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New mindsets and skills for lawyers for the age of AI

Old ways of thinking will not cut it for law firm leaders at a time when artificial intelligence is changing the legal landscape, while new skills such as curiosity and creativity will separate the best leaders from the pack, writes Daljit Singh.

Several forces, including rapid technology advances and changing client needs, have led to a significant and growing investment in artificial intelligence, with a growing recognition within the legal profession that AI is going to have a major impact on the future of work.

As most legal organisations are at the very early stages of their digital transformation journeys, we will look at how AI will shape future work, and the mindsets and skills lawyers will need to succeed in the future.

How AI will shape future work

Research by Deloitte indicates how successful digitally transforming organisations are implementing AI along a spectrum as indicated by the figure below.


Source: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2020 – Superteams


The figure shows how organisations can both transform the nature of outputs and free up the capacity of their talent to create more value and meaning for their clients and their people. Deloitte noted the three stages below, to which I have added some legal examples.

1. Automation (Substitution): AI substituting people to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Examples: document automation, automated advice, e-discovery etc.

2. Superjobs (Augmentation): AI augmenting people to create a higher level of human capability, to add more value and expand opportunity, while also reducing costs and improving efficiency. Examples: legal research, predictive analytics for litigation, contract review etc.

3. Superteams (Collaboration): AI collaborating with people to create work and outputs that are more meaningful for clients and people, while driving more gains in value, costs and efficiency. Examples: Review of large data sets to generate hypotheses for testing in order to derive actionable insights for legal organisations and their clients etc.

Substitution, augmentation and collaboration are not mutually exclusive as organisations can utilise all of them concurrently.

For legal organisations, superteams will enable the combination of talent and AI to leverage their complementary capabilities to solve complex legal problems, generate more insights, and create greater value for clients. This has a huge upside for those organisations in meeting not only the needs of their clients, but also the needs of their talent, who are looking for a greater sense of fulfillment and meaning from their work.

New mindsets

Mindsets represent beliefs that influence behaviour and hence directly impact performance. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset outlined how a growth mindset (versus a fixed mindset) leads to more effective learning (and growth) resulting in higher levels of performance.

Edward Hess and Katherine Ludwig build on Dweck’s work in their book Humility Is the New Smart, in which they discuss the old smart and the new smart mindsets.

The old smart mindset emphasises demonstrating knowledge, focuses more on telling, defends its views and seeks confirmation of its beliefs. It feels insecure if its beliefs are challenged, and views all mistakes as bad. It promotes a closed mind.

The new smart mindset emphasises being good at not knowing (thus promoting learning), focuses on inquiry and seeks to improve its views. It feels insecure if its beliefs are not challenged, and sees mistakes as learning opportunities. It promotes an open mind.

Cultivating the new smart mindset is going to be critical in the age of AI, especially for lawyers, given their educational and acculturation processes, which tend to encourage more of an old smart mindset.

A great example of the growth and new smart mindsets at work is reflected in Satya Nadella’s emphasis on shifting mindsets in Microsoft, from a culture of ‘know-it-alls’ to ‘learn-it-alls’. Nadella saw this shift as one of the keys for the successful transformation of Microsoft. These new mindsets serve as a foundation for developing a range of new skills for future success.

New skills

The list below of six critical skills for future success follows a comprehensive review of many sources, including the World Economic Forum, global consulting firms and legal associations around the world, that have looked at the impact of digitalisation on skills for the future.

Legal skills (for example, legal problem analysis, researching, problem solving and decision making etc.), digital literacy skills, and other skills like project management and commercial acumen are treated as a given set of future skills for this exercise.

These new skills are:

  • Curiosity – opening the door to learning and creativity
  • Creativity – promoting greater innovation and value creation
  • Empathy – facilitating a deeper understanding of others
  • Collaboration – ‘teaming’ to add more value in an increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world
  • Adaptability – navigating smoothly through a world of constant change
  • Learning agility – generating more rapid quality learning from experience.

Some of these skills are reflected in some current lawyer competency models and in that sense may not be considered as ‘new’. However, it’s unclear, even in those cases, the extent to which these skills are being actively fostered in practice. My observation is that many lawyers would struggle to demonstrate significant strength across many of these skill areas, especially curiosity, creativity, empathy and collaboration.

While these skills are no doubt also important for success now, we can expect them to become even more critical in the future as uniquely human skills that will be needed to complement increasingly advanced versions of AI. All of these skills, acting in concert, together with the given skills (legal skills, digital literacy skills etc.) are going to be critical for future success.

What’s next?

This brief discussion on new mindsets and skills naturally leads to the question as to how to best foster and develop these in our existing and future talent. This will be addressed in a future article.

Daljit Singh is the Principal of Transforming Talent and a Teaching Fellow at the College of Law, where he teaches two subjects in the Master of Legal Business – Workforce of the Future and Leadership. Daljit specialises in talent management and leadership development and has also worked in senior talent management and leadership development roles at Baker McKenzie and KPMG. Contact him at



Deloitte Insights (2020), Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends – Superteams. Deloitte Development LLC.

Dweck, Carol (2006), Mindset – The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.

Hess, Edward and Ludwig, Katherine (2017), Humility is the New Smart – Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.