Dear Amicus Agony,
There are two partners in the firm (in different departments) and I’ve always been attached to one partner. We are a boutique law firm. Our work is usually distinct but sometimes we take on a handful of matters which concerns the other department and thus I seek help from colleagues working with the other partner, and vice versa – these are minor matters i.e. seeking clarification on procedural matters, methods to resolve practical issues etc. I have never thought it an issue until recently when I was told that I shouldn’t help another colleague working for another partner because I am not on that partner’s payroll. Yet I do not wish to turn down a request for help from a colleague just because of that reason. We are all working for the same firm and helping a fellow colleague honestly does not take up much of my time. Should I approach my direct partner to speak about this? What is the most diplomatic way to deal with this?
Stuck in-between Cherie
Dear Stuck in-between Cherie,
If the help requested by your colleagues are minor favours which do not take up substantial time, I believe it is fine to render your assistance.
However, if the favour requires extensive time, it is probably a good idea to get clearance from your direct boss; otherwise, it may be seen that you are using your time cost to assist the other partner in your firm. Further, your boss may have concerns about you helping your colleagues such as being able to meet your billing targets or handling other tasks from your boss that require your urgent attention.
In the event that you are unable to assist your colleagues due to whatever reason, be honest with them and explain the reasons why you are unable to assist them on the matter. You should also let them know as soon as possible and perhaps offer them another resource where they may be able to find solutions to their problems.
Dear Amicus Agony,
I have heard that artificial intelligence is taking over the legal fraternity and I am insecure about my future in the legal profession. What exactly is legal tech and AI?
The fact that you are aware of such trends is a good sign that you will not be extinct … yet! Welcome to the new paradigm – artificial intelligence and legal technology in general. Certain attributes of lawyers are irreplaceable, such as judgment calls made, and communication skills in persuasion and advocacy. Even the most advanced forms of AI which incorporate behavioural learning cognitive functions can at best recommend, based on statistics and numbers, a “likely outcome” but the final decision calls have to be made by humans.
AI and legal technology in general will, over time, no doubt ease the burden of mundane repetitive work and free up capacity for young lawyers like yourself to undertake higher value work. Routine due diligence and spotting of key terms, managing litigation databases and predicting likely outcomes etc will be greatly aided by AI and legal technology at a fraction of the time and billable hours, and with higher and more accurate consistency. These are good developments that you should embrace, whilst buttressing your skill sets in areas such as making sound judgment calls, value adding to standard regulatory positions that the AI software can only generate comparisons of across jurisdictions, and be a more efficient next generation lawyer.