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Innovation Will Not Reduce Law Jobs, Says Dentons Boss

Joseph Andrews LawFuel
Image: NY Times

The head of the largest law firm in the world, Dentons, believes that new technology will not lead to widespread job losses in the legal profession as many have feared and anticipated.

The Times report that Joseph Andrews, heading a firm that is the largest in the world by the  number of lawyers it employs, says he believes more lawyers will be employed as a result of innovation and the wider use of technology such as artificial intelligence.

Joseph Andrew says that firms should not fear the rising role of technology

Andrew, 57, a former chairman of the Democratic Party’s governing body in the United States, was reported by The Times to say that it was crucial that the profession continued to invest in technology and innovation.

Dentons itself has had to handle cutbacks, chopping 60 positions across 22 offices as reported by AbovetheLaw in March.
Major changes in the profession are being increasingly anticipated with virtual law firms, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other applications that are rapidly altering the way the law is practised and the way legal services are delivered.

A report from Deloitte last year predicted that about 114,000 jobs in the legal sector would be automated over the next 20 years.  Andrews however remains optimistic about job prospects, telling The Times:

“What we have demonstrated it is not a question of lawyers or technology,” he said. “If you have the breadth and depth we have then we will need more lawyers as well as more technology.

“The new technology will mean that people who might not have sought a large corporate law firm as they were concerned about the speed or the price will be able to use that organisation.

“So you will need more lawyers at big firms which have the levels of sophistication that others do not.”

Andrew pointed to Nextlaw Labs, the technology arm of Dentons, and Nextlaw Ventures, its technology investment business, as key planks of the firm’s future. Science Group, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market in London, last week agreed to pay £13 million to buy Technology Sciences Group, a specialist in software for pesticide regulation, from Dentons.

Andrew said: “The theory for Labs is that we need to be ahead of the curve, ahead even of our clients in finding solutions, the technologies which will best work and how we can modify them to make them more universal.

Whatever may occur, the fact is the law is changing rapidly and new technology is certainly altering the way it is practised.

As an interview with the New York Times in June this year, firms and people need to move fast and be ready to change. You have to “root out people who slam the door on creativity,” he said.

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