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City law firm brings in emotional intelligence training to ward off threat from robots

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EQ to trump IQ in age of AI

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The freelance arm of international law firm Pinsent Masons has introduced emotional intelligence training in a bid to mitigate the threat posed by the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal profession.

Working with business psychologists, the firm has begun putting its freelance solicitors — which it contracts out under the Vario brand — through courses designed to boost their ability to build relationships and be more attuned to emotion.

It is hoped that the training will not only boost lawyers’ immunity to robot competition but make it easier to assign them to work that best suits their personality.

The moves comes as a possible new era of machines edged a step closer this week with the news that a US law firm had hired a “robot lawyer” created by IBM called ‘ROSS’.

ROSS is working in Baker & Hostetler’s bankruptcy practice, and is apparently able to “understand language, provide answers to questions, formulate hypotheses and monitor developments in the legal system.”

But presumably he’s not great with people. And it is this famed Achilles heel of the AI community which Vario boss Matthew Kay thinks he can exploit. He explains:

We’re in an almost futuristic age where human lawyers will soon have to start seriously considering how to differentiate themselves from these new robot competitors. Lawyers need to focus on polishing up their human skills, particularly their emotional intelligence.

Kay reckons the freelance lawyering world — which has grown hugely as a junior solicitor career path over the last few years as brands like Vario and Berwin Leighton Paisner spin-off Lawyers On Demand have hit the market — is a perfect battle ground for a humans versus robots fight.

On one hand you have the robots, and all the other cost-saving attractions associated with new technology; on the other stand the human freelance lawyers, who stand or fall on their ability to get on with people and adapt to new jobs. In this finely matched contest, EQ training could be the deciding factor, explains Kay:

Forming close and meaningful relationships with clients has always been hugely important in the legal sector, but with the rise of AI and robots carrying out tasks in law firms, it will become more vital than ever for firms to ensure all their lawyers sharpen their own emotional intelligence.

The EQ training itself — which is being rolled out this month — will focus on two broad areas, “people and relationships” and “drivers and emotions”. Kay explains that “an ideal contract lawyer is flexible, good under pressure and has fantastic people skills”, and reports that he has found that by asking a series of specific questions “we can accurately predict how an individual will fare in different situations and therefore match the lawyers to their perfect assignment”.