What can accounting and bookkeeping professionals learn from progressive law firms? Or, put the premise of the question in another way: how can accounting and bookkeeping professionals future-proof their practice or indeed, their livelihood?

A report released by the Law Society of NSW The Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession may sound esoteric and remote from the daily lives of accounting and bookkeeping professionals but it is loaded with importance as both professions face unprecedented challenges from the Uber effect- the democratisation of their industry sectors. In short, both professions are losing business to technology-enabled consumers who can cherry-pick services and cut back on legal, accounting and bookkeeping costs.

New skills; new learning

Staying with the legal profession for a moment: professional development courses are shortly to be introduced under the title Disruptive Technologies and the Law. Students will be required to address the way technology is changing the profession. One of the significant ways that technology is changing the profession is that lawyers are able to work as freelancers and therefore undercut the cost-heavy city law firms.

The significance to accountants and bookkeepers of all of this is twofold: one is that the legal services sector is ‘investing’ in providing courses that allows its professionals to future-proof themselves against the ravages of technology. The other, as noted earlier, is the democratisation of services. Many accounting and bookkeeping professionals are sitting on the sidelines while internationally-owned accounting software service providers are white-anting the SMB sector.

Where are the educators?

Industry bodies may not view themselves as education providers yet, cutting-edge learning, delivered over the internet in bite-sized modules by people who are competent to meet the technology-driven challenges, is increasingly being delivered by industry vendors. This carries potential conflicts of interest.

Educators in professions such as accounting, bookkeeping and law have a critical role in helping the profession to upskill. Soft skills in communications, leadership development as well as technical skills around adoption of leading edge, tech-based solutions are core to future-proofing a professional’s income. Entrepreneurial providers will fill these gaps.