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Redundancies or prosperity? The future of legal jobs with AI

KPMG’s chief digital officer and KPMG Law’s head of legal technology weigh in on whether the continued rise of artificial intelligence will put the jobs of legal secretaries and paralegals at risk.

user iconJess Feyder 05 May 2023 Big Law
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In light of the significant technological advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and the capabilities it holds, and may come to hold, in performing tasks that are currently done by lawyers, Lawyers Weekly looked to understand if certain legal jobs are at risk of becoming replaced by AI.

Lawyers Weekly spoke with John Munnelly, KPMG’s chief digital officer, and Alistair Griffin, head of legal technology at KPMG Law, who gave insight on the topic. 

Where AI is currently, it will take away some of the more mundane tasks and build efficiency around certain processes,” said Mr Griffin.


“It can help in enhancing due diligence, or making tasks around investigation, research and sourcing information easier and more efficient.

I don’t think it’s going to take away jobs from our legal secretaries.”

Mr Munnelly concurred: “We can see it taking away a lot of tasks, but not necessarily jobs.”

I think it is going to change the way people work,” he noted.

“It’s certainly very good with language; it will absolutely help people writing drafts, but ultimately, you still need someone to make the decision. 

“You can’t abdicate decision making over to the machine. It’s just not that good.”

“We keep talking about this concept of a co-pilot,” he explained. 

“In the same way that you have pilots on the line, you’ll still have paralegals, but some of their tasks, you can see being automated.”

Mr Munnelly continued: “What we’ve seen around open AI is that its ability to master language is pretty impressive.”

“That’s where I think the next step of evolution is coming from — is early draft in some of that sort of stuff.

“But it’s not going to replace the whole lot.”

Lawyers Weekly asked the pair: “If it won’t replace full roles, could it replace the [number] of hours paralegals and legal secretaries are needed for, and resultantly, that they are contracted for?” 

Mr Griffin commented: “Regardless of our profession, this is going to impact everyone’s lives in a, hopefully, very meaningful and beneficial way.” 

“Whether that impacts hours worked, that’s down to the culture of the organisation,” he said.

“The hope would be that it builds so much efficiency, and boosts the economy, and allows us to do more interesting work and give higher-value outcomes. 

“Whether that impacts working hours, it’s hard to say.”

Mr Munnelly commented: “We’ll fill the time with other tasks.”

“And,” he continued, “AI will actually create a whole new set of roles for lawyers who are focused on AI”. 

“It’s an opening up Pandora’s box. Someone’s got to be thinking about and challenging how and when organisations use AI. 

What is the responsibility level? Do they have to declare when they’re using these tools?” he asked. 

“There’s a whole new field of AI legal that comes out,” Mr Munnelly said. “There is absolutely a growth field there.” 

“It’ll take tasks away,” highlighted Mr Munnelly, “and the legal profession is going to have to acquire some new skills”. 

The issue of the need for lawyers to adapt their skill sets due to the rise of AI programs has also recently been discussed in detail by an IP and technology partner from BigLaw firm Clayton Utz

Mr Munnelly explained that more mature members of the legal profession might find it challenging to adapt their skill set, while it will probably be easier for the digital natives.

“There will end up being businesses that use these tools and will accelerate in what they do, and there’ll be businesses that try to avoid those tools, and they’ll take longer to do some of those basic tasks. 

“Take on new tools, or you will really be challenged,” advised Mr Munnelly.

“In terms of the tasks that will become replaced, generally, it is the more mundane stuff, and I suspect people will be glad to see them disappear.” 

Mr Griffin weighed in: “It’s going to create a lot of new jobs; we’re all going to progress as a society. We’ll look back in 50 years’ time and see the dark days [when] we were finding our own calendars and summarising notes from meetings manually.”

“I don’t think it’s going to lead to wide-scale redundancies at all; what it should be doing is driving us into prosperity as an economy as a whole,” stated Mr Griffin.

“It’s the next evolution.”

“This change we’re seeing — it’s almost like the release of the internet — there’s a steep change, but we adapt,” he noted.

“Ultimately, we will adapt and pick up different tasks.

“If anything, it’s going to make us pick up higher-level thinking tasks because it can take care of some of the lower-level thinking tasks.” 

“It will not make decisions for you,” he posited. “We will still make decisions, but that high-level thinking is where people are going to go — that’s what a lot of staff want — they don’t want to do the boring stuff, they want to be doing the stuff that’s interesting and exciting.”

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