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Robots could do admin work Cambridge double-first associates don’t want to do, Law Society report states

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Will ‘automation’ be the buzzword of 2017?

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Law firms should be thinking seriously about automation, a Law Society report has said.

Released this morning, the mega report (it’s 116 pages long) says lawyers should be asking themselves what transactions they perform regularly and consider automating these. This process, it states, “cuts costs and frees up staff to perform technical and advisory roles, adding value to the client.”

More deference to this Robotic Process Automation (RPA) seems to have a backing in the industry. The report by Dr Tara Chittenden, ‘Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services’, quotes a director of legal services innovation at a top 50 firm as saying:

I see robots as a massive everyday opportunity for the firm to do what our lawyers already value, which is to think and to have space to think. We don’t need third-year associates to be doing verification, it shouldn’t be happening, and a lot of them are Cambridge double-firsts, they don’t want to be doing that.

But, reading further into RPA, it’s likely not suitable for work undertaken by most lawyers, let alone third year associates with Cambridge double-firsts.

Management Consultant Andrew Burgess produced a whistlestop tour of the process for the report. Note this example of work that could be automated:

[I]f a law firm is managing a property portfolio on behalf of a client, they would be expected to carry out Land Registry checks at some point. This is commonly a paralegal role.

So are we about to see a new swathe of robot paralegals, or associate admin work swallowed up by RPA? The report does refer to a previous study which forecasts that approximately one-third of current jobs will be automated by 2025 — a worrying stat.

But, as is often the case with industry trends, there seems to be a whole load of hype and very little action. We’re happy to put our stake in the ground and state that the end of the profession is hardly nigh.

The report agrees; there is no substitute for “flesh-and-blood staff”. Concluding that lawyers add value to the client through their “listening skills and empathy”, the interviewees that took part in the study believe law experts should be complemented with technological systems, rather than be replaced by them.

Read the full report here:

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14 Comments

Not Amused

This sort of rubbish is not going to make anyone think the SRA is relevant or competent.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

repetitive yes. boring yes, but a crucial part of the learning and development process, learning from the bottom up.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

With the increase in automation and the reduction in the need for humans, not just in law but throughout the world, when are we going to realise and put a plan into action to tackle the rising global population?

It isn’t a popular topic but it is one that I believe needs serious consideration to avoid future chaos.

(2)(4)

Anonymous

Just a myth, at current forecasts, the world’s population will actually peak soon and slowly start to decline. People are having less children now, meaning less people to have less children, and that pattern will continue.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

“a lot of them are Cambridge double-firsts, they don’t want to be doing that.”

I wish someone took on Cambridge’s blatant false advertising – getting a First in two different years of Tripos doesn’t make it a “Double First” (which implies it is better than a “normal” First). At every university in the land, that is just a First.

(20)(4)

Anonymous

Getting a first in your final year isnt better than getting a first in 2/3 or all 3 of your years and the ‘double first’ goes someway to demonstrating this difference.

(2)(9)

Anonymous

Plenty of universities other than Cambridge measure results across more than one year, so your point is misguided. They just don’t go around calling a First a “double First”.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

Yes, fuckwit, which is his/her point…everyone else just calls it a first, Cambridge should quit posturing and do the same.

(2)(6)

Anonymous

That’s just means that other universities should also adopt the double first grade.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I don’t think it makes for unfair comparisons in applications etc. Apart from Oxford a Cambridge first or double first is always going to look better than another university anyway.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Equals fewer jobs.

Equals more profits for the equity partners.

What’s not to like?

(3)(0)

mcsnr2

I’m at an MC firm, and I haven’t seen many ‘Cambridge double-firsts’ here, can’t imagine there are many at a ‘top 50 firm’ either… maybe at the commercial bar

(8)(1)

Anonymous

This report is several years out of date.

Many firms are already using automation. The volume factories have process buttons that generate letters and documents with a click of a button that prepopulates the next ‘stage’ of a claim and automatically records a lot of billable time for something that takes seconds.

On the higher end, disclosure is already being handled through technology with software programmes identifying and collating documents in e-disclosure with some of the more ‘manual’ disclosure being scanned in on OCR or similar format to allow programmes to scan these as well. This reduces the time on narrowing down disclosure before an associate (or their small paralegal pool) then casts their eyes to check further.

The report is years behind. Only stupid firms think this is something new.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

I got a triple first from Cambridge, what about me?

(0)(0)

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