To what extent will AI replace junior roles in the legal market?

by Heat Recruitment

Artificial intelligence (AI)… will it help or hinder to the legal sector? 

You will be hard pushed to find an industry that innovation of this kind isn’t disrupting. So, when it comes to the legal job sector, just how detrimental could AI be to junior legal roles?

Roles are adapting:

The use of AI has rapidly increased in the legal sector and it has been stated that some 20% of current legal roles are likely to be lost to the progress of automation and artificial intelligence over the next 20 years. But how? 

So far, AI is being used productively to shorten processes, for example reviewing documents. However, the implementation of programming arguably reduces the need for a Document Reviewer – a junior role in the legal sector. Companies such as Lexis Nexis are capitalising on this and offering many variations of programmes like this alongside other competitors in the market. You don’t have to look far to find a quick-fire programme for your administrative needs.

It’s not just document reviewing either, it’s news and media analysis, webinars and time-management programmes. Small firms are even beginning to add chatbots to their service, radically changing their customer service and information sharing tactics.

The vast majority of unskilled jobs in the industry it would seem can and in some instances have been replaced by a technological counterpart.

Jobs at risk:

So, which job roles are at risk here? 

Becoming a paralegal is typically seen as a sure-fire way to get your foot in the door at a firm. As one of the most competitive jobs to secure, a paralegal essentially performs a variety of tasks, some of which include drafting documents and conducting research for partners and lawyers. These positions, when looking at the advancement of AI could be at risk but will most definitely not disappear. As the primary route into the legal industry, a restructuring of the role is much more likely. 

What can be done to protect junior legal roles?

Despite the threatening statistic of one in five jobs being lost to AI, what the media fails to mention is the growth of jobs from AI innovation in other areas. For example, a growth in other sectors that require human approach and analysis rather than a reliance on algorithms. Family law could be an example.

Despite this reassurance there is still an incumbent risk to junior roles, so, what can be done and where does the responsibility in reform lie? 

The answer we believe lies in education, skilling the workforce and educational institutions modernising their processes. The traditional curriculum will get us so far then it will be down to Universities and firms to provide work experience opportunities. It will be up to students to take additional courses and focus on additional soft skill building. 

Whilst machine learning is giving Senior members of the legal sector back valuable time that can be used for case planning and meeting clients, juniors seeking to enter the legal profession may want to think about obtaining a variety of skills before applying to their law firm of choice, as a greater emphasis is being placed on technical skills than ever before. After all, machines can only go so far when analysing case data. A human mind, consideration and analysis is never going to expire completely.

We may also see an increased reliance on specialist recruitment agencies to ensure candidates are being put forward to the right opportunities for their qualifications. What was already a competitive sector will remain a competitive sector. Any help from external sources in finding your perfect junior legal role will always be necessary.

The future of law

As it stands, to become a Solicitor you must participate in law firm or in-house employment before you can practice yourself. What we may see is the role of juniors and paralegals moving away from the administrative tasks and taking on a more hands on approach to case law and experiencing a little bit more time in the court room.

So, should you be concerned about stepping into a legal career? Absolutely not. The nature of all roles will develop and change due to AI. With logistical tasks taken away you will be open and ready to take on more of your Senior Lawyer’s case in order to help them out. This exposure to more aspects of the ‘real job’ hypothetically should create more experienced and hands-on law professionals.

Say goodbye to the menial tasks of yesterday.

Are you interested in starting a legal career? Get in touch with Heat Recruitment to discuss your options today.

by Dan Hazzard