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Law firms could be ‘months’ from AI ‘tipping point’ that will have ‘profound impact’, says report by former magic circle managing partner

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Woah

A lawtech “tipping point” that will revolutionise law firms — and potentially upend their whole business models — could be less than a year away, an influential new report has claimed.

At present, most legal AI tools are priced too high to make it worthwhile for law firms to adopt them at the expense of paralegals in their nearshoring hubs in cheaper UK locations, states ‘Law firm innovation and use of LegalTech — a reality check’, authored by the Jomati consultancy run by former Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams.

But that is about to change in the contract review space, a major area for corporate law firms, as the cost of the new technology falls. The report states:

“Undoubtedly, when vendors offer AI-assisted contract review tools at a price that makes the technology’s usage a viable commercial proposition for any firm undertaking this type of work, take-up will increase rapidly. This, in turn, will require the legal sector as a whole to reconsider its pricing of such services — or risk losing out to competitor firms who have already made the change. At present, we are probably not yet at that tipping point, even within the top end of the commercial legal market. But it is almost certainly a matter of years, if not months, before that point is reached.”

Expect big changes from this point on, Jomati predicts, with the traditional law firm pyramid model (a handful of partners at the top, lots of trainees and associates at the bottom) potentially set to steepen dramatically into a spike.

The report continues:

“Will the technology, as LegalTech enthusiasts often claim, free fee earners from drudge work, and allow them to focus on more ‘cerebral’, legal advisory matters? Or will it simply mean a significant reduction in work undertaken by law firm personnel, with all the implications for fee earner recruitment, lawyers’ career trajectories – and, indeed, the entire partnership pyramid.”

Elsewhere, the report notes that the profession is preparing for upheaval by increasingly incorporating computer science and technology into legal education. It cites LLMs with legal tech elements run by UCL, Swansea and Suffolk University, alongside various similar courses in the US, and predicts that graduates of such programmes will find themselves in particular demand in the future.

The fast-growing STEM Future Lawyers network, a Legal Cheek sister site, indicates that this demand is already gathering pace. Name checks are also given to the lawtech training contract being offered by Williams’ former firm, which is aimed at STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) graduates who covert to law via the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and results in qualification as a solicitor, and Allen & Overy’s legal tech graduate initiative, which leads to a non-law project management qualification.

Such non-legal skills will assume greater status in the years ahead, the report concludes, as “potentially all aspects of the law firm business and operational model will need to be revised”.

Cross-disciplinary skills will be one of the key themes at this year’s Future of Legal Education and Training Conference 2019, on May 22 at Kings Place London.

26 Comments

Anonymous

Someone’s been drinking the kool aid

Anonymous

And got absolutely hammered on it.

Anonymous

Any news on NQ roles at Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg?

Bob the Builder

‘most legal AI tools are priced too high to make it worthwhile for law firms to adopt them’ – that’s basically not true at all.
You’ll find plenty of law firms using AI doc review tools, even ones that are relatively small.

Dr. Seuss

Someone who runs a business that tries to get law firms to pay it to to tell them how to restructure their operations issues a report saying that all law firms needs to restructure their operations. Mind blowing.

Anonymous

Word.

Anonymous

Consultant recommends change and just so happens to sell the cure to your problems NON SHOCKA

Anonymous

Complete dog shit.

LegalTech disrupter

When will you law guys learn? There is a very simple choice that faces us all: cling to the old or push forward with positivity? I know which side of that paradigm I will always be on which is why I didnt even apply for a training contract and chose instead to move forward to join a LegalTech start-up.

We each make our own choice. I made mine and yourself made yours. Just please do not generate negativity in a realm that you don’t even understand. I took the time to learn a deep knowledge of AI and blockchain and coding. You can do that also. One day in a future that comes at us fast you may even pivot out of law into LegalTech. It might be the only way to survive. The amount of VC money that is flowing into my community would make that a logical move, and I for one would not hold a grudge against any lawyer making that shift. We all fail sometimes. Just don’t be afraid of it.

Anonymous

How magnanimous of you

Anonymous

Utter tosh.

A bit like STEM grads becoming lawyers instead of working in finance.

Anonymous

We are allowed to do law as well ffs

Triggered

+1. Stop putting STEM students in a pigeon hole. Unless you study accounting and finance at undergrad, why is ‘tosh’ not to work in a bank? Physics, chem, bio, engineering etc. have absolutely nothing to do with finance.

Yes I am good at maths, no that doesn’t mean I want to spend 16 hours a day staring at excel (using zero actual maths btw), yes I can also read and write, yes I am interested in the commercial bar. Get over it

Anonymous

Gtfo nerd.

LawTech Start-Up Founder

You guys seem kinda worried #justsaying

Anonymous

Not worried. Just heard this type of guff for many years and seen little change at ground level.

LegalTech innovator

Oh wow check it out dudes, this legal tech start up guru is getting all radical and showing us how to communicate like a millennial by using a hashtag in the comments section of LegalCheek. This #ENTREPRENEUR must have a twitter account or something. The future is now! #Innovate #DealWithIt #Disruption #DinosaursWentExtinctForAReason

Now if you will excuse me I need to go and throw away all my ties and then put down a deposit on a table tennis table for my office.

Anonymous

Fucking end it with these articles about AI already.

Computers are still so dumb that you’re lucky if you can wordsearch an executed PDF.

Some kind of HAL-like AI replacement for lawyers is about as realistic as us all travelling to work by jetpack and hoverboard.

Anonymous

Hey McFly!

Steven Seagull

We are probably 15-20 years off a ‘HAL-like’ AI replacement. So the only people who need to really worry are those aged 10 and considering what career they might want.

Dave Bowman

Could you stop using AI to descibe simple Algorithms. Nobody has yet come up wih an programme that remotely approaches an AI. Robo Lawyer programmes are nothing more than a series of simple logic gates. You could do the same thing with paper and pencil. If the Answer to Question 1 is A then go to Question 2. If B go to Question 3 and so on.

It is no different than the “AI” gamebooks I used to play as a child 30 years ago. There is no intelligence involved artificial or otherwise. “If you open the pod bay doors turn to page 342. If you remain silent turn to page 144. If you explain to Dave that you are sorry and can’t do that turn to page 101.”

Steven Seagull

I wasn’t using AI to describe simple Algorithms. In my opinion, and in the opinion of lots of the experts in the field we are around 15-20 years from having proper AI – with IQ hundreds of points higher than anything human.

This sort of AI will be able to think, invent things that humans can’t even understand etc etc.

Anonymous

So if we are 15-20 years away from a thinking machine, why are modern attempts at AIs no different from the ones on the BBC micro computer I was messing around with 30 years ago. There has been no progress towards intelligence at all. Computers are faster, but your PC is no smarter than a 32k Beeb! You can make a longer series of If A then go to B series of questions than you could cram into a beeb’s tiny 32k memory (22k useable) but there has been no advance at all towards machines having anything like actual inteligence.

I remember thinking aged 10 when I first played Elite that the machine was intelligent. Police ships launching to intecept me if they saw me shooting down an innocent trade ship or pirates in an anarchy system trying to pinch my cargo and bounty hunters comming to be rescuse. It gave the illusion of inteligence even on a 32k machine. Playing Elite Dangerous on my PS4 36 years later is no different. The same coding is being used to create the illusion of inteligent NPCs. It’s faster, better graphics, does more maths but it no smarter than computers were 30 years ago.

People have been saying an intelligent machine is 15-20 years away since Babbage’s Analytical Engine! It seemed realist to me that we would have HAL by 2001. But we never did. Just as we didn’t get the flying cars, Mr Fusions and T1000s all the films of my childhood assured me we’d have by now.

Where’s my flying car damit!

Anonymous

Biff is cleaning it

Anonymous

Q: just who took Tony Williams job at CC ?
A: was it an AI robot!

Ben

I never realised the comment section of a Legal news website would be this entertaining!!

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