Layoffs: After A.I. Takes Our Legal Jobs, What Will Lawyers Do?

6 min readFeb 15, 2024

Sports need rules and referees. So does society. Interestingly, technology gave us more referees. So will we get more lawyers after layoffs?

TLDR: Yes, more legal professionals doing more legal work, but doing it differently. GenAI will displace traditional legal roles and tasks and ‘generate’ new ones. But first, we’ll need a rule change.

Queen’s Gambit

Here’s how we’ll structure this one: First, look at what lawyers do to understand why they become redundant. Then show what happened in other industries after tech came in. Finally, let’s explore the emerging roles impacting the legal field. Keep an open mind, and don’t let fear cloud your judgment.

Four years ago, we examined what lawyers do and why they will be displaced by GPT. Here’s a quick recap: a lawyer finds, drafts, interrogates, and explains legal data to a layperson. That is exactly the skills we saw GenAI master. A GPT can only perform these tasks accurately if it has access to correct legal data. To gain access, we have to change some laws. To improve accuracy, we should acknowledge our biases in legal data. Now, we are going through the displacement phase.

Understandably, it’s difficult to accept our skills becoming obsolete. Imagine how Gary Kasparov must have felt when he lost to Deep Blue. Interestingly, chess has become more popular than ever since then. In 2013, we wrote about Freestyle Chess and the symbioses of humans and machines. More recently, the pandemic-hit series “The Queen's Gambit” caused a resurgence in interest in chess. Ultimately, games are the best simulation of society, and we can use them to envision the future.

Top Corner

The Africa Cup of Nations (ACN) hosted 52 football matches, with only one notable VAR controversy. This was an amazing outcome for a tournament that has a rich history of horrible officiating. VAR is the acronym for Video Assistant Referee and is our favorite analogy for legal. This analogy is useful to reveal the flaws when using technology to decide right from wrong. And now we’ll use the same analogy to demonstrate how technology can create new jobs.

Originally, football only required one referee. Now we have up to twelve (12) officials, plus a fully automated referee managing major matches. Let’s list them here to illustrate this point:

  • Main Referee (1)
  • Assistant Referees (2)
  • Fourth Official (1)
  • VAR — Video Assistant Referee (1)
  • AVAR Assistant Video Assistant Referee (4)
  • Offside VAR — OVAR (1)
  • Reserve Assistant Referee (1)
  • VAR Technician (1)
  • Goal-Line technology GLT (1)

That is eight (8) new human positions for eleven jobs created by technology. We haven’t calculated how many people work on developing and setting up VAR. Fun fact: GLT, is the only automated official, and also the only official with a spotless record. Makes you think, doesn’t it? So, why has technology led to more arbiters in sports?

Bending Rules

On the streets, everyone can call a foul, and no one cares. A Champions League final attracts 450 million viewers. For context, this dwarfs the 123 million viewers of the last Superbowl. That is a lot of angry customers when bad calls mess up a match. Contrary to fake football, we watch the game and not the TV ads or Taylor Swift. To avoid controversy, sports implemented rule changes and allowed more technology into a high-stake emotional experience. Unfortunately, in law, we aren’t ready to make those changes.

There are valid reasons why the law has not gone fully automated. In ALI, we discussed some academic observations and technical limitations. Notably, neither Perplexity AI, Gemini, nor ChatGPT with Webpilot were able to provide the 52-match number at the ACN. However, once we’ve fixed those bugs, and changed the rules, we’ll be watching an entirely new ballgame. In a world divided, can we agree to change the rules?

Let’s pick our favorite subject: Taxes. Why, and how much, has roughly remained the same for as old as civilization. To clarify “how much”: the poor always pay more than the rich. Even though the world is in constant conflict on everything, we did agree on one thing: a global minimum tax for companies. Imagine: 138 countries agreed they want this. This global tax treaty is a win for the legal profession. It shows that with our skills we can achieve peace. Especially now that peace has become so precious, and is in increasingly short supply.

Legal Layoffs

Lawyers and other legal professionals are trained peace-makers. This role extends into all facets of politics, business, and society. So the shift is not what we do, but how we do it. Currently, we’re seeing these tasks emerge in related areas:

Chief AI Officers (CAIOs) are gaining traction as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more integral to businesses. A CAIO can help companies leverage AI to outperform rivals. Eventually, AI will build AI, so you don’t need to know what RAG is. What you do need is strategic regulatory and security expertise. Essentially, AI will replicate but will not regulate itself.

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) is a process used by financial institutions to prevent financial crime and uncover any risks. I overheard this during a radio broadcast: Dutch banks annually hire more fraud fighters than the government can hire police officers. Point: policing digital crimes is harder than we can handle.

Fact-checkers verify the accuracy of claims made in public discourse. Currently, lucky lawyers do the same while working with AI models trained for legal work. Their job is to double-check the outputs for inaccuracies. They are lucky because it’s now unaffordable for most. Eventually, legal professionals will be supervising inputs and verifying outputs from law bots. Remember in legal, hallucinations can also be a feature, not a bug.

Extra Time

Debatable studies showed that machines can negotiate and review contracts more efficiently than humans. Undoubtedly, machines draft faster. What about legal research and legal briefs? According to former president Obama, AI is already on a 4th-year law associate level. This is similar to what presidential candidate Al Gore said about eDiscovery over ten years ago. We have seen this movie before.

Inevitably, every traditional legal task will be done by a legal operating system. That’s what AI is: an operating system to perform actions at scale. The legal industry will develop its operating system, with special action models which can also run off-grid. Now imagine, who would we need to work on this?

To summarize: If sport is any indication, society needs about eight (8x) times more legal professionals than we currently have. We’ll also need a lot more automated legal arbiters to maintain peace. And they all need to be developed and sense-checked.

In closing: It’s disingenuous to keep saying to lawyers that they will always be smarter than AI, no matter how many trillion tokens it has. Legal professionals are the best-paid professionals on the planet. But only in London, New York, San Francisco, and other major metropolitan areas. And only involving very high-stake emotional transactions. So a lucky few get to play in the Champions League of Law. The rest of us will be running the streets, practicing the law we love.

Image Courtesy: DALL·E 3 by OpenAI using Glibatree Art Designer and the content of this analysis.

Originally published at on February 15, 2024.




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