Will ‘automation’ be the buzzword of 2017?
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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