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How will AI impact on jobs in the Legal sector?

by Heat Recruitment

A report by PwC earlier this year suggested that 30% of jobs in the UK could be under threat from artificial intelligence (AI) within the next 15 years, and in some sectors half of all jobs could go.

While workers in retail and wholesale are at the highest risk, robots could soon be driving trucks and buses, and even working in law firms. In fact, it’s already happening.

Lawtech start-up Ravn has developed a system to analyse Land Registry title deeds and extract data to provide legal notices for property owners in land disputes. The technology has been adopted by Berwin Leighton Paisner, so AI now does the type of task previously handled by junior staff such as paralegals.

Bad news for those staff, you may think. An intensive search, which could take someone weeks to complete, can be done by the Ravn system in minutes. So, who needs humans?

Well, law firms do.

While AI is great at searching, finding, and analysing, it’s so far pretty poor at empathy, creativity and the kind of argumentative reasoning that a lawyer needs.

In other words, law firms can use AI for the mundane, time-consuming tasks that nobody wants to do, leaving the more fulfilling, high-level jobs for real people.

Lawyer-turned-tech guru Avaneesh Marwaha recently highlighted seven benefits of AI for law firms:

It saves time: Time is money, and these savings can pay for the investment in technology and, ultimately, be passed on to the client.

It enables earlier and more accurate risk assessment: By identifying potential risks earlier, solicitors can provide more timely advice to clients.

It produces higher quality work: AI doesn’t get tired, bored or distracted, so documents can be totally error-free.

It improves organisational and logical structure: By automatic comparison across documents, AI can flag up gaps in contracts or even in legal analyses, which might be missed by a human.

It enhances creativity: With AI taking care of the mundane tasks, solicitors can focus their energy on the higher-level creative work that computers can’t do.

It reduces solicitors’ stress and frustration: With AI doing the ‘heavy lifting’ of research, document checking and proofreading, solicitors are relieved of the dull tasks thus improving their chances of job satisfaction.

It improves client relations: Freed from the mundane tasks, solicitors can focus on the needs of the client and spend more time keeping them informed.

So, AI is good news for law firms, their staff, and their clients. Inevitably though, there are fears about where it will lead.

Technology is developing at such a pace, few would be brave enough to predict what AI will be capable of in the coming years. But for now, nobody is suggesting solicitors will be losing their jobs to technology.

A New York Times article confirms that even those developing the software used in legal practices are not predicting any rapid change. And it quotes Frank Levy, a labour economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as saying: “There is this popular view that if you can automate one piece of the work, the rest of the job is toast. That’s just not true, or only rarely the case.”

So, in conclusion, law firms would be wise to embrace AI: it can do the boring jobs and free up solicitors’ time for more important work, because robots advising clients or appearing in court remains the stuff of science fiction.

Visit our Ultimate Guide to Legal Jobs here.

by Dan Hazzard