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AI could transform career pathways and recruiting practices within law firms and in-house legal teams

Three-quarters of UK lawyers expect AI will result in more legal work being done by those without traditional legal qualifications

Three-quarters of UK lawyers expect AI will result in more legal work being done by those without traditional legal qualifications


78% see AI opening up new career paths for the profession, with 32% expecting to see these within eighteen months.

Three-quarters of UK lawyers (75%) believe AI will lead to an increase in the amount of work carried out by individuals without traditional legal qualifications, shows a major new research report by Thomson Reuters.

The Future of Professionals Report is based on insights from 1,200 legal and tax professionals in the US, UK, Canada and South America. As adoption of AI gathers pace, UK lawyers could see transformation in typical career pathways and recruiting practices. This may involve a change in the skill sets that are in high demand, with law firms and in-house legal teams likely to widen their recruiting criteria to include people with backgrounds in maths and computer science.

81% of UK respondents also believe that AI will improve gender, ethnicity and socio-economic diversity in the profession.

AI is expected to become so ubiquitous within the legal profession that nine out of 10 lawyers globally say that they anticipate mandatory basic training in AI being introduced within the next five years. As technology becomes more sophisticated, upskilling teams will be necessary so that lawyers can utilise it to its full potential.

Overall sentiment towards AI is positive among UK lawyers, with 58% positive about the prosect of AI becoming more widely used within the workplace. Their biggest hope – cited by 47% of UK lawyers – with regards to AI is that it will boost productivity. Their second biggest hope, cited by 42%, is that AI will free up time for them to focus on higher-value tasks.

Productivity and efficiency gains from AI also have the potential to alleviate some of the pressures faced by lawyers, as the survey found that long working hours and fear of making errors or missing an important detail were the main aspects of their work which has a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

63% of UK lawyers said providing high quality advice is their top career motivator, and the report shows that professionals expect to see a shift in their workload towards more consultative advice. As AI adoption grows, 47% of UK lawyers anticipate their professional skills will become more prized.

Kriti Sharma, Chief Product Officer for Legal Technology at Thomson Reuters says: “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.”

While the overall view of AI is optimistic, there remain concerns among lawyers, particularly around regulation where opinions diverge as to who should assume responsibility for this. Almost half (49%) of UK lawyers believe the legal profession itself should self-regulate the use of AI within the legal profession, whereas 40% think this should fall on the government.