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What Skills and Competencies will Legal Education Deliver to the Legal Market in the Era of AI?

Denise Guillen


  • While concerns persist about AI potentially replacing lawyers, a panel of practitioners suggested AI's role as a supplementary tool rather than a replacement for human judgment. 
  • Lawyers should leverage AI to enhance efficiency and accuracy in tasks like document creation, research, and compliance, while also recognizing the need to cultivate expertise in AI technologies.
  • Lawyers urged to position themselves as experts in their field, recognizing themselves irreplaceable.
What Skills and Competencies will Legal Education Deliver to the Legal Market in the Era of AI?
Gary John Norman via Getty Images

On May 3, 2023, Eugenia Castrillon, Vice Dean of the IE Law School Madrid, moderated a panel of experts at the 2023 ILS Conference comprised by Toni Jaegar-Fine, Senior Counselor Fordham University School of Law, Margarita Oliva Sainz de Aja, Partner at DLA Piper, and Denise Guillen Lara, Vice President and General Counsel of NielsenIQ for Latin America.

Invaluable sights were shared by the three panelists, each of whom offered different perspectives on the use of Artificial Intelligence. A special focus was placed on the skills and competencies that AI will contribute to the legal market as well as the impact and consequences of its use in the short, medium and long term.

As we all know, “AI systems work by ingesting large amounts of labeled training data, analyzing the data for correlations and patterns, and using these patterns to make predictions about future states. In this way, a chatbot that is fed examples of text can learn to generate lifelike exchanges with people, or an image recognition tool can learn to identify and describe objects in images by reviewing millions of examples. New, rapidly improving generative AI techniques can create realistic text, images, music and other media”

AI programming focuses on four cognitive skills: “(i) Learning. This aspect of AI programming focuses on acquiring data and creating rules for how to turn it into actionable information. The rules, which are called algorithms, provide computing devices with step-by-step instructions for how to complete a specific task; (ii) Reasoning. This aspect of AI programming is designed to continually fine-tune algorithms and ensure they provide the most accurate result possible and; (iv) Creativity. This aspect of AI uses neural networks, rules-based systems, statistical methods and other AI techniques to generate new images, new text, new music and new ideas”.

The use of new technologies—including now AI systems—have been a concern within the legal profession for many years. In the case of AI, some speculate about whether the legal profession will disappear altogether. The event’s panelists agreed that the legal profession will not disappear, but will transform and evolve. The panelists analyzed the pros and cons of utilizing AI in the legal field and concluded that this technology shot not be forbidden or banned.

However, AI should only supplement—not replace—existing frame- works and resources. The panelists also recognized the importance and value of the use of AI in repetitive tasks where humans add no value. Indeed, in certain situations using AI might improve quality and speed and decrease costs. This means that certain positions or activities will likely be replaced by AI. However, for more complex problem-solving, the panelists opined that AI will not replace lawyers.

AI is not yet equipped to handle all legal problem-solving. For example, AI might use inaccurate or outdated datasets to solve a problem— or not recognize its own biases or errors. As such, the panelists believe that the legal profession should use AI only as a supplementary tool or resource and emphasized that AI’s input should not be considered as the “only truth” to solve a problem. Indeed, legal experts believe that “gone are the days when law education used to be all about rote learning and theoretical knowledge… Despite the high investment that technology demands, we need to embrace it and use it to our advantage by implementing the required legislations to safeguard the interests of the users”.

All of the panelists cautioned about the ethics in AI processes, agreeing that AI does not exercise “ethical behavior” because ethics are inherently human. Moreover, given that concepts such as “good” and “bad” have varying definitions in different countries, cultures and religions, AI will analyze any given dataset with different and conflicting points of view on that is “right”. As such, any AI inputs, calculations and results may ultimately be biased and unethical. In addition, while lawyers consider context in their analyses, AI does not, not to mention the singularity, originality, uniqueness and individuality of given circumstances or background. AI cannot replace the contributions that lawyers make through these human traits.

None of the panelists believe that AI will cause the legal profession to disappear completely; however, they agree that repetitive legal tasks will be replaced by technology. As such, lawyers must identify those activities that are closely related to human traits that cannot be replaced by technology or AI. Some examples include empathy, caring for others, compassion, ethical standards, networking, strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, personal human interactions, warmth, human touch, judgment with context, wisdom gained from experience, deeper knowledge, personal engagement and motivation, thought leadership, innovation, futurist thought, personal connections with key players, integrity, diversity of gender, diversity of culture, diversity of thought, self-awareness, jokes, negotiation skills, business acumen, political acumen, and so many other human traits that only human lawyers possess. It is these traits that make human lawyers “hungry” to seek justice, make a difference, transcend adversity, change the lives of others, and succeed, all of which are not goals that technology and AI can pursue (for now). Lawyers should immediately start looking at the legal activities that involve human traits and start “redesigning” them as AI moves rapidly in the direction of eliminating unnecessary positions in the profession.

The panelists also invited lawyers to take advantage of AI and other technological tools to make tasks faster, more accurate, and cost effective. Some of examples include systems dedicated to document creation and automation, electronic signature, budget management, contract management, integrity and compliance trainings, record retention, e-discovery, due diligence related activities, background checks, legal research, litigation management, among others. The panelists shared insights from authors such as Professor Mari Sako, who co-led the research into the impact of AI on law firm business models. Professor Sako explained: “We’re starting to see a clear division of expertise between lawyers who are involved in the development of AI lawtech as producers, and those who mainly use the technology as consumers. As more lawyers develop their technology-related skills, it will be interesting to see what impact these changes have on the wider legal profession. It is possible, that in future, lawyers with these skills stop regarding themselves as being traditional lawyers, and instead regard themselves as being part of an emerging profession of legal technologists.4 Other experts in the field such as Bo Ma and Yuhuan Hou have added that__”[a]rtificial intelligence has brought new impetus for legal education from three dimensions: providing new technologies, establishing new models, and shaping new paradigms”.

As such, “legal education must also upgrade the concept of cultivating professionals, make full use of the support of big data, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies, clarify the goal of cultivating versatile professionals who ‘have the ability of legal thinking + can use artificial intelligence technology’, bolster the ranks of teachers who not only ‘understand the technology’ but also can ‘foster a new generation of people with sound values and ethics’”.

Finally, the panelists shared an article by Dorie Clark and Tomas Chamorro– Premuzic in which the authors proposed that all legal professionals should be questioning how we can use these tools to improve ourselves and make our skills stand out. Clark and Chamorro-Premuzic suggested five strategies we can use to generate “unique value”, including investing time and energy into real-world relationships and developing recognized industry expertise. Generating your “unique value” allows you to become “relevant” and involved in activities that are predictable and repeatable, and that only lawyers can complete because they involve human traits that cannot be replicated by tech tools. In order to reinforce your “unique value” in this post-pandemic world, consider avoiding virtual participations. Consider pursuing experiences that foster empathy, understanding, and personal connection—even with opponents. Matters are often solved because the lead counsel knew who to contact.

All of the thoughts shared by the panelists invited lawyers to redesign their “professional legal brand”, position themselves as experts in the field, and recognize that the value they bring is original, unique and up to high quality and ethical standards. These human traits cannot be replicated by AI.