Are you getting left behind with the lingo?

The NEW terms you need to know to lawyer in 2021 and beyond.

Published 04/05/2021

Published 04/05/2021

As the legal industry rapidly evolves to meet contemporary demands, so too does the terminology we use in our day-to-day work. 

Chances are you’re hearing a lot of new terms thrown about around the internet (or Zoom calls) in recent months. So, if you’ve been nodding along with a smile, feeling too awkward to ask for definitions and explanations – you need to get up to speed quickly.

Here is a list of the most important terms every legal services professional must understand to stay relevant and become future-ready. 

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AI is a computing system that can take on tasks that have historically needed human intelligence to perform. It uses algorithms to process large amounts of data and provide insights, such as predictions.

Incorporating AI makes sound financial sense for legal services. It can perform tasks, such as contract review and extraction, at a rapid speed and often more accurately than a human.

AI will become an increasingly large part of your workflow. But more than that, AI will become more and more important beyond your own work – because your clients will be utilising it too. And these clients will need legal advice and guidance on the complex ethics surrounding it.


Automation in the legal sector refers to software that allows users to streamline, manage and measure tasks. 

The variety of tasks that can be automated and the tools available to do it are virtually endless. You need only jump to the sections in this article on AI, blockchain and lawyer bots to see the breadth of automation opportunities available. 


Blockchain is a real-time ledger of anything that can be recorded, such as financial transactions. 

Documents on blockchain can be edited by multiple people at the same time – meaning all users can access and add to the ledger with records staying in sync. 

Everyone accessing the file has a unique key that grants them access. This means every entry is encrypted and time-stamped to the user. What’s more, users can only edit the content they have added.

Knowing that documents can’t be tampered with will open countless doors to you and your clients. 

Business of Law

With the legal industry facing large-scale changes thanks to disruption and changed client demands, more and more firms are realising that they must become more commercially savvy to thrive.

Often requiring the skills of non-lawyers, the business of law refers to any in-house activities that help a firm grow or increase its bottom line. It includes:

  • Legal technology
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • HR

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Cloud computing

Cloud computing is the process of storing and accessing data online, rather than on a server or hard drive. 

You likely already use cloud computing, since it’s been a large part of our digital lives for some time – from cloud storage service providers like Dropbox and Amazon Web Services.

The many benefits of incorporating the cloud into your service offering include:

  • A more robust backup of your data with the capability to survive natural disasters and power failures
  • More flexible working arrangements for staff
  • Improved data security (compared to your firm’s server)

Design thinking

Design Thinking is a problem-solving methodology that can be applied to any stakeholder-focused problem.

Popular across industries such as science, engineering and art, Design Thinking is becoming increasingly popular with lawyers. 

The Stanford Design Thinking methodology is based on a five-step iterative methodology:

  1. Empathise
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

The process puts your stakeholder at the centre of the problem-solving process. You focus on figuring out what the problem actually is, not what you’ve been told or might think it is.

Based on iterative designing and testing, it might take several iterations – improving upon your first idea – before you come up with your final solution.

Digital disruption

Disruption occurs when new technologies converge with changing customer behaviours. 

In the legal industry, clients today want more cost certainty and faster service. This means you now need to rethink how you operate, price and deliver your legal services – through innovative approaches and embedding new technologies within your firm. 


Legal service providers today must constantly look at new technologies and ways of working if they want any hope of measuring up to customers’ changing demands. 

This reality has created the need for a new type of role in the workplace: enter the intrapreneur.

Critical to the sustainability of your firm or organisation, these innovative-thinking professionals exist to champion change internally and embed an agile approach. They typically look at improving processes and introducing new technologies.

Lawyer bots

A lawyer bot is software that carries out automated tasks, which are usually performed by lawyers. Bots speed up legal work and provide a better client experience.

When people think of bots they often think of chat bots – but this is just one type of bot. Any time you fill out a form online, such as buying clothes or ordering a meal, you’re using a bot. You can also speak to some bots to initiate tasks, like when you ask a question to Siri or Google Home. 

Importantly, like many forms of automation, bots allow lawyers to spend less time on administrative tasks. In turn, this creates more time for higher-value and billable work. 


In legal services, a rainmaker is a person who brings in lots of clients or money for their firm. It’s thought the term originates from the Native American practice of dancing to create rain during times of drought. 

To the outsider, a rainmaker in business – much like the rain-bringing shaman figure – is seen as winning new clients as though by magic. 

They use their networks to tap into non-traditional or hidden markets, and their unique skills to improve the financial position of their organisation.

Risk taking

Lawyers don’t find it easy to take risks. 

That’s because their legal training has taught them to consider the worst things that could go wrong in a particular scenario – and prevent it from happening.

And if they fail to minimise risk? They know it could result in any number of negative outcomes, including potential financial ruin for their clients.

But with the industry on the cusp of enormous change, lawyers of the future can’t keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. They have to experiment. Which means they have to take risks.

Smart contracts

Also known as self-executing contracts, blockchain contracts or digital contracts, are a computer program that directly controls the transfer of digital currencies or assets between parties under certain conditions.

These contracts are stored on blockchain technology, a decentralised ledger that also underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

For example, you could have a contract agreement with a programmable code that says, ‘when the foreign exchange rate hits $0.71 transfer $1 million to this bank account immediately’. The action is triggered without any human involvement.

Want to get a step ahead of the industry changes?

The Legal Business Management subjects from The College of Law aims to educate legal industry professionals on the business of law and equip them with core skills such as technological adaptation, leadership and workplace design. 

You will walk away with a clear strategy to:

  • Attract and retain today’s discerning clients
  • Select and embed new technologies into your firm 
  • Embrace change and secure your firm’s future

Delivered 100% online by an elite team of legal service professionals, the Master of Legal Business combines virtual workshops with real-world learning experiences and activities.

With the option to walk away with a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma or your full Masters, you can choose the path that’s right for you. 


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