18 January 2021

"More cost-effective processes will lead to cheaper and more accessible legal services for all"

The Impact Lawyers Magazine had the pleasure to conduct an email interview with Joe Mallet, Future Trainee Solicitor at Vinson & Elkins.

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

My decision to become a lawyer was informed by a range of experiences. As a school leaver, the practical experience of working in a call centre for a local personal injury firm sparked my interest in a client-facing career, as well as in the legal system more generally. I then enjoyed exploring different avenues of law at university. I became particularly interested in my corporate modules and the various challenges the dynamic commercial climate presents to businesses. Learning about the various mechanisms law firms employ to navigate such issues at open days and vacation schemes really opened my eyes to the excitement and sense of challenge a corporate legal career would bring. I’ve always wanted a career where I felt I could push myself, and being a corporate lawyer seemed to tick all the boxes.

What area of law do you like best and why?

I’m particularly interested in the law surrounding projects in the energy sector. Seeing through the transactional implementation of significant infrastructure, often in emerging markets, I think, will provide for a fulfilling experience as a lawyer. I am particularly interested in emerging markets, and the conflict between needing to ensure sustainability whilst remaining competitive within the international market. To this extent, the energy sector poses unparalleled challenges which will keep you on your toes as a lawyer. I look forward to dexterously adapting to prevailing market conditions in the context of a client’s needs and responding to political pressures to address environmental concerns.

Do law schools prepare the lawyers of the future well?

Whilst I’m in the limbo phase of being a ‘future trainee’ and am probably not best placed to answer this one, I know that law schools are increasingly offering a range of innovative modules designed to better equip aspiring lawyers for the future. Law schools face the difficult task of accommodating a wide range of student interests. As such, I think they sometimes struggle to be the corporate lawyer factories many students expect. But in terms of sparking an interest in different legal careers, I think my university did a good job! That being said, I found my corporate law simulation module particularly useful inasmuch as familiarising myself with the practical tasks lawyers do, as well as getting to grips with the impact of artificial intelligence on the legal profession.

In what aspects do you think the legal profession needs to be renewed?

I think there are still a lot of inefficiencies in the legal system, contributing to expensive legal services and the inaccessibility of effective legal representation for many. Whilst we’ve come a long way from the antecedent ‘bleak house’ legal landscape, there’s certainly still room for improvement. One such answer is in the form of legal technologies and artificial intelligence. Technologies including automated due diligence, document review, document generation and predictive analytics promise more accurate and cost-effective means of executing everyday tasks in law firms. More cost-effective processes will lead to cheaper and more accessible legal services for all. I’d expect the future to show firms more open to incorporating such technologies outcompeting those which do not.

Do you think that the legal sector has been able to adapt to the changes in the way of working required by the pandemic?

Yes, at least from the lawyers I’ve spoken with on vacation schemes, working from home has been received well. Many multijurisdictional lawyers at city firms are no strangers to video conferencing international clients. With the exception of the added pressure of ensuring your cat doesn’t jump on your desk mid-call, I think the practicalities of the job remain largely similar and altogether do-able for many. It’s great to see that working from home has even been incorporated into a lot of firms’ longer-term strategies as a means of providing a more flexible working environment.

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