This question has haunted me for years, ever since I was a kid. Maybe that is why I kept trying different things, learning new skills. I believe in the Darwin theory – ‘survival of the fittest’. If you don’t adapt to the changes around you in time, you will not survive.
So, this brings me to back to the question: how do you ensure that you survive when things change?
I have seen too many professionals around me going through what one may call a career extinction. They have been masters of their domain for years and maybe decades. But, they suffered a blow when massive changes took place. They lost their footing when hit by drastic changes.
My family business was one of them. We had stayed in the book business for three generations. My great grandfather started by selling school books off of his back, then selling them on pavements till he finally opened his own store. Slowly he had his own printing press and publishing house too. Things were well for three generations at least.
But when the law for free education changed and the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 came into picture, the state government took control of publishing and selling of school books. My dad lobbied along with many other publishers, but with little luck. The livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people were affected.
The point is, most of the businesses could not survive the drastic change of law. They were ill-prepared with no updation of skills or strategies. That is how, a thriving business can become irrelevant, in the blink of an eye.
Another example comes to mind from my legal profession. There was a legal manager, who had been in the profession for almost two decades. But the manager was hesitant to even draft legal notice by himself! He did not have the confidence to write two-line communications with the parties, for he second-guessed himself all the time.
Then came digitisation of the industry and he was completely lost. It was not that his previous functions became obsolete immediately upon digitisation. It was just that he had not kept himself updated enough to ensure that he does not become irrelevant in the coming years.
The problem with progress is that it has to be constant. In order to stay relevant and current, one must always stay updated with respect to knowledge and skill sets.
We have seen this trend time and again across industries. The automation of industries had a huge impact on the manual labour industry. The hottest professions of our times like social media managers, influencers, instagram models, content writers, did not exist as such a decade ago. So those who got with it in time, made the best bet of their lives. Will these professions last another decade? Maybe, but the work and skills required will drastically change. Everything is already changing so fast.
What is relevant now, may not be so in near future. What is trending now, may be out of trend the next moment. With the constant evolution of technology we now have folding phones, drones which deliver packages, Tesla being launched into space, AI Sophia becoming the first robot-citizen!
Who knows what is next in store?
The idea is to keep updating one’s skill sets according to the need of hour. There is a massive change happening across industries, almost as big as automation or digitisation across industries. It is the advent of artificial intelligence.
It is not coming, it is here and now. We are in the middle of it. The legal industry is being revamped as we speak. Today’s AI technology is best at accomplishing narrowly defined tasks and work that is time-consuming and repetitive. While machines can process, store and recall information much faster than people, human lawyers still need to apply critical thinking to that information.
The legal tasks that are being automated are largely those that used to be performed by new law school graduates and paralegals like that of legal research and document review. The use of AI in areas such as contract review and management is making contract management and even drafting faster and easier. Lawyers would soon be using AI inputs in negotiations. This lets lawyers eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks from their daily routines and focus more on formulating strategies.
Only the highest value functions will survive in the long run. There is no hiding behind boring, mundane low quality desk jobs in the era of AI lawyers.
In order to ensure that one can apply the critical thinking to the problems and disputes at hand, he/she must develop extensive knowledge of the domain. If you have the knowledge of the industry and laws involved, the only thing you need is to develop the skill sets, like contract drafting, negotiation, strategizing, etc.
So how do we stay relevant in these times?
First and foremost, you need to figure out what do you want to be doing in the next 5-10 years of your life. It could be a career in arbitration law or being a cyber law expert. Figure out where you want to be next and shape your career accordingly.
In the beginning of my career, I wanted to be involved in criminal litigation and trial advocacy. But with time and luck, I ended up in the media and entertainment law and was a part of it for about near four years.
There was a phase where I was grappling with my fear of becoming obsolete. I had mastered my day-to-day tasks and functions. But I felt, that I could learn more, do more, in my role. So I began learning on the side. I have always been fascinated by cyber laws and its impact on our day-to-day lives, and I wanted to learn contract drafting. So, when I came across an online course which offered technology contracts, I grabbed the opportunity to learn and hone my skills.
The most important skill sets for lawyers, which are not going to become obsolete any time soon, are contract drafting and negotiation. From corporate lawyers to commercial lawyers, everyone must know how to draft an airtight contract and negotiate it well! These basic skill sets, coupled with established domain knowledge is enough to keep you relevant in the business. Ask any expert of the business.
A lawyer has to stay updated throughout their career. Ask any of the successful lawyers. Even the senior most of them, make time in their busy schedules, to stay updated and learn. They know that the key to success is to evolve with the times.
With time, I realised one of the best way to stay updated and hone one’s skills, is to write more. The idea of writing on any topic stems from having solid knowledge of the subject matter. You can only write about what you know! So the more you write, the more you research and learn. This ensures that you stay in the know.
The next thing to do is, practise.
It is one thing to know the laws and its industry applications, but to do it, is another ball game. Just like the body, even the mind needs to exercise in order to stay fit. Therefore, you must practise problem solving, along with your writing skills, drafting skills, negotiation skills.
We at LawSikho, develop exercises aimed to hone your problem solving skills by the practical application of your theoretical knowledge.
Check out the following exercise which is assigned as part of our Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI Regulations:
Alankit Sales, a proprietorship firm founded by Paresh Shah, is the sole dealer in Western India for Parshva Machines Limited, a Bangalore based company manufacturing specialised machines. Alankit has won the best dealer award for consequently three years. As a proprietorship firm, Alankit is subject to tax audit and has 8 employees, limited overdraft facilities being availed from bank and no other borrowings. Alankit is now considering a change of business form from proprietorship to either an LLP or a private company. Advise Alankit on:
- Should Alankit change its business form at all? What factors will go into this decision?
- If it does decide to change to either an LLP or private company, what are the five pros and cons of each form and which one would be suitable according to you?
- Will any other form be better than LLP or private company? If yes, why? If no, why?
- What are the changes it is likely to undergo in terms of taxation with the change in form, considering that it is already subject to tax audit.
- List five important exemptions which Alankit can get if it decides to proceed with the incorporation of a private company and not a public company
- What are the four issues Alankit can face if it chooses to incorporate a one person company (OPC) instead of normal private company?
Staying relevant is easy, once you know how. Just keep practising, writing, updating yourself, developing your skills for the future! If you need help to stay with it, you can check out our courses which may interest you in the quest of relevancy.
Do hit reply and let me know how you are working towards staying relevant in your respective industry.
Till then, keep learning! Excelsior!