The future of legal roles in an AI-driven world

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs) marks a significant turning point for the legal sector. Recent studies suggest a dramatic change is on the horizon, with up to 44 percent of tasks in law firms potentially being automated by AI. This impending transformation necessitates a re-evaluation of legal roles, requiring professionals to adapt and collaborate with AI while also preparing for the emergence of new positions.

AI promises to greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of legal services, from streamlining the creation of legal documents, contracts, and agreements to automating repetitive tasks, to ensure accuracy and uniformity. AI's capability extends beyond mere data extraction; it can rapidly summarize complex documents like depositions and complaints and transform text into actionable insights. This will empower legal professionals to better understand and manage legal obligations, which will significantly enhance client services.

The Evolution of Legal Roles and Skills

Embracing AI’s potential requires legal professionals to update their skills and adopt a mindset geared towards continuous learning. Key areas for development will include data literacy, digital competence, and critical thinking. Moreover, integrating AI into daily legal work will require new methods of collaboration, such as collaborative creation, supervision, and oversight. This means that traditional roles in the legal industry are bound to evolve, and entirely new specific roles will emerge.

One notable development is the rise of the citizen developer in the legal sector, empowered by low/no code tools. These tools enable legal practitioners, regardless of their programming skills, to drive innovation and automate key tasks within their firms. For example, legal professionals can swiftly and cost-effectively create compliance tracking applications to monitor and ensure adherence to changing regulations. Or they can design workflow automation solutions for case management, to improve task distribution and management. The use of such tools, coupled with generative AI, can simplify and enhance many legal tasks. This not only improves efficiency but also allows legal professionals to devote more time to client service and strategic objectives.

Even established roles, such as knowledge managers, are undergoing a transformation. Their responsibilities now include integrating resources into automated workflows, by leveraging collective knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the entire organization. This ensures a more consistent and efficient operational model. For instance, when it comes to document assembly, knowledge managers can structure document templates and legal forms so that automated systems can dynamically generate accurate and compliant contracts, agreements, and other legal documents based on specific parameters. Another example would be in the area of Intellectual Property, where knowledge managers can structure intellectual property databases to facilitate the automated tracking of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. This can also include the automation of routine tasks such as renewal notifications and infringement monitoring.

Another emerging role is that of the 'prompt engineer.' These specialists are responsible for designing effective prompts for LLMs to facilitate legal process automation. With their deep understanding of legal procedures, prompt engineers improve the accuracy and efficiency of AI applications, bridging the gap between legal expertise and AI capabilities. For example, prompt engineers can craft prompts that incorporate established legal citation formats and reference conventions within prompts. This helps ensure the LLM can generate outputs that align with legal writing standards, facilitating seamless integration with existing legal processes.

Harnessing AI for a Competitive Edge in Law

The integration of AI in legal practice offers a tremendous opportunity. It allows legal professionals to enrich their roles, expand their service offerings, and provide added value to clients. Law firms that are agile and adaptive to technological changes, particularly in AI, are set to lead in the new era of legal practice. However, this goes beyond merely adopting new tools; it requires a willingness to transform internal structures and roles in line with the latest AI advancements.

By advancing roles and adjusting strategies within their organizations, innovative firms will be able to fully capitalise on the benefits of AI capabilities and set the benchmark for success.

Photo Credit: Alexander Limbach/Shutterstock

Jill Schornack is VP of product at NetDocuments.

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