration the specific, unique details of a particular business. There isn’t going to be a technology that can provide that type of relationship and peace of mind to business owners.

Technology isn’t going to replace business lawyers. The successful ones will use it as a way to provide added value to clients and as an opportunity to lean more into the most valuable role a lawyer plays for small businesses – advisor and counselor.

If you have questions about how to use a lawyer as an advisor and counselor first, or legal questions in general, contact us for a free consultation.

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