Colin Ettinger, Visiting Professor ULaw, Head of Personal Injury Irwin Mitchell London
18 January 2016
ULaw’s Visiting Professor Colin Ettinger, Head of Personal Injury at Irwin Mitchell’s London office, believes law students who understand technology have a real advantage. Here he explains why.
I think there is going to be some kind of Uber-style revolution, or perhaps evolution in the not too distant future that will affect the legal profession. To a large extent, the conditions are already in place, with pressure on law firms to reduce costs and a climate of tech innovation. There is also an enthusiasm to help more people gain access to justice, which ties in with innovation.
For example, at the moment in clinical negligence there are many claims that are never pursued because they don't make economic sense. A lot of the time it boils down to the cost of reviewing medical records and other research outweighing the potential value of the claim. So the development of a technology to speed up the review process could open up a whole new segment of lower value cases. It's surely a matter of time before a major breakthrough happens.
For aspiring lawyers, if you are someone who is IT-adept, you will stand a much better chance. I'm not speaking on behalf of my firm here, but, in my field of personal injury law, I would look at someone with a computer science degree in preference to any other graduate. We are seeing a lot of new software designed to help lawyers do their jobs more efficiently and someone who could marry legal knowledge with a proper understanding of IT would be very well positioned.
Young lawyers need excellent technical legal skills, good client skills, business sense and ideally an entrepreneurial streak. Usually, when you take on a new trainee or paralegal, you can tell quite quickly if that person is going to be adept at doing the job.
We take a combination of trainees, apprentices and paralegals, who if they are good we offer the chance of a training contract to.
Sometimes academic training can be less important than experience acquired on the job, for example, we have someone in my group who came to us aged 18 working in the filing team and is now going through the legal apprentice process. He is a bright man who is currently working on several big cases. The great advantage of someone like that is that he understands all the internal processes having been at the firm for a number of years. It's that mix of knowledge and skills that you want. Also, from a social mobility perspective it is important to cast the net as wide as possible.
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A version of this interview previously appeared on Legalcheek.com.