How AI Can Help Retain Legal Talent in a Changing Job Market

12 July 2022 | Luminance

Businesses today are all too familiar with the phenomenon now known as ‘The Great Resignation’. The term, coined in 2021 to describe the unprecedented numbers of workers voluntarily leaving their jobs, has routinely hit the headlines as the global trend continues apace. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022, whilst a survey by PwC projected that 20% of UK workers were likely to switch to a new employer within the year.

The legal industry in particular has not been spared by this global movement. Earlier this year, the International Bar Association published a report revealing that 54% of young lawyers were likely to change workplace whilst 20% were considering leaving the profession entirely. It is no surprise that, in the wake of the pandemic, legal professionals have expressed their desire for a better work-life balance, remote or hybrid working options, and more meaningful work opportunities.

In the resulting war for talent, law firms have resorted to a number of schemes to future-proof their practices, inflating wages for junior lawyers and even trialling a ‘Bring your Dog to Work Day’ in an effort to improve employee wellbeing. However, in this new environment, the question remains over whether wage increases alone are enough to retain legal talent. Firms need to use all of the tools at their disposal to attract and retain the best talent, and investment in next-generation technologies like AI is certainly one of them.

Automating High-Volume, Low-Level Tasks with AI

It is telling that the IBA’s report showed that AI and legal technology training is viewed as critical for the future of junior lawyers by 40% of respondents. In an industry considered as under threat by mass burnout of junior lawyers, technology is no longer a nice-to-have - it is essential for any efficient legal department or law firm. That junior lawyers often face extreme workloads and are confined to the drudgery of combing vast volumes of data in search for a specific clause or deviations in the wording of contractual terms is nothing new – but an attitude shift is certainly apparent amongst younger lawyers and, unable to put to use the skills they honed during their legal education, it is not uncommon for junior lawyers to become disenchanted with the profession altogether.

By contrast, AI can automate the bulk of this review work, automatically reading and forming an understanding of legal documentation and displaying the results of its analysis back to the lawyer. For instance, Luminance’s AI-powered clause comparison technology makes it possible for teams to identify even minor deviations in wording across thousands of documents – something that is both virtually impossible to detect without the assistance of technology, not to mention tedious and time-consuming. With AI, Luminance can red-line and green-line all instances of differences and similarities between all relevant clauses and/or documents. This is a perfect example of how AI presents an opportunity for humans to work differently: to let go of the monotonous tasks that a machine can do better and focus on the tasks that are unique to people, such as creativity, problem-solving and strategic thinking.

This was precisely the case for MinterEllison, Australia’s largest law firm, who was retained by Insurance Group Australia to review the organisation’s Product Disclosure Statements for potential unfair terms. With Luminance’s AI exposing irregular clause wording across the document set, MinterEllison’s junior lawyers could instead focus their time on analysing the implications that the outlier wording presented, and strategising how to mitigate any potential issues this could pose.

Meeting the Expectations of the Next Generation

With a new generation of ‘tech-savvy’ junior lawyers entering the workforce, there is a growing expectation that technology will be available to them to assist with time-consuming review work and allow them to focus on ‘real’ legal work, such as providing expert counsel, thinking critically about a case, and strategising prior to negotiations or court hearings.

In fact, Jordan Galvin, former Global Legal Innovation Supervisor at top 20 US law firm, Mayer Brown, recently commented on the growing expectation for technology among junior lawyers: “Something that I've noticed in the past five years is, when new people come in from another firm or new associates join, they sort of look around and think: what technology do you have available to me? It is almost like they're coming in with an expectation that we will be able to do things, to be able to cooperate electronically beyond just email.”

Having grown up in a world where technology is at their fingertips, young lawyers are forward-thinking, ambitious and not afraid of challenging the status quo. And AI technology will certainly prove to be a revolution in transforming traditional working practices, just as word processing software brought about the end of manually blacklining contracts with paper and a ruler. Just one example is the way in which Luminance’s AI can automatically take a first-pass review of an incoming contract, colour-coding to what extent contractual terms comply with or deviate from internal standards. Luminance’s Traffic Light Analysis allows lawyers to instantly understand where to focus resource, reducing reliance on the outdated and time-consuming practice of manually editing and tracking changes across contracts.

As Jackie O’Neill, Director of Project Management and Global Risk at Liberty Mutual Surety, observed: “As well as driving efficiency into our everyday work, Luminance’s language and workflow capabilities have been transformational, helping us to collaborate with colleagues across the United States and Latin America. We are amazed by the technology.”

Keeping Pace with a Changing World

Advanced technologies can have both a profound and positive impact on our working lives. In a time of great change, the opportunity has never been greater to adopt, adapt and successfully navigate the Great Resignation. Embracing AI can help to reduce the burden on junior lawyers and help them succeed in a competitive market.