Last Thursday, Dorien and I headed over to London to attend BPP’s employment week. Employment week features a host of advice and tips for law students. There were sessions which helped prep for interviews. They offered the chance to practice your networking skills. However, the best thing (in our opinion) was that they offered students alternatives. When I studied law at Oxford there was an implicit assumption that I would go on to be a lawyer. But, after working for firms during vac-schemes, I wasn’t so sure. Unfortunately there was little advice available to me, having found myself in this position. I liked the law, I just didn’t want to be a lawyer. So what were my options? Well, if I’d been studying at BPP this year, I would finally have been able to answer that question.
Why more universities should offer alternatives
There has been no shortage of debate recently about legal education. In the UK, the LPC and GDL have been scrapped. Ostensibly, the motives behind the move were increasing social mobility within the legal profession. However, many have also been critical of the lack of practical requirements in the current course. Many universities in the US have been looking to introduce legal tech skills to the syllabus. It seems that legal education is now actively looking at how better to prepare their students.
With this in mind, we must offer our congratulations to Adam Curphey of BPP. Thursday’s event offered fantastic information for students about legal tech. How much are you expected to know about technology? Where can you learn more? Should you intern with a legal tech company? But the event also was one of the only ones I have attended tackling the other (unspoken) issue. Are there options if you enjoy law, but you don’t want to be a lawyer?
So you don’t want to be a lawyer
To tackle this question, Adam pulled together a panel of those who either quit being a lawyer, or who never studied law to begin with. They included Mary Bonsor, the founder of F-Lex (and a very inspiring lady who we interviewed as part of our Women in Legal Tech series). Alex Smith, who having never studied law at all (a sensible idea perhaps…) is now Innovation Hub Manager at Reed Smith. Aside from myself, the final two inspiring panel members were Daniel van Binsbergen and Richard Mabey, the founders of Lexoo and Juro respectively.
The panelists had all followed different paths into legal tech. Some (myself included) had taken one look at the hours required and had chosen sleep instead. Some had migrated into legal tech from other sectors. However, all of the stories the panelists shared had a common thread. Namely; that each person had identified a problem in the legal sector which they thought they had a solution to.
Legal tech needs you
This, perhaps, was the best advice that came out of the panel. The law has a lot of catching up to do. Unlike other sectors (say, banking) the law has undergone little change since the turn of the 19th century. It is an industry ripe for new ideas, and great design. What it needs is people to identify problems. Look at what isn’t working, and offer ways to tackle that. Better still, legal tech (like all technology sectors) could do with some diversity to help in that design. After all, different groups have different problems (and different ways of tackling them). So, if you’re inquisitive, critical and great at identifying the underlying problem, then legal tech needs you. And that goes for anyone, not just self confessed ‘techies’.