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Attorney Perspective: Is ChatGPT or GPT-3 Going to Take My Job?

Artificial intelligence, including ChatGPT and GPT-3, (collectively referred to as “AI”) has made remarkable advancements in various industries, and the legal field is no exception. As AI technologies continue to evolve at a remarkable pace, questions arise about their potential to replace attorneys. Recent headlines discussing layoffs and job freezes related to positions that can be “outsourced” to AI and the fact that the legal profession is viewed as a prime candidate for AI replacement, have caused quite a bit of concern amongst attorneys. However, despite the sensational headlines, it is crucial to understand that, while AI can enhance legal processes and increase efficiency, it is unlikely to completely replace the role of an in-house attorney. In this article, I will explore the relationship between AI and in-house attorneys, highlighting the collaborative potential and the unique value that attorneys bring to the table and how this will affect the in-house legal job market.

Can AI Replace In-House Attorneys?

In short, no. AI is a tool that can take on many of the tasks performed by in-house attorneys (in hole or in part), but AI cannot replace attorneys. AI can take on the process-driven grunt work, but cannot take on high-level thinking or human-level relationship building or counseling:

  1. AI as a Tool, Not a Substitute: AI in the legal field, such as natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, can automate repetitive tasks, streamline document review, and provide legal research support. These capabilities are invaluable for increasing productivity and reducing manual labor. However, AI should be seen as a tool that augments an attorney’s work rather than replacing it entirely. In-house attorneys possess critical thinking skills, legal expertise, and nuanced judgment that AI cannot replicate.
  1. Complex Legal Analysis and Strategy: Legal matters often involve complex nuances, gray areas, and subjective judgment that require human interpretation. In-house attorneys bring their experience and legal acumen to analyze intricate legal issues, assess risks, and develop strategic solutions. While AI can assist in data analysis and provide insights, it cannot replace the depth of analysis, legal reasoning, and contextual understanding that an in-house attorney offers.
  1. Relationship Building and Communication: In-house attorneys play a vital role in building relationships with clients, stakeholders, and other legal professionals. They provide counsel, negotiate, and represent the organization’s interests. Effective communication, empathy, and understanding human dynamics are essential in these interactions. AI, while efficient in processing data, lacks the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence necessary for these aspects of the legal profession.
  1. Ethical Considerations and Professional Judgment: The legal profession is rooted in ethics, and attorneys are bound by ethical rules and obligations. In-house attorneys navigate complex ethical dilemmas, maintain client confidentiality, and uphold professional integrity. While AI can provide legal information and precedents, it cannot make ethical judgments or navigate sensitive legal situations in the same way a human attorney can.
  1. Collaborative Partnership: Rather than seeing AI as a threat, in-house attorneys can embrace it as a valuable tool to enhance their work. By leveraging AI technologies, attorneys can streamline routine tasks, conduct faster research, and access vast amounts of legal information. This allows attorneys to focus on higher-level analysis, strategic decision-making, and delivering tailored legal advice. In-house attorneys can work collaboratively with AI systems, harnessing the benefits of both human expertise and machine intelligence.

While AI is quickly transforming the legal industry, the role of in-house attorneys remains essential and irreplaceable. In-house attorneys bring a unique combination of legal expertise, critical thinking, ethical judgment, and interpersonal skills that AI cannot replicate. Instead of fearing the rise of AI, in-house attorneys must embrace AI as a powerful tool for increased efficiency and productivity. By combining human legal acumen with AI technologies, attorneys can enhance their capabilities, deliver greater value to their organizations, and adapt to the evolving legal landscape.

Will AI Hurt the In-House Job Market?

While AI will not replace in-house attorneys, I am quite certain that AI will have great affect on the in-house legal job market. In short, there will be fewer in-house legal opportunities. This isn’t due companies replacing in-house attorneys with AI, it is because in-house legal departments are going to become much more efficient due to AI. This efficiency means that, from an industry perspective, there will be fewer in-house attorney, paralegal and legal administrative roles.

AI will be the best or worst thing ever for humanity.

-Elon Musk

A recent American Enterprise Institute article, Why Generative AI Could Have a Huge Impact on Economic Growth and Productivity, highlighted the fact that the legal industry will be particularly affected by recent and anticipated advancements in AI. In that article, it was shown that 44 percent of legal industry employment would be exposed to AI automation. This was the second highest share behind Office and Administrative Support:

Source: Why Generative AI Could Have a Huge Impact on Economic Growth and Productivity

Despite the fact that in-house attorneys cannot be replaced by AI, many of the tasks performed by in-house attorneys, especially junior in-house attorneys, are ripe for AI automation. The American Enterprise Institute article, when read in conjunction with numerous articles about job freezes and layoffs due to AI (IBM to pause hiring in plan to replace 7,800 jobs with AI, Bloomberg reports, Dropbox layoffs: AI to blame for 16% job cut, CEO says, Robots Are Replacing Humans at All These Wall Street Firms), is very real cause for concern, especially for in-house legal personnel.

GC NOTE: Legal leaders need to be ready for their CFOs to start asking questions about AI. As budgets tighten it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that, whether such legal AI automation potential is real or merely theoretical, finance departments and/or efficiency consultants will begin demanding budget/personnel cuts in-line with AI Automation “opportunities” like those shown in the graph above. Legal leaders need to be ready to respond and they need a plan to harness AI opportunities where they exist.

Conclusion:

AI likely will be a double edged sword in the legal industry. It will be abundant with opportunity for in-house legal departments seeking to do more (and in some areas do better) with less. AI could also be a nightmare for in-house job seekers who likely will see fewer and fewer in-house opportunities, especially at lower-level attorney and legal admin positions. I haven’t reached the point where I’m going to steer my kids toward manual labor jobs (manual labor isn’t threatened by AI Automation), but we all need to pay close attention to AI developments and be ready to pivot accordingly. To answer the question posed in the title…AI likely won’t take your in-house legal job, but it could take away some in-house legal job opportunities.

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