Law Firm Partners Ready to Replace Associates With Robots


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How willing are law firm partners to replace first year associates with robots? The results are in (PDF), and it doesn’t look good for first year associates. Altman Weil, a legal consulting company, has just released its annual “Law Firms in Transition” survey of 320 large law firm managing partners. The survey measured things like firm optimism, growth, and financial performance. The bonus question asked how willing law firms would be to not just use artificial intelligence, but replace personnel with it. Here’s the survey question and responses:


I guess the whole prediction about how robots aren’t going to replace lawyers isn’t going to pan out after all. Paralegals seem to be first on the chopping block, followed by first year associates, and on up the food chain. Only 20.3% believe that computers will never replace lawyers. Maybe the legal singularity is closer than we think.

Featured image: “Cyber communication design concept. Male robot and human holding hands with handshake.” from Shutterstock.


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  • legalofficeguru

    I wouldn’t hold my breath here. The unwritten part of the question, “Can you envision a law-focused ‘Watson’ replacing any of the following timekeepers in your firm in the next 5 to 10 years?”, is “… without the firm having to train it”, which is the assumption driving such overwhelmingly positive responses. After all, we’re talking about a profession that still hasn’t widely adopted document assembly technology more than two decades after its invention and complains that Microsoft Word isn’t “intuitive”.

    • That’s a really good point.

      Although for the record, Word isn’t even logical, much less intuitive.

      • legalofficeguru

        What you mean by “intuitive” and what most of these people mean by it are probably two different things. Your definition probably tracks the dictionary’s one a bit closer.

  • Paul Spitz

    Of course, if you replace all the first year associates with robots, eventually you won’t have any second or third year associates, and ultimately, no partners either.

    • TheRagingScotsman

      HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!! You seem to be the only one here who gets that particularly savory irony. BRAVO!

  • Cat Teague

    Do you think that robot time can be billed at the same rate as a paralegal, much less an attorney (first year associate or otherwise)?

    • We should start seeing some interesting hourly rates when robots can do in microseconds what used to take weeks of junior-associate time.