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INSIGHT: AI Can Help Law Firms Advance, Retain Junior Lawyers

July 31, 2019, 8:01 AM

The legal industry is well known for being a competitive environment, especially when it comes to junior lawyers looking to cut their teeth in the profession.

Hungry for success and with an innate technological dexterity, this generation is able to reap the benefits as technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), begins to take the legal sector by storm.

Today, top law firms increasingly want to be innovative, forward-thinking and known for harnessing the benefits of cutting-edge AI and machine learning tools to keep up with the increasingly competitive environment.

Clients have already begun to expect some review processes to include the use of technology and for good reason.

Some fear that the adoption of technology could remove the need for (junior) lawyers and paralegals, but I disagree. Technology will not abolish these positions—in fact, quite the opposite. Its arrival will help (junior) lawyers climb the ladder faster within their respective firms.

In order to remain competitive, it is essential for law firms to deal with new developments in the area of legal tech and the possible uses and applications. Taking ownership of a firm’s approach to modernizing legal work, and adoption of technology, makes their expertise and analysis more important. It provides a clear way to creating meaningful career pathways and demonstrating value to clients.

Looking to the future, cost-and personnel-intensive work processes at law firms may be partly omitted. However, as a result, the time saved can be used for more complex client work. In addition, there are large areas of legal work, such as negotiations, development of creative solutions, maintenance of the personal client relationship, and similar topics that AI cannot—at least yet—handle.

Relationship Between Tech, Personal Progression

Leveraging technology at our law firm, especially AI, increases the firm’s competitive advantage, and enabled me, personally, to advance in my career. For example, I was one of the first associates at the firm to work extensively with Luminance, an AI platform that reads and understands legal language, cutting through swathes of documents in record time.

Now, across the firm, more and more lawyers come to me for advice on how to deploy the technology

By having expert knowledge of new tools, and by passing on these skills to my colleagues, I was able to build connections with associates at various levels across the business that I would never have otherwise crossed paths. It also gave me exposure to different teams, practice areas, and offices.

Technology also increases motivation and job satisfaction as it provides junior lawyers with a means to delegate the admin-heavy, time-consuming tasks to an AI tool, giving the lawyer the opportunity to spend more time on meaningful work and concentrate on being the trusted adviser.

As a result, this is likely to pay off in dividends for law firms themselves; if we invest in our young professionals, demonstrating trust and supporting growth, rather than assigning them the “bottom of the pile” tasks, they will learn at a faster, more motivated pace. In turn, this will lead to a stronger sense of self-worth and general wellbeing, generating robust retention rates.

Tech Can Open the Door to Bigger Projects

As a lawyer using AI, I completed projects that would have been too time-consuming for our legal team, and too expensive for our clients. Without certain tools we would either have never taken on the work or would have had to sample small portions of documents.

This was perfectly exemplified by a project I was recently involved with, where the manual review process took three weeks for a team of eight people to comb through 10% of the material. With Luminance and AI, two specialist lawyers reviewed 100 percent of the documents in less than three weeks.

Tech’s Role in Building Trust

Another way technology is helping young lawyers progress is by giving them more confidence in their results. By reviewing entire data sets and spotting trends, AI gives lawyers the information they need to provide better, more informed advice to associates and clients.

Machine learning platforms ensure an element of consistency. The very nature of law allows for individual interpretation, but this is not always conducive to the practice of document review, particularly in cases of due diligence. The use of technology removes any such ambiguity; there is less chance that things can be missed, or mistakes made through human error, and ultimately clients receive a better service as a result, reinforcing trust.

By utilizing AI, I was able to quickly build up my knowledge and expertise in a new way of approaching the law and develop deeper relationships across the firm. I have seen how technology can be useful for both firm-wide and personal progression.

Every law firm takes on graduates in the hope that they will continue to the senior ranks and even become partners. I truly believe that by utilizing AI, firms can enhance engagement and fulfillment and speed up the progression of young professionals.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Dr. Artur-Konrad Wypych is a member of Bird & Bird’s International Employment Practice Group based in Düsseldorf. He provides legal advice on all aspects of individual and collective employment and social security law, specializing in collective bargaining, employee participation and co-determination as well as national and international M&A transactions and restructurings.