Growing up in the 1980s, I couldn’t help being a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger, enjoying classics like Commando, The Running Man, Predator, Total Recall and of course the iconic Terminator series, which prompted viewers to think about whether we’d stop doing something now if we could see the consequences of our actions for future generations.
The kind of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that will enable us to outsource and/or semi-automate the high volume / low value generic contract review activities of an average in-house legal team is unlikely to take over US military systems by 2029 (in an attempt to eradicate mankind), but it is likely to alter the remit of an in-house lawyer.
Businesses must either innovate or die in this highly competitive, ever-changing world, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard of clients being asked to “do more with less” by their Board, as budgets are scrutinised to ensure maximum efficiency and profitability.
Evolving your legal service delivery model to:
- Reduce the overall running costs of your legal function
- Free up the time of your senior lawyers to do higher value work
- Minimise the overall time required to review and sign-off a standard contract
are all great and noble aims for the GC/Head of Legal to achieve.
However, demand for NQ to 3-4 year PQE solicitors already outstrips supply and the gap at this level is widening every year. If we strip out the high volume / low value work to make our businesses more competitive today, we further weaken the potential for paralegals and contract managers to obtain training contracts to study and make the transition to become the solicitors of tomorrow.
I’m not saying that either scenario is right or wrong, but we do need to acknowledge that actions have consequences in order to progress with our eyes wide open.
The “Rise of the Machines” may be inevitable (that’s the last Terminator reference, I promise), but I’d love to hear whether you agree that the pros outweigh the cons, and whether you have any suggestions for maintaining the capability to train and develop new solicitors (within an in-house team environment) to avoid a widening of this skills gap moving forwards.
By Matthew Oakey, Business Directer - In-house Legal