New York City-based Raad Ahmed, 30, is on his second startup. He earned his Juris Doctor in 2013 at the University of Buffalo Law School, but decided not to become a lawyer. Now, he is focusing on his latest startup LawTrades.com, where he is founder and CEO.
Legal Executive Institute asked Ahmed five questions:
- Why you decided to not become a lawyer?
Raad Ahmed: I decided not the become a lawyer in the traditional sense because I felt the law firm economic model and business objectives ran contrary to some of those principles.
- How does LawTrades help both law firms and lawyers by using technology?
Raad Ahmed: LawTrades is a marketplace that enables companies and legal departments to access thousands of legal professionals. It quickly deploys them in their organizations to tackle important legal initiatives.
When I started LawTrades, I aimed to empower people with low-cost, high-quality online legal services by reengineering the traditional law firm model. Today, we leverage our technology to economically empower independent lawyers around the U.S. to monetize their skills, passions, and free time to become legal entrepreneurs.
We’re seeing much engagement from general counsels working at big tech companies. As their company grows from a new injection of capital, these GCs feel understaffed or overworked because their legal department is simply not scaling up at a similar pace. The common issue for them is how can they adapt to complex, ever-changing legal issues, with balancing the day-to-day duties of a GC, so they turn to LawTrades to help fill in the gaps.
We also partner with independent lawyers and boutique law firms, usually those with big law firm or big tech experience. Many are attorneys who are burned out from working big law hours and are seeking more work-life balance.
- As artificial intelligence grows in the legal community, what changes do you see in the next five or 10 years?
Raad Ahmed: A few years ago, artificial intelligence (AI) was considered science fiction. Today, we are heading toward a full-scale global race towards AI, which can be really good or really, really bad for the legal industry.
In the short term, AI and machine learning will serve as a cheap but powerful prediction-machine at the heart of every lawyer’s practice. Every day attorneys are riddled with making decisions under uncertainty. AI prediction tools will increase the productivity of every law firm that plugs into it — billing operations, handling contracts, communicating with clients. Decision fatigue is a real thing and it constrains strategy. Prediction built on AI will make it cheaper to engage in existing practices and open up new possibilities to compete in the market. In the next five years, this extraordinary potential will become very clear.
In the long term, we will begin to see the symbiosis between the lawyer’s mind and machine. Lawyers are not very good at knowing themselves, and algorithms will eventually be more accurate. Lawyers will rely on algorithms to give them insight about themselves via biometric sensors that will constantly monitor their heartbeat, pulse, eye movement, brain activity, etc. … and provide recommendations. This can also work the other way around when lawyers use this tool to take advantage of their adversary in the courtroom by knowing exactly what they are feeling as they’re cross-examined.
- How will technology and AI change the way lawyers work?
Raad Ahmed: The legal profession is going through a period of rebirth, thanks to the information revolution that is undoing the industrial revolution. If it continues on this trajectory, the majority of lawyers will serve multiple states and countries from the comfort of their own home.
In the future, lawyers will wake up, look at their future device, and get notified of various projects that are tailored to them — based on their skill-set and social connections. They’ll pick one or a few matters, based on how much they will get paid and their impact on their future reputation. After completing the work, they will get ranked and rated on performance.
- What should lawyers do today in order to stay relevant in the future?
Raad Ahmed: Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will dramatically impact the job market for the next generation of lawyers. For the first time, we don’t know what jobs will look like in 30 years due to the rate of technological innovation.
As software gets smarter, lawyers should focus less time on routine legal tasks like interviewing clients. Certain cases will take more time to adapt, but I do believe there will be an inevitable shift to allowing software to handle most — if not all — of the administation tasks like interviewing or vetting prospective clients, drafting documents, legal research, etc.
Lawyers should instead capitalize on that extra time to learn other skills, such as marketing, business development, client experience, and handling more sophisticated legal issues. They should start embracing new efficiencies and assume that better software will replace work that associates would traditionally do.