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AI to affect graduate and junior lawyer roles the most initially
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AI to affect graduate and junior lawyer roles the most initially

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New research has highlighted the potential for automation to remove grunt work commonly performed by those starting out in their legal careers, which will allow them to spend more time building cases and developing practical skills.

The LexisNexis annual roadshow report, titled Legal Frontiers: From AI to Ethics 2018, examined the realities of automation and AI in the legal industry and the ethical concerns that the profession must be addressing as a collective.

Of the survey respondents, 33 per cent reported believing that digitisation and automation have “caused a shift in the value chain and profile of lawyers”, and at this stage, that shift seems to have primarily impacted the graduate and junior roles in firms.

The survey also found that the legal community is already seeing a “significant shift” in the role of lawyers, with the removal of “grunt work” (44 per cent) and subsequent changes to the nature of legal work (42 per cent) selected as the most common implications of new technologies for legal institutions.

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When asked what these will mean for graduate prospects, respondents were split into two camps: one cohort predicted a “reduction in opportunities for legal graduates as there are simply fewer hours of work to be done due to the automation of time-consuming tasks”, including due diligence, discovery and document review.

The second cohort felt that the growth in the volume of work and data required for analysis has “offset these losses, and that junior lawyers will benefit more from spending their time on building cases than sinking hours into tasks like manual discovery”.

The report also found that hybrid legal tech skillsets will be “highly valued to the industry as more tech tools are adopted, ways of working change, and clients come to expect their legal representation to understand the technical nature” of work that is being carried out.

It is a very exciting time to be a law student, as the options available to graduates are far more varied than they have been previously, said LexisNexis Australia managing director Simon Wilkins.

Rather than simply pursuing the partner pathway, graduates can now seek more creative career journeys by taking on roles within Australia’s flourishing network of legal start-ups, for example,” he said.

“Whilst legal tech skills will be highly beneficial to future lawyers, we also see a future in which lawyers assemble multi-disciplinary teams to deliver the best results for clients, rather than shouldering all of the burden themselves.”

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