According to an article in The Guardian, automation will affect approximately 1 in 5 jobs in the UK by 2030. While the highest losses would initially be within manufacturing fields, it is also believed there is a risk to white-collar jobs due to advances in AI.
AI software is already allowing basic research, document drafting, and other rudimentary tasks to be automated within large law firms, and the race is on to create an AI system that will allow for higher-level thinking to be completed by automation.
For law students, this news may offer a foreshadowing of future necessities within firms. The days when you were only required to have a law degree from a Russell Group University to guarantee your job acceptance are disappearing – soon you´ll need a whole host of “soft skills” alongside your degree.
The introduction of automation will change the needs of law firms, curriculums within law schools, and will require a new generation of law graduates.
Law Firms want Innovative Skills
The AI economy is here to stay and many top law firms already recognise the potential need for lawyers with new skill sets that involve aptitudes with legal technology combined with human gifts.
Creativity, organisation, liberal arts and conflict management are just a few of the key talents that firms suggest new lawyers need to procure in order to succeed within an AI dominated workplace.
Prominent academics have called for a return to a more critical legal education that permits students to learn the law, and also to critique its failings.
Engaging in law reforms, developing empathy and compassion, and learning to code are becoming essential talents that law firms require to operate at the highest level.
21st Century Lawyers
If all basic skills within the law profession are undertaken by AI, a new kind of lawyer must emerge who is trained in ‘human’ capabilities which cannot be automated by AI.
Skills such as creativity, compassion, understanding, emotional intelligence, and so on, are likely to become the forerunners of the new skill sets required by the successful 21st century lawyer.
These ‘soft skills’ are often acquired through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) once a lawyer has graduated, but with the changes in automation these skills are likely to become essential assets for all law graduates and this means they need to be taught within law schools.
Computer coding, legal technology, and emotional intelligence are skills that the 21st century lawyer should be taught in order to avoid the domination of automation.
A New Law Curriculum
Soft skills, such as those mentioned above, should be taught from the outset within law schools, but this requires a change in curriculum.
Law schools will be failing to innovate if they don’t introduce these skills onto curriculums within the next few years. The possibility that automation will replace graduates within firms for most basic functions is already underway, and many within the law industry feel that a move away from traditional lawyering skills, towards new ‘human’ skills, is vital to generate outstanding lawyers.
Students should have the opportunity to take classes in coding and legal technology, and to improve their empathy, professionalism and judgement through discussions based around morality and compassion.
Some law schools are beginning to introduce these new elective courses or modules, however, as they are not compulsory they are likely to be overshadowed by classical, old-fashioned teaching.
An innovative approach to legal education is required to empower students to engage with the legal industry with self-assurance and certainty in a rapidly changing industry.
AI is here to stay, and if we don’t teach students to utilise their human qualities to their best advantage they are likely to be no better than an automated system. Their new skills should give them hope in an uncertain job market and prospects for a better future.