AI moves up small and medium sized legal firms’ agendas, Clayton Legal finds
Small and medium sized legal firms both understand the importance of the use of AI (‘artificial intelligence’), regard it as an opportunity to be embraced, and do not feel threatened by its impact on their business model, says Clayton Legal, after conducting qualitative research into this area.
Lynn Sedgwick, managing director of Clayton Legal, said,: “Within larger law firms, the uptake of AI has been a recurrent theme. This may be due to the perception that larger firms have access to the money to finance its development and use, their appetite to risk is greater and the infrastructure they already have in place allows them to develop their use of AI. As the increased use of AI begins to take shape so the larger firms enjoy being early adopters of new technologies, but as the research shows, small and medium sized firms don’t wish to miss out.”
One of the respondents to Clayton Legal’s research project, Andrew Kwan, solicitor advocate at Clear Law, describes his firm as “…highly technological…”. He sees its approach as allowing “…us some advantages including being agile within a changing legal market. Therefore I can see the utilisation of AI as being an opportunity to deliver greater value to clients, both individuals and businesses, by removing some of the administrative elements of the process.”
But apparently it’s not just senior people who think this way. One of Kwan’s colleagues at Clear Law, trainee, Miriam Khan, makes the point that AI and the human skill sets should complement each other rather than take opposing sides. She commented, “The profound purpose of AI is to save the need for time, cost and energy on manual labour and increase efficiency. Why do a job that a computer can do for you?”
Lynn Sedgwick added, “While firms such as Linklaters and Clifford Chance have moved to use AI in several different areas, this is very much about driving efficiencies, rather than eradicating jobs. The smaller practices that we spoke to are also hoping to generate higher fees and ensure that processes that can be and will be outsourced to machines.
“For employers, this has huge benefits but it also offers their people more interesting work, making the workplace a more satisfying place to be in, in a marketplace where retention is key. For legal professionals at all levels, the introduction of AI represents an opportunity to develop new skills, and for those who are open to change, to increase their value in the marketplace. The interpersonal and technological skills required to adapt to the new AI infused working environment are likely to bring benefits to all that choose to engage with them.
“The human element can’t, at least yet, be replaced by a robot. Andrew Kwan really sums it up when he says: ‘I do not see AI removing the elements where you are a compassionate human. You can’t remove this from a process and expect a great result for your client.’”
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