An LLB in AI: How AI in law is the changing role of future lawyers

July 21, 2019

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3 min read

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What's going on here?

Technology is changing the culture and foundation of legal services and it may be changing the jobs of future lawyers too.

What does this mean?

Technology and artificial intelligence (AI) are taking the legal sector by storm. Therefore, law students will find it extremely difficult to standout in training contract applications without understanding the impact of AI and machine learning on the future of legal services. Unfortunately, information on this subject is not readily accessible and many law students are graduating without the necessary skills to excel in this fast-changing legal market. Christina Blacklaws, the director of innovation at Cripps LLP, noted that “most universities continue to teach a traditional curriculum, which was fine up until a few years ago, but might not properly prepare young people [now].”

A 2013 study on the future of employment calculated in the next 20 years lawyers will only have a 3.5% chance of losing out to robots, compared to an incredible 94% for paralegals and 40% for judges. A lawyers’ likelihood of replacement is relatively low because lawyers give advice which presents a number of views taking account of complex issues, which is more difficult to programme. Similarly, algorithms are unable to replicate aspects of a lawyers’ work that require emotional intelligence and human judgement. This means that lawyers will always be better at negotiating deals, communicating with their clients and mediating disputes. On the other hand, the job of a paralegal is more administrative which is more susceptible to challenge from AI.

What's the big picture effect?

While it is clear that lawyers won’t face extinction, algorithms will certainly leave a mark on the legal industry. As day-to-day rules become algorithmically regulated, the role of a lawyer will change. Andrew Murray, a technology law professor at LSE, predicts that we will soon see lawyers “setting rather than enforcing the rules, working together with programmers to ensure the algorithms are properly written”.

With that being said, it’s time for law students to get more tech savvy. A number of things can be done to ensure that YOU take full advantage of the change:

  1.  Learn how to code, read up on how algorithms work and understand the effect on the legal industry in the next 20 years. For example, many believe that technology will shape dispute resolution. As of right now, there is a wave of support in favour of digital courts and considering the vast success eBay is having with their online dispute resolution platform, it is evident that this may soon become a reality.
  1.  Maximise your opportunities by seeking internships with large tech companies, while developing an understanding on potential clients in emerging areas (e.g. virtual reality and AI). As stated by Murray, doing so highlights “an awareness of a developing client base”. Additionally, opportunities with media companies are also worth considering. As stated by Ian Walden, a professor of media law at QMUL, the rise of social media and services that span multiple regulatory areas have blurred this “relatively clean subject”.

However, law students should not get sidetracked by the shine and glamour of tech because a good law student is one that knows and can effectively apply the law. With that being said, the best route to a training contract is by maintaining a good academic background and selecting modules of interest. But also, keeping in mind that the novel challenges the legal profession faces in the modern day.

While the possibility of robots replacing trainees seems very far away, it’s always smart to keep your friends close, and your robot enemies closer.

Report written by Maab Saifeldin

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