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Lawtech could cull 35,000 legal roles by 2027, Law Society predicts

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Secretaries hardest hit — but lawyer numbers likely to rise

The Law Society of England and Wales has predicted a whopping decline in legal jobs by 2027 — thanks in part to the industry’s appetite for technology.

A new report commissioned by Chancery Lane bigwigs warns that employment in the legal services sector could fall by 13,000 (4%) in the years to 2027.

Legal secretaries and office support roles would be hardest hit, according to the report, with numbers falling by two thirds and a quarter respectively.

Lawyer headcount, however, is forecasted to increase by around 2% a year, which in turn will lead to an uptick in the proportion of lawyers in the legal workforce — 47% in 2017 to 57% by 2027.

The report, produced by The Institute for Employment Studies’ on behalf of the Law Society, also predicted that a further 22,000 jobs were at risk under a doomsday-style scenario which sees a faster adoption of AI and other lawtech.

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Looking at the potential impact of Brexit, it anticipated under a Canada-style free trade agreement that employment in the legal sector would drop by 1.8%, while under a no-deal World Trade Organisation arrangement this decrease sits at 3.5%. Lawyers numbers would drop by 2.2% and 3.9% respectively.

“Our analysis anticipates the shape of the future legal workforce, identifying trends and skills gaps based on a range of alternative scenarios, from technology adoption and Brexit to competition,” Law Society president Simon Davis said.

He continued: “Developments identified here will help define the roles and skills required for solicitor firms to perform successfully, while the Law Society will continue to refer to these findings to plan and develop relevant support for our members.”

This isn’t the first time the Law Society has produced some rather bleak looking stats. In 2017, it warned that the rise of automation could lead to 67,000 job losses by 2038.

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