How to stay relevant if AI takes on 44% of legal tasks
Lawyers have a choice to make (but there's good news...)
Goldman Sachs estimates that 44% of current legal tasks could be automated by AI.
I don’t think that’s as scary as it sounds.
Not all legal tasks are created equal. Even before AI, there has always been a spectrum of the value stakeholders/clients perceived lawyers to add.
Contrary to popular belief, a lawyer’s salary or hourly rate provides really great value for money for quite a few legal tasks. For example, when a lawyer is pulled in to advise the board on a tricky situation, or advises on new products, avoids expensive litigation etc. This is often described as more ‘strategic’ legal work.
Other tasks have felt less intrinsically valuable, and as a result, the ‘old’ way of doing things (manual lawyering end-to-end) is met with a bit of frustration.
For example, in the part of the market where we play at Lexoo (routine commercial contract review), no one is happy paying big hourly rates.
In-house lawyers doing this work are often asked if they can’t staff it at a more junior level. External providers like Lexoo are expected to offer very competitive fixed fees, to such a degree that most law firms could only do it at a loss.
This means that for this type of work you always needed to innovate to stay relevant.
For most lawyers, that kind of relentless focus on efficiency has never really been what gets them up in the morning. It involves continually mixing tech, process and people, in a relentless cycle. (which is why I always tell in-house lawyers to send that work to us 🙃, and focus on more strategic work!)
The developments in AI will simply increase the pressure on that type of work.
As a lawyer, you have a choice though: you could decide to put all your energy into becoming a true trusted advisor to your clients/stakeholders. That does mean aggressively leaning into that. You won’t be able to ‘hide’ in the middle, by being a senior lawyer on paper, but actually spending most of your time on legal churn work.
So what does it mean to be a trusted advisor?
It means showing up and going out on a limb when things are not so clear. It means accepting that for legal advice to be valuable you can’t camp out on the “I just provide legal advice and that’s a commercial decision” part of an issue.
You’ll have to get deeply curious about all dimensions and weave that into a way forward. It basically means taking more responsibility, even if you feel slightly out of your depth. It is ok to feel like that, this is how commercial people feel all the time!
Slides: I gave a talk recently with a lot of tips/tricks on being more strategic as a lawyer, post a comment if you’re interested in the slides and I’ll ping them over!
Thanks for being here,
CEO at Lexoo
P.S. If you need help with any of these things, we’d love to help out :-)
Commercial contract review: fixed fees + fast turnarounds. Work done by our in-house lawyers.
Contract playbook solution: get a custom playbook that lives in LexPlay (a smart MS Word plug-in). Train up new and junior lawyers to a high and consistent standard. Empower sales team to negotiate their own contracts.
Multi-country and repapering projects: such as localising T&Cs, employment contracts, answering regulatory questionnaires as well as Data Protection remediation (SCCs etc).
Well said, so true, Daniel! I'd love to see those slides you mentioned as it is one of the issues I am struggling with myself. It is tricky when in-house lawyers need to (or are asked to) thing strategically re: work organization because in-house legal a lot of times are used to be reactionary instead of being the driving force.
Daniel, Another great piece.
I would be really interested in your slides on commerciality. For me the challenge for lawyers is learning and becoming comfortable with 'trade-off' something lawyers find hard personally and professionally.