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Full-time legal profession jobs are likely to plunge over the next two decades as the use of artificial intelligence grows, researchers predict.
It is estimated that the number of legal sector jobs in 2038 will be 20 per cent down on what it would have been if the profession was not embracing automation. That translates to about 67,000 full time jobs.
The use of automation among law firms will increase gradually over the next six years, with the number of full-time posts on course to fall by less than 2 per cent, according to a report from the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales.
There are now about 289,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the legal profession in England and Wales, with the majority being at solicitors’ firms. The full-time employment figure is forecast to shrink to 284,000 by 2025.
However, the researches say that between 2025 and 2038 the pace of AI adoption will accelerate significantly.
They point out that the total decline in legal sector jobs will be partially offset by a continuing increase in demand for services.
Nonetheless, revenue growth for the sector is predicted to be modest, with overall growth in the legal profession in England and Wales this year forecast to be a fraction above 1 per cent.
The so-called Brexit effect on legal services appears relatively modest
Next year growth is forecast to improve to about 2 per cent then to 2.7 per cent in 2019. However, the researchers predict that by 2025 growth will fall back to 2 per cent.
The export of legal services — in other words, the amount of instructions received from overseas clients — is predicted to tumble.
This year’s figure for growth in net exports of UK legal services is 13 per cent, but that is expected to slip to 9 per cent next year and to 5 per cent by 2025.
Joe Egan, the society’s president, attributed the predicted fall in legal service exports to Britain’s decision to quit the EU.
“The so-called Brexit effect on legal services appears relatively modest, despite the much-anticipated bonanza in legal work involved. Our members tell us they expect an increased turnover of just 0.3 to 1 per cent from 2017 to 2025 as a result of legal work related to leaving the EU, although large international law firms will inevitably benefit most from this work,” he said.