Juliet Lawson
Juliet Lawson
Senior Associate: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

The robots are coming!

When it’s a bit of a slow news day, the papers often trot out all the latest statistics about Artificial Intelligence and how robots will be taking over most of our jobs soon in the continual drive towards automation. Anyone who’s ever tried to speak to an actual human at HMRC knows we’re light years away from this kind of technology working well enough for consumers not to want to throw themselves out of the nearest window in frustration, but nevertheless, whether we like it or not, AI isn’t going away anytime soon!

According to a report by Deloitte, snappily titled ‘Developing legal talent, Stepping into the future law firm’, over 100,000 jobs in the UK legal sector have a high chance of being automated in the next twenty years, with profound reforms across the legal sector in the next 10 years alone.

The view is that because of the exponential pace of technological advances, coupled with shifts in workforce demographics and the need to offer clients more value for money, it is likely that by around 2020, law firms will face a ‘tipping point’ and a genuine need for a new talent strategy. If they don’t plan for this now, they run the real risk of being left behind at the back of the field.

Up till now, automation in the legal sector has only really had an impact on roles such as that of the legal secretary, where there has been a significant reduction in roles, but now that robotic process automation has been maturing over the last decade or so, there is a lot more that the legal sector can do to automate other routine processes using robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence. Already some firms are making use of this technology with virtual assistants and e-discovery tolls, but there is potential for high-skilled roles that involve repetitive process to be automated by smart and self-learning algorithms.

What does this mean for the lawyer or paralegal of the future?

We already offer far more places on law degrees and LPC courses in this country than we can hope to provide legal roles for, and with increasing automation, we can expect both a squeeze on paralegal roles, and for those roles to look very different.

The same goes for future trainee solicitors. Already firms are identifying a mismatch between the skills that the lawyers of tomorrow are developing through their legal education and those that are needed in the legal workplace of today, so undergraduates who want to stand out from the crowd would be well-advised to broaden their skillset into technological skills and an understanding of algorithms and artificial intelligence.

As Professor Richard Susskind, author of ‘The Future of the Professions and Tomorrow’s Lawyers’ points out – ‘What you’re going to see for a lot of jobs is a churn of different tasks, so a lawyer today doesn’t develop systems that offer advice, but the lawyer of 2025 will. They’ll still be called lawyers but they’ll be doing different things.’

The times they are a-changin’….

For more information contact Juliet Lawson at BCL Legal.

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