I don’t think the rise of virtual practice will replace the paralegals and trained support staff of a firm. I hate to say it, but I believe it will replace the entry level associate positions instead – unless those new lawyers have acquired some form of practical training in the use of technology and are comfortable working alongside the support staff in the maintenance of the systems and in the delivery of online legal services. (I won’t reiterate the four models for legal businesses that Richard Susskind lays out in End of Lawyers?, but he goes into much greater detail of the restructuring of the firm and it’s worth a re-read.)
Intelligent document automation and assembly programs provide the experienced lawyer with what he or she needs without having to ask a junior associate to create a new draft of a legal pleading. Intelligent systems can suggest provisions, cases and statutes that the firm has used in similar cases. The wheel does not have to be reinvented each time. The experienced lawyers can focus on the more recent case law, analysis and new arguments. Paralegals may be relied upon to provide them with updated case law and support as needed. Maybe a firm hires a couple new lawyers out of clerkship who come from top-tier law schools, but the number of hires will stay limited.
Interesting take from Stephanie Kimbro.