Legal education’s day of reckoning approaches

Generative AI’s impact has serious implications for the entire lawyer education, development, and licensing industry, in all events, Gen AI is ushering in a new, much more challenging era for legal education. 

Firm leaders recognize the likelihood that Gen AI will, within the next several years, shorten considerably the amount of time and effort new lawyers spend doing basic client tasks. This would have an impact on hourly-billed revenue. 

But firms are also concerned because historically, by engaging in basic client tasks, new lawyers have acquainted themselves with the realities and practicalities of legal tasks and developed critical legal skills like evaluation, communication, and matter management.

Rather than relying on high-stress, hit-and-miss, experiential immersion, some law firms will build multi-year supervised training systems that accelerate lawyers’ professional growth, turning recruits into highly productive, business-developing veterans years ahead of schedule.

Alternatively, Law firms will simply stop hiring new lawyers or will hire them in drastically fewer numbers. They will instead poach more experienced talent from other firms, letting someone else do all the heavy lifting on early-years training. 

There’s an obvious tragedy-of-the-commons element here, of course: If nobody is hiring and training new lawyers, where will all the mid-level and upper-year lawyers come from? 

If law firms do stop hiring and developing new lawyers, the legal profession will have a massive succession problem and law schools will have a massive revenue problem. 

That’s a real problem for the legal profession. But it’s not a problem for individual law firms, which will pursue their interests, use technology to increase profitability with fewer lawyers, and ensure that it’s their competitors, not them, that are the ultimate losers of this new phase in the talent war.

The other option is that law firms — both individually and collectively, through formal associations and informal concords — will finally tire of paying large salaries to sub-competent new lawyers while law schools cheerfully pocket huge amounts of cash and bar admission authorities perpetuate a bar examination system that does little to inculcate or assess basic competence to practise law and serve clients.

If law firms decide to throw around their considerable weight and upend the entire legal education and regulatory system, that might have even more dramatic consequences. 

I don’t know if law firms will do either of these things or if they do when they might get started. They’ve put up with this nonsense to this point; maybe they’ll decide to put up with it longer.

Source: Jordan Furlong






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