How Legal Technology Can Make the Legal Profession Better For Female Lawyers
Legal technology provides many benefits to clients - but it also presents a huge opportunity for women working in the profession.
Legal technology has been growing at a rapid-fire pace in recent years. The Australian legal tech market is bringing much needed change to an industry that has been slow to embrace modernisation. However, much of its momentum centres on how it makes legal services better for clients. No doubt, this is hugely important, and clients themselves are what fundamentally drives this growth. But what about for lawyers? And what about the cultural elements of the legal profession? In homage to international women’s day, this article will discuss how legal technology has helped female lawyers soar and explain how it will continue to.
A changing profession
More women are graduating with law degrees than ever before. In fact, women now make up the majority of law graduates in Australia. It’s sobering to think that it wasn’t that long ago (prior to 1966 to be exact), where women only comprised 11% of the legal cohort. but despite these encouraging statistics, we still hear about endemic issues within the legal profession. These include harassment (70% of female lawyers), pay disparities, and a lack of representation in executive positions.
The perception that the legal profession is a ‘boys club’ may be changing in the minds of modern lawyers, but statistics speak for themselves. One notable statistic is that less than a quarter of barristers in NSW are women. This indicates that old attitudes live on in more ingrained ways in the legal profession.
Technology makes law more transparent
Technology doesn’t know barriers, nor does it know the biases that exist in the legal profession. The legal profession has traditionally espoused a ‘male’ dominated culture, but this paradigm is starting to shift. Clients expect to know what service they’re getting, and what they’re paying upfront. Fixed-fee arrangements mean that clients can know what they’re getting, but this can go a step further. Platforms exist where clients can review their lawyers. This means that lawyers will be hired on merit, not on the guise of ‘prestige’, and we all know that a meritocracy in the legal profession would not only be a huge benefit to female lawyers, but all lawyers.
Technology can overcome hierarchical barriers
The traditional law firm hierarchy is familiar to many. There’s the partners, associates, graduates, and clerks. The pecking order we see here can seem impossible for women to climb – especially when one considers that they make up less than a quarter of law firm partners. Although these kinds of structures are becoming less common, the ladder to partner status is a long one, which women don’t always get to the top of. This can be for many reasons, such as demanding hours and a lack of flexibility if women have children (amongst other things). If female lawyers can utilise technology to work from home, they’ll be able to continue climbing that career ladder.
Technology means choice
Technology means that lawyers don’t have to be in an office all day. Lawyers can now keep most of their files and documents online. This means that so long as they have an internet connection and a computer – any legal work can be done. Increasing flexibility in the legal profession means two things: women can enter the legal profession without being dissuaded by its rigidity, and they don’t have to bow out of the legal profession if they become mothers.
If ‘leaning in’ is a way for women to increase their mark on the global stage, then technology is surely a tool that can help us get there.
Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.