Published Wednesday 12th February 2020

The findings of Law Society’s Strategic Workforce Planning reports show that, by 2027, employment in the legal services sector is projected to fall by 13,000 (4 per cent).

In an increasingly deregulated environment, with downward pressure on fees and the rapid adoption of technology we consider that figure to be the tip of the iceberg. Legal services are exceptionally vulnerable to the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the rapid development of fintech.

Although some of the larger UK firms are embracing AI, major disruption to the market is threatened by US legal giants, the big 4 accountants and tech start-ups. The Law Society suggested that the sector will need to recruit about 100,000 employees from 2017-2027, or about 10,000 per year, of which around 7,000 will be legal professionals and about 2,800 legal associate professionals. At present about 3,100 graduates and 3,300 returners enter legal professional roles each year. Market disruption is rarely good news for incumbents, and we’d question why more emphasis isn’t being placed on support roles – particularly in IT, facilities and process management.

The Law Society comments “For anyone aiming for a career in the law, it is worth noting that a common theme from employers was that firms were paying more attention in recruitment to people skills, such as communication and team working, whereas in the past they had only looked at technical legal skills. Commercial awareness and management skills were also seen as important” – yet this ignores that with increased opportunities to leverage technology the human element of law becomes less and less important.

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About the Author: Jason Adderley, joined ERA after a 15-year career in the commercial property development and investment industry, and works with a diverse client base comprising solicitors, actuaries, chambers, patent attorneys, accountants, surveyors, consulting engineers and recruitment consultants.

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