What does a legal technologist do?

Fifteen years ago, the job title of ‘legal technologist’ didn’t exist. Today, it’s one of the hottest roles for promising professionals. But what exactly is the job? Where did it come from? And what do they do?

We’re no stranger to legal technologists at Josef. We spoke to our very own legal techs, Henry Ho and Ali Cook, about what the job entails.

The dinner party question

So, what do you do for a living?”

If you ask a legal technologist what they do for a living, they might tell you that they bridge the divide between law and technology, and aim to make legal services more accessible. 

In a world where precedents, case law, and doctrines have taken centre stage, technology has often been overlooked. The result is that legal professionals can be ill-equipped to understand how legal technology fits into their business.

This is where legal technologists come in. They use their understanding of the legal industry and of technology to answer the question: ‘How can we transform the way legal services are delivered?’.

A day in the life of

As a fairly new job title, the day-to-day of a legal technologist varies and depends on where they work.  The name may evoke the image of a mad scientist tinkering away in a lab, building a robot barrister, but in practice it’s a highly customer-focused role. 

If a law firm is slowed down, say, by manually editing and generating documents, a legal technologist may suggest an automated form. 

A legal technologist at a law firm might focus on client experience, whereas the same person in a corporate team might look at streamlining processes.

“Whether the customer is an individual practitioner or an innovation team at a big firm, they know their processes and pain points best,“ says Henry Ho, Josef’s Legal Technology Lead. “And we understand the Josef product best.”

Henry Ho, Josef's Legal Technology Lead, says legal experience is optional to do the job, while empathy is compulsory.

Henry Ho, Josef's Legal Technology Lead, says legal experience is optional to do the job, while empathy is compulsory.

Henry says customers who come to us are excited about using legal tech, but have a hard time starting.  

“The desire is there,” he explains. So after consultations and determining the customer’s needs, Henry moves on to teaching and guiding them on how they can build their own bots to become self-sufficient. 

“I do a lot of educational type stuff, I run a lot of training [sessions] … and I get customers to think about what problems they’re trying to solve at an organisational and business level.” 

Lately, Josef’s legal technologists have been running interactive training sessions via Zoom – sometimes with a large group of lawyers in a boardroom – to explain legal design and to show them how they can start using Josef. 

Ali Cook, a Legal Technologist at Josef, says they help customers “take [the] legal process that was completely in their mind and actually map it out in Josef.”

Off the beaten track

Being a legal technologist is certainly a non-traditional role for those who want to take the road less travelled.  

Of course, it suits people with an interest in tech. Ali and Henry both studied at Melbourne Law School, where they did the legal tech subject Law Apps. 

Henry joined Josef while still at law school, as one of our first employees. Ali did Josef’s Designer and Builder program, before becoming a legal technologist upon graduation.

The job attracts people who are creative and curious, drawing on varied perspectives and experience to solve problems. 

“My undergraduate degree was in Chemistry. I’d always had an interest in business and strategy, and I worked in fintech throughout law school,” Ali says. 

“I spent a lot of time thinking, ‘If I work for a big firm as a lawyer, all of these interests would fall by the wayside’. The law can be super siloed in its traditional form. But all of those buzzwords about startups – fast-paced, young, innovative – all of that’s true at Josef.”

“People in law school [need] not be so single-minded about the classic things, like mooting and other competitions. There’s other stuff out there you can explore.”
– Ali Cook

While a law degree or a background in coding can help, they’re not must-haves. 

What’s more important is that you empathise with the customer, and also with the customer’s own clients who will interact with Josef.

“It’s really cool to see how Josef is having a direct impact on making legal services more accessible,” Henry says.

Many of the skills can be learned on the job, but having an open mind and flexibility in approaching problems are essential. Service design and process design skills are also helpful.

Should I be a legal technologist?

Why not?

Starting your career as a legal technologist doesn’t mean closing the door on your dreams of being a lawyer. With more and more law firms valuing the skills legal technologists have, there’s a clear pathway to entering law firms and even becoming a qualified lawyer.

“Law students are usually quite young, and the career of a lawyer can last many years,” Henry says. “If you’re interested in doing something that’s not law…why not pursue it? If it doesn’t work, you can always jump back into the law.”

Stay curious and open

“I did Josef’s Designer and Builder program because I thought it was cool. I had interests outside of or tangentially related to the law, and I just did them,” Ali says.

“That’s a good reminder for people in law school to not be so single-minded about the classic things, like mooting and other competitions. There’s other stuff out there you can explore that will end up being relevant.”

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