Stanford fellow and prolific author Dr. Lance Eliot highlights the ALSE in a recent article, the surging demand for Legal Engineers, and the various roles they play within law firms and corporations.
Link to his recent book AI And Legal Reasoning Essentials on Amazon
Thanks to Dr. Eliot for the spotlight and support! Article text below:
Key briefing points about this article:
- Hiring for legal engineers remains brisk and the outlook is assuredly sunny
- There is some confusion in the marketplace about the role of a legal engineer
- They blend the combined expertise of software engineering and the legal realm
- A non-profit professional association exists, the American Society of Legal Engineers (ASLE)
- Legal engineers will continue to be in demand, even in light of no-code and low-code efforts
Take a look at any of the various job ad boards in the legal profession and you’ll likely see an abundant and nearly desperate clamoring call for legal engineers.
Finding a legal engineer is rough to do since they are pretty much as scarce as hen’s teeth. In addition, there is a bit of confusion in the marketplace about what a legal engineer does, along with uncertainty about the appropriate qualifications for someone to tout the vaunted title of being a legal engineer.
Let’s back up a moment and first clarify why there is an existent need or calling for the use of legal engineers.
I’ll begin with a hopefully inarguable truism, namely that technology has increasingly become a vital part of the legal ecosystem. For most lawyers, jurists, and other participants in the legal world, high-tech has been inching further and further into the practice of law. Not everyone necessarily embraces the incessant march toward more and more tech in the law. That being said, as the sage adage goes, you might as well not tilt at windmills and instead summarily accept that high-tech is here to stay and will continue to expand its reach and impact upon the legal realm.
If you are still with me on this emphatic point, the next somewhat obvious question is who will aid in the necessary tasks of devising, implementing, and maintaining all of this legal high-tech. There isn’t any magic pixy dust that will give rise to the tech.
Even for those that wish to buy off-the-shelf LegalTech wares, you ought to realize and be forewarned that a great deal of added work is required to ensure that newly embraced systems are suitably integrated into your practice. Making crucial investments in what could otherwise become shelfware, meaning that you subscribed or bought the tech but it is not actively put into use, undercuts your lawyering efforts and needlessly depletes limited funds.
Plus, you would be wise to have at-the-ready expertise for working shoulder-to-shoulder with your attorneys and other legal professionals in the day-to-day use and ongoing adoption of the tech. Few lawyers will right away welcome new tech and the odds are that a lot of handholding is going to be needed. Furthermore, the handholding will be wasted if the attorneys feel that the person doing the abetment is bereft of knowledge about the law and what lawyers actually do.
Okay, I think you are likely convinced or at least turning the corner toward the notion that someone is needed that can straddle the legal world and the tech world.
Consider these four potential options:
- Use a lawyer that relishes tech
- Use a software engineer that relishes the law
- Pair up a lawyer and a software engineer
- Get a legal engineer (a kind of combined melding)
Those are not mutually exclusive options and a given law office or entity might leverage any of those possibilities at the same time.
A legal engineer is a newer type of role and generally consists of a specialist that has closely intertwined the precepts of software engineering and the keystones of the law and the practice of law. To make that a fairer representation, we could say the same thing in the other order, such that this is a specialist that intertwines the keystones of the law and the precepts of software engineering. The goal is to blend both worlds, doing so adroitly and deeply.
Specialties Of Legal Engineers
I’ll add further nuance to this role by pointing out that there can be additional specialties within the overarching specialty per se. In essence, not all legal engineers are the same in terms of their focus or particular expertise.
For example, regarding the advent of AI in the legal field, some legal engineers specifically focus on AI-related aspects, including AI techniques and technologies for the law that entail Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Knowledge-Based Systems (KBS), etc. The job title often used by those experts stipulates that they are “AI Legal Engineers” or perhaps “Legal Knowledge Engineers” (there is also the mouthful “Legal Machine Learning Engineer” title, though rarely used so far).
For additional details about the overall rising emergence of AI in the legal world, see my book available on Amazon entitled “AI and Legal Reasoning Essentials” at this link here: https://www.amazon.com/Legal-Reasoning-Essentials-Artificial-Intelligence/dp/1734601655
You might find of notable interest that there is a non-profit professional association known as the American Society of Legal Engineers (ASLE) that is aiding in formulating and spearheading the rise of legal engineers. The ASLE’s overall mission is to provide a North Star direction and mindful guidance for the maturation of the legal engineer profession. This is assuredly sorely needed and vigorously welcomed.
The founder of ASLE, Eric DeChant, expressed eloquently what the aspiration involved: “Legal Engineers are trained across scientific and legal disciplines to enable more efficient delivery and access to justice. They abide by a strict moral and ethical code of conduct, which lays out a duty not only to the clients they serve, but to their peers, employers, and (perhaps most importantly) society overall” (in his blog posting entitled “What Is A Legal Engineer”).
You might be wondering where the nascent pioneers of early-on legal engineers are ending up.
There are plentiful options.
Some are hired into law firms and primarily work in-house. Some are brought into law firms and used in-house and for outreach purposes, serving in a consultative capacity. Legal engineers are settling into the vendors that make and sell the latest in LegalTech. Consulting firms that assist law firms are grabbing up legal engineers. The courts are bringing in legal engineers. Regulators and legislative teams are adding on-board the inclusion of legal engineers. One of the quickest to snap-up legal engineers are startups that are bringing advanced tech to the legal ecosystem.
Believe it or not, already some skeptics contend we won’t need legal engineers in the near future because everything will be so-called low-code or no-code and lawyers will be doing all the tech work on their own (that’s the proverbial and controversial lawyers-as-coders mantra).
For anyone worrying that legal engineers are going to summarily become extinct, put that non-sensical notion out of your noggin. By and large, the use of legal engineers is the more cost-effective and productive use of labor in contrast to tasking non-tech lawyers with trying to do the nitty-gritty tech work.
You can decidedly take that to the bank, as they say.
For the latest trends about AI & Law, visit our website www.ai-law.legal
Additional writings by Dr. Lance Eliot:
- For Dr. Eliot’s books, see: https://www.amazon.com/author/lanceeliot
- For his Forbes column, see: https://forbes.com/sites/lanceeliot/
- For his AI Trends column, see: www.aitrends.com/ai-insider/
- For his Medium column, see: https://lance-eliot.medium.com/
And to follow Dr. Lance Eliot (@LanceEliot) on Twitter use: https://twitter.com/LanceEliot
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