City solicitor chief: AI poses risk to legal careers – but not quite yet

Tanna: Increasing demand for lawyers who understand AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) poses “a medium- to long-term” risk to legal careers, the chair of a new City of London Law Society committee on it has predicted.

Minesh Tanna, who is global AI lead at Simmons & Simmons, said the arrival of generative AI had led to “increased awareness and adoption” of AI, as well as “increased understanding” of the risks and opportunities.

“We are still in the early stages of generative AI adoption. Lawyers are experimenting with it and wary of the risks in terms of confidentiality. It could be used for document analysis, like other forms of AI, or creating new content, such as first drafts of documents.”

Mr Tanna said he was in the process of selecting the members of the new committee, who would be both lawyers and non-lawyers.

He described the threat posed by AI to legal careers as “a medium to long-term” risk.

“Law firms have already been using AI in a way that reduces the demand for junior lawyers. It has been used for the past 10 years in document review. The increasing adoption of AI will further reduce demand for junior lawyers, whether it is in document review, document drafting or legal research.

“However, there will be an increasing demand for lawyers who can understand and use this technology, as there will be for non-lawyers with similar skills.”

Mr Tanna said education would be “an important part of the committee’s remit”. AI was “a complex form of technology”, and there was a need to increase the profession’s understanding of it.

“This is all happening quite quickly, and training is not something that can be adjusted overnight, but I do hope and expect that the use of AI in the law will feature more in legal training.”

He stressed the importance too of cyber security, as AI “could be exploited for nefarious uses” and law firms needed to ensure they had “appropriate safeguards”.

Mr Tanna went on: “There are an increasing number of discussions going on, both at a national and international level, about AI regulation.

“Lawyers have an important role to play in contributing to that. We have experienced how digital regulation has developed so far, particularly with the GDPR.”

There had “rightly been” an increased focus on the risks from AI recently in terms of governance and regulation.

“AI adoption needs to be done carefully. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If it is done too rapidly, it risks being irresponsible.”

He agreed there had been a lot of hype about AI but said “that is not surprising or unwarranted given the huge opportunities it presents.”

Colin Passmore, chair of the City of London Law Society, commented: “Adding to our 20 existing specialist committees, this new one will immediately join and contribute to policy discussions around the regulation of AI and other legal issues relating to AI technologies.

“There are going to be some immense challenges arising out of AI, as well as opportunities.”

Mr Tanna is also chair of the Society for Computers and Law’s AI group, which recently launched a set of free contractual clauses for transactions involving the technology.

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