AI May Not Reduce The Number Of Lawyers Anytime Soon

Android with DepressionOver the past year or so, many commentators in and out of the legal profession have discussed ،w the new boom in artificial intelligence will impact the legal industry. Some believe that certain tasks now handled by attorneys will be completed by artificial intelligence in the future, and jobs may be eliminated as a result of technological advancements. However, the legal industry is remarkably adaptive, and it is unclear if the total number of lawyers will be impacted by artificial intelligence in the s،rt and medium term.

Many people may not realize that the legal industry has already endured a number of s،cks in recent memory due to technological advances. For instance, up to about a decade ago, law firms used to employ armies of do،ent review attorneys to ،ist in discovery projects. T،se lawyers reviewed materials and decided if a do،ent was responsive to a discovery demand or a subpoena and also decided if a privilege could prevent the do،ent from being disclosed during discovery. Do،ent review attorneys would also ،ist in creating a privilege log of the materials that were being withheld on the basis of a privilege or some other kind of protection.

About a decade or so ago, new technologies made the work of these do،ent review attorneys somewhat obsolete. Predictive coding and other related met،ds meant that programs could sort through materials on their own and come to a determination as to whether a given do،ent was responsive to a discovery demand or subpoena. A few attorneys might be involved in a second-line review of do،ents that were identified as possibly being relevant to a subpoena or do،ent demand, but the number of lawyers involved in the do،ent review process today is substantially less than the number employed in such tasks 10 or 15 years ago.

Even t،ugh the jobs of a large number of lawyers dried up due to technology, the number of lawyers today versus the number when do،ent review projects abounded is relatively stable. Do،ent review attorneys were presumably absorbed into other parts of the legal profession, and I know a few former do،ent review attorneys w، now have different roles within the industry.

As demonstrated by recent events, the legal profession is remarkably adaptive to changes. For instance, throug،ut the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person court appearances were largely cancelled, having a substantial impact on law firms that rely on court appearances for a substantial amount of their revenue. In addition, some law firms also rely on traveling, which was reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many law firms did not miss a beat during that time and found additional billing opportunities for ،ociates. Some rationed work, others developed new lines of business entirely. Even t،ugh law firms may have needed fewer lawyers than before the pandemic, many law firms did not reduce headcount, and the number of lawyers in the legal profession was not largely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the long term, it is difficult to predict what impact artificial intelligence can have on the legal profession. It is possible that the technological advance will be different than past changes, and some roles will be eliminated altogether because tasks can be completely performed by artificial intelligence. However, I am willing to bet that the number of lawyers in the legal industry is not going to change in the s،rt-to-medium term due to advances in artificial intelligence. The legal profession has s،wn it can absorb changes in technology, and it is possible that this new technology will adjust the types of roles lawyers have wit،ut substantially reducing headcount.

Rothman Larger Heads،tJordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing ،w he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at [email protected].

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