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Almost all London law firms are using or plan to use artificial intelligence

Law firms are harnessing artificial intelligence to reduce the manual creation and checking of legal documents

Most law firms in London are either using or planning to use artificial intelligence (AI), with cuts to staff predicted by almost half, but senior staff look safe from being replaced by robots.

In 2017, former Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan said AI will take over a large number of jobs at the bank, but white collar sectors such as financial services, accountancy and law are adopting AI at apace, with thousands of job cuts inevitable. While it is equally certain AI will create many thousands of jobs, it will happen over a long period of time.

According to a survey of more than 100 law firms by real estate advisory CBRE, 48% are already using AI software in their businesses and 41% have imminent plans to do the same.

The survey found 61% of the companies already using AI are doing so to generate and review legal documents. It also revealed 47% are using AI for due diligence purposes and 42% for research. About a third (32%) are using AI to carry out compliance and administrative legal support.

Almost half (45%) said they expect a reduction in the staff numbers as a result, but only 7% think senior jobs will be cut.

“Our study found considerable uncertainty around the impacts of AI on employment, reflected by over 30% who were unsure of the potential impact at each level,” said Frances Warner Lacey, senior director of the central London tenant advisory group at CBRE. “This will make formulating a dynamic real estate strategy, to cope with these structural changes to the sector, particularly problematic for law firms.”

The legal profession requires significant administrative work, as well as document reviewing. With huge back offices carrying out this work, the potential to reduce people costs is significant.

Read more about AI in the enterprise

Last year, Mark Lewis, a lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner, told Computer Weekly the law firm is using software to assemble documents designed to be read by AI. These documents are structured in a way that makes use of AI to process them more efficiently.

The lawyers themselves will also need new skills. “In the near future, if you want to be a lawyer in my kind of practice, you are going to have to be able to put a document together specifically for AI review,” he said.

Another white collar sector being shaken up by AI technology is accountancy. Half of accountants are either considering or already adopting AI and automation technology to reduce repetitive tasks as customers expect more of them, according to recent research from Sage.

Almost half (49%) said they want to automate number crunching, data entry and diary management, while two-thirds plan to invest in AI to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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