3 questions for ...

... Sonya Leydecker, Joint CEO 2014-2017at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP and speaker at the 7th Autumn Conference of the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession on 17 November 2017 in Hamburg.

Bucerius CLP: Will the lawyer of the future be a robot or a human?

Leydecker: Both. There will never be a substitute for the professional who combines a deep knowledge of the law with experience of its practical operation and the thinking of the courts which will apply it. However, I have no doubt that much more of the work which is currently done by qualified lawyers will in future, and over time, be done by machines. 

Bucerius CLP: What will be the defining characteristics of the lawyer of the future?

Leydecker: Great legal skills, great people skills, coupled with a good understanding of technology and process.  Clients assume competence in their lawyers and increasingly expect value for money, which requires the use of modern systems and techniques to deliver. Clients certainly value the super technical expert and, for a life threatening issue, will choose a firm on the back of that. However, for most matters for most lawyers the clients' choice mostly comes down to which group of people they want to work with. A focus on the approach and skills that involves will pay increasing dividends in future.

Bucerius CLP: Based on your hypothesis for the future of legal services, what advice would you give to young lawyers today?

Leydecker: The time frame may be unclear, but disruption of legal services is, in my view, a certainty. So continue to concentrate on technical excellence as the top priority.  Beyond that, learn to be flexible so that you can adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.  Always ask your client what constitutes value for money to them and make sure you deliver it. Keep up to date with developments in relevant technology and in project management, perhaps taking inspiration from other industries and service sectors. But don't forget that in the end, for the more complex work, clients want to engage with people who empathise with them. 

Meet Sonya Leydecker at the 7th Autumn Conference of the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession on 17 November 2017 in Hamburg.

Emma Ziercke


Julia Brünjes
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