Financial Times, Artificial Intelligence Closes in on the Work of Junior Lawyers:
After more than five years at a leading City law firm, Daniel van Binsbergen quit his job as a solicitor to found Lexoo, a digital start-up for legal services in the fledgling “lawtech” sector.
Mr Van Binsbergen says he is one of many. “The number of lawyers who have been leaving to go to start-ups has skyrocketed compared to 15 years ago,” he estimates. Many are abandoning traditional firms to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities or join in-house teams, as the once-unthinkable idea of routine corporate legal work as an automated task becomes reality.
Law firms, which tend to be owned by partners, have been slow to adopt technology. Their traditional and profitable model involves many low-paid legal staff doing most of the routine work, while a handful of equity partners earn about £1m a year [$1.3m].
But since the 2008 financial crisis, their business model has come under pressure as companies cut spending on legal services, and technology replicated the repetitive tasks that lower-level lawyers at the start of their careers had worked on in the past.
“The 2020s will be the decade of disruption,” says Professor Richard Susskind, co-author of The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts. He believes there is growing demand from executives who control corporate legal budgets to cut costs by taking advantage of the savings offered by technology. ...
So far, firms say, technology has not meant job losses. But Prof Susskind believes a wave of lay-offs is to come — law firms are still experimenting with AI instead of rolling it out across their offices.
About 114,000 legal jobs are likely to be automated in the next 20 years, a 2016 study by Deloitte predicted. Technology has contributed to the loss of about 31,000 sector jobs. The report predicted another 39 per cent of jobs were at “high risk” of being made redundant in the next two decades. ...
For now, legal services providers are happy about tech disruption. Introducing AI into the work of junior lawyers is allowing them to do more interesting work, their bosses say. ...
But Prof Susskind cautions that true technological disruption of legal services could take a generation — until the current crop of equity partners at leading firms retires. “It is very hard to convince a room of millionaires they have their business model wrong,” he says.