Artificial intelligence (AI) could help law firms most by increasing their productivity and is also likely to result in more legal work being done by those without traditional legal qualifications, lawyers have said.
Some 58% of UK lawyers were positive about the prospect of AI becoming widely used within the workplace.
They were most likely to say that they wanted AI to help them personally by reducing administration and enabling them to concentrate on professional work.
They also looked for it to assist with “intelligent information retrieval”, for example “searching for and interpretation of information across databases and sources”, and with “product creation”, such as drafting or editing documents.
Thomson Reuters carried out an online survey of 1,210 global legal and tax professionals earlier this year, of whom 16% were based in the UK, for its Future of Professionals report. Most of the 199 UK professionals involved were lawyers, both in private practice and in-house.
After increasing productivity – cited by 77% of UK lawyers – 70% said AI could help their firms most by improving the efficiency of their internal processes and 50% identified improving communication with clients.
Looking at the downsides of AI, UK lawyers were most likely to say it could increase competition from new entrants to the market (33%) or hampering recruitment and retention (32%).
Similar proportions (31%) thought AI could hinder their law firms’ ability to increase fees or make it harder for them to encourage or mandate a return to office working.
Looking forward to aspects of their professional roles that were likely to change in the next five years, 88% of lawyers predicted that basic level AI training would become mandatory.
Significant proportions also believed there would be a change in how junior lawyers were trained and an increase in people without traditional qualifications. At the same time, nearly half anticipated that their professional skills would become more prized as AI adoption grew.
Kriti Sharma, chief product officer for legal technology at Thomson Reuters, commented: “AI will have a potentially transformative impact on the legal profession, leading to an evolution in traditional career paths, skills sets and points of entry, as well as driving diversity and access.
“It is also set to change the type of work lawyers do, as AI unlocks time to focus on higher-level, complex work that adds value to clients. In doing so it can also address the human capital challenges common to all professional work that sees fatigue and overwork driving talented professionals away from critical career paths.
“While there is nothing predestined about the impact of AI, professionals now have an opportunity to drive the change, and the potential benefits, they want to see.”
Almost half (49%) of UK lawyers believed the legal profession should self-regulate the use of AI it used, whereas 40% think this should fall on government.