The Australian Lawyer reported yesterday that 39% of law jobs in Australia will be automated, and that 100,000 law jobs will be lost to automation. What terrible doom and gloom! As the creator of the legal Artificial Intelligence Ailira, I believe that I have a particular (and more positive) insight into the changes that will effect the legal profession, and so would like to comment on these predictions.
At first glance, 100,000 law jobs lost seems a tremendously large number. Indeed, the Law Society National Profile 2014 reports that there are about 66,000 lawyers in Australia. Assuming constant ratios from the Australian Bureau of Statistics legal survey there would be around 100,000 ‘other staff’ in the legal industry at present. Essentially, losing 100,000 law jobs would end the legal profession in Australia.
These figures don’t add up. My best guess is that the 100,000 jobs missing relates to an overseas market, rather than Australia. I note that the Deloitte report upon which the story is based is primarily about the UK legal profession.
The Deloitte report also notes that there is a “tipping point” for the legal market in 2020 for firms that “resist change”. It is unclear what either of those terms mean. However the report suggests that “talent strategies will be key in dealing with future challenges”. I hope that encourages everyone to proactively leverage into a paradigm shift of digital synergies.
39% of jobs
The 39% of jobs figure is based on modelling by Frey and Osborne, which suggests that 47 per cent of workers in the US economy have a high probability of being replaced within 10 to 20 years. When this model is applied to the Australian economy, it finds that approximately 39 per cent of the labour market faces a high probability of being replaced by computers.
This figure I broadly agree with. In my own firm, the use of the Artificial Intelligence Ailira to conduct tax research has reduced the time my junior solicitors spend on research from about 50% of their workload to about 10%. This leads to enormous efficiency gains in producing tax opinions and advices.
But this does not mean that there will be a 39% decrease in legal work. Only a decrease in the type of work that currently exists.
With the extra time available, I have put my juniors to further developing and testing technological systems that will add recurring value to my practice. The tech savvy and open minded Millennials take easily to opening up areas of work that do not currently exist. I am not going to go into further detail at present about what this work may be, except to say I will share freely my suggestions for further opportunities in later articles, and that further announcements on Ailira are imminent.
The key figure that should be quoted alongside the 39% decrease in work is that65% of children entering school this year will work in careers that do not presently exist. In the process of automation, new jobs are created. I can see this first hand. As the legal market is forever changed by the rise of Artificial Intelligence the opportunities for lawyers will actually increase.
I believe that the logical and structured method of thinking developed in the practice of law is ideally suited to developing technological systems. To prepare for the future, lawyers do not need to focus on ‘talent strategies’, but on rigorous legal reasoning. This is one of the most classically enjoyable parts about legal work.
To borrow a phrase from our PM: it has never been a more exciting time to be a lawyer.
Adrian is the Creator of Ailira, the Artificial Intelligence that automates legal advice and research, and the Principal of Cartland Law, a firm that specialises in devising novel solutions to complex tax, commercial and technological legal issues and transactions.