Tiger Team 2023: Can AI help firms compete smarter for their talent?

LPM Tiger Team brings a set of SME legal leaders together to compare their challenges, strategies, and ideas live. As interest in artificial intelligence surges once again, this event will sift through the buzz and any fearmongering to get to the heart of how SME law firms can harness its potential to recruit and retain top talent.

Our Tigers – all leaders with their teeth into the latest transformation opportunities – discuss:

• The role AI can play in talent management
• Myths and misconceptions about the impacts of AI on the labour market
• What top talent in 2023 is looking for in a law firm — and how AI might help SME law firms stand out to prospective hires.

Speaker line-up Sarah Charlton, CEO, Eaton-Evans and Morris
Trevor Worth, founder and managing director at Portcullis Legals
Graham Sweeney, managing partner at Schofield Sweeney
Kaden Smith, director of inside sales EMEA at NetDocuments
Chaired by Richard Brent, head of content, LPM


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Artificial intelligence (AI) will not replace lawyers — rather, it will enable them to provide a more “human” service to clients, say SME law firm leaders in our latest episode of LPM Tiger Team.

Being at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies can help firms attract and retain lawyers eager to work in an innovative environment. It can also enable law firms to access a broader talent pool and offer better work-life balance, the panellists assert.

For this episode, our Tigers are Eaton-Evans and Morris CEO Sarah Charlton, Portcullis Legals managing director Trevor Worth, and Schofield Sweeney managing partner Graham Sweeney — with Kaden Smith, director of inside sales EMEA at NetDocuments, and LPM editor-in-chief Richard Brent chairing the panel.

Some talent may even have specific expectations regarding the use of AI, says Worth, who had a “eureka moment” when a job candidate inquired about Portcullis Legals’ use of AI. One Tiger Team attendee mentioned that universities are now teaching AI skills, suggesting that new talent might be more adept at using this technology than current staff.

Smith at NetDocuments believes that firms using AI have an advantage in talent attraction and retention, as current and prospective employees are likely to prefer using new technology. He concurs with the other panelists that AI can free up lawyers to provide more “human-centric services”.

While panellists agreed that AI is unlikely to threaten lawyers’ jobs, Charlton at Eaton-Evans and Morris recognises its potential to phase out administrative roles. She advises those early in their administration careers to consider retraining.

Firms must face fears and adapt

AI’s progress cannot be stopped. “Royal Mail staff feared job loss with the advent of email but adapted by evolving into delivering for online services like Amazon,” Worth recalls, and insists that similarly, firms will need to adapt to new technology and leverage the opportunities it presents. He suggests alleviating staff fears around AI through open, honest dialogue and including them in the implementation process.

Sweeney, of Schofield Sweeney, highlights the importance of training existing staff in effective technology use but says predicting the exact skillset required is challenging given the rapid pace of AI’s evolution.

Some firms may favour hiring ‘techy’ lawyers adept at using the technology, Charlton notes, but cautions against this approach. She advocates for hiring staff with strong people skills and high emotional intelligence, believing that AI and other skills can be taught. Worth and Charlton both mention preferring candidates with backgrounds in hospitality who likely have experience managing challenging client situations.

The augmented workforce

Firms will soon be able to automatically draft documents based on standard templates previously created within the practice, with past work serving as the AI’s “brain.” Smith says: “AI is here to stay, and we will be using it in both our personal and professional lives. Most firms are realising its overwhelmingly positive impact.”

Charlton points out its usefulness in low-margin business areas such as generating draft documents for lawyers to review, reducing creation time. However, she notes that since the technology is still relatively nascent, risks in its applications need to be mitigated.

Other Tigers predict its near-future potential to enhance the client onboarding experience and assist in managing compliance risks, and some are exploring its use in marketing. Sweeney foresees AI becoming a fundamental part of marketing software and evolving as the next iteration of service delivery. This evolution, he adds, requires a “culture of continuous learning and openness to change”.

With growing talent expectations for technology-assisted productivity, AI will certainly enhance talent management, our Tiger Team says, but firms will have to alleviate concerns through feedback, open dialogue and collaboration with employees along the implementation journey. The panellists emphasise AI’s role in client delivery, highlighting that it doesn’t imply a less human client experience. In fact, it can free up lawyers’ time to focus on developing deeper personal relationships with clients.

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