Just so we are clear, the future is not in fifty or one hundred years. It is now, today, this month. The future, in this day of technological advancements and leaps in digital transformation, is taking shape right in front of us.

Futurists predict that children in primary school today will have a whole new set of job descriptions different from what exists now. Fifteen years ago, Search Engine Optimisation specialist must have sounded a ridiculous as a job. There was no such thing as Social Media manager. Typists, switchboard operators and clerks- jobs of yesteryears- are no longer in demand.

What does this mean for the lawyer? I mean, the future’s lawyer. There was no online law report in Nigeria a decade ago. Now, you can enter keywords on a search field and find authorities without having to dig through a mountain of dusty law reports that were published the year you were born. With the world wide web, social media and other digital innovations, legal research is no longer the back breaking task it was years ago. A few minutes on your smartphone and you have your answers, the paper textbooks are sitting tight on the shelf awaiting your occasional need to confirm principles.
There was a time when the Nigerian lawyer could take advantage of our slow adoption of tech innovations. However, this trend is changing fast. Nigerian lawyers who do not adapt and dance to the rhythm of technology may be edged out of business.

New technology; the likes of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, Robotics and
BlockChain, is set to disrupt how law is practised in Nigeria. While we cry out for development in other sectors of the economy, the legal services sector must move with the developmental flow to ensure that we service these advancing sectors properly. Else, we may have Nigerians and Nigerian businesses relying on foreign lawyers to advise them, and they do not need to set foot on Nigerian soil to do this. Worse still, we may have machines and computer programs replace Nigerian lawyers.
What does the future’s lawyer need to learn in order to provide quality 21st Century legal services and ride advancements in technology to success? Let us briefly look at three headings.

Project Management
This emerges as a result of clients’ need to have lawyers who prioritise lean efficiency, outcomes and results, predictability, and value for costs. Project management generally, deals with planning the work of a team to achieve set goals within a set period. It covers the start of a project, planning, implementing, supervising and concluding the work of a team. The major concern of a project manager is to achieve set goals within the constraints set out.

While this may be a simple enough process, there are techniques for successfully managing projects and it has become imperative for today’s lawyer to master such techniques. Legal project management deals with the application of the principles of project management to legal matters. The major concern is managing the ‘business’ angle of legal services. Typically, it involves identifying the stakeholders in a case or matter, developing a document that charts out the scope of the work and plan, setting out a budget and monitoring it, monitoring deadlines, coordinating and ensuring proper communication amongst team members , and finally closing the project with proper review of work done, results and costs.

It is no longer enough to be a lawyer who knows the law, being able to manage the process and deliver value to the client using project management is a skill that the future’s lawyer must have to stand any chance.

Lawyers should strive towards higher knowledge of tech. They should learn to read code. This does not mean lawyers should become software developers. However, being able to understand code means that a lawyer understands the language of programs (software) and can communicate effectively with clients and experts in this field. Everything depends on programming these days and there are predictions that computer programming skills will become the new literacy in years to come. Developers, data scientists and software engineers are an integral part of the society today and their work is becoming the machinery upon which today’s society thrives.

Data Management and Quantitative Analysis
You have probably heard that data is the new gold. Oil is no longer gold. We are now in the age of big data. The biggest businesses in the world today- Amazon, Google, Facebook and the likes- thrive on data. Nigerian businesses are not left out, especially in finance, retail and marketing. Lawyers need in depth knowledge of big data management and analytics to be able to properly advise their clients who deal with data.

The future promises the use of data analytics in defining legal strategy. Lawyers (will) need data management and quantitative analysis to calculate damages, understand forensic evidence that involve large data sets, make decisions and arguments that involve data analytics, manage and modify electronically stored information, and conduct data driven transactions among other things.

Data Analytics, if explored, can also help Nigerian lawyers predict cases and outcomes and make informed data backed arguments. The judiciary can also benefit from data collection and analytics when exercising their discretion. For instance, behavioural patterns may be established from data.

The “T shaped” lawyer, a lawyer that is deeply versed in law and also able to collaborate across several fields, is the future’s lawyer. In fact, at this point in time, knowledge of these other fields has become indispensable to the practice of law. Lawyers do not have to become experts in these fields, however they need to possess enough knowledge to help them grasp concepts, contribute and connect ideas in order to provide premium legal services today and in the foreseeable future.

Wole Olayinka is a lawyer, tech enthusiast and co-manages Kurating

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