AI meets legal recruitment

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Threat or opportunity? An AI expert gives us the lowdown on AI in the legal world

James Westmacott, March 2024

Type ‘Will AI replace lawyers?’ into Google Search, and you’ll immediately find yourself confronted with hundreds if not thousands of links and articles asking the million-dollar question. It seems everybody in the legal industry is talking about AI its prevalence on lawyers' minds understandably inducing a real sense of panic and trepidation about the industry's future. With questions like ‘will AI make lawyers redundant?popping up left, right, and center, it can be difficult to find any clarity of thought over how AI will truly impact the legal world. Thankfully, we caught up with an expert on AI within the legal space, Mike Heise, who shared his thoughts on the future of AI within law, and why it should instead be viewed as an opportunity to enhance rather than replace lawyers’ work. Offering advice to laterals looking to navigate a career in law too, Heise’s wealth of knowledge stems from his background working across industries and sectors such as law, finance, and defense. He currently works for a recruitment agency Lateral Link who are looking at ways of best utilizing AI to help law firms and candidates best find each other’s perfect match.  


The benefits of AI


“When you free yourself up from those mundane tasks, you get to start thinking in different directions.” 



Whilst the predominant fear is that AI is going to replace people, Heise instead argues that it’s all about creating efficiencies, whereby you can take a task that may have historically taken 3-5 days and skittle it down into minutes. It’s therefore“those non-substantive boring tasks, or rather the repetitive tasks that need to be done from a legal standpoint that AI will replace – but even those are still going to need human supervision, Heise details. It’s certainly not difficult to understand why the imposing threat of AI appears to loom large within the legal industry given its heavy reliance on document-based work. But whilst disruption is likely, many within the industry instead see it as an opportunity. Perhaps it’s therefore better to describe the impending alterations by AI as merely changing how lawyers work, rather than replacing or superseding their skillset. Think of tasks like doc review, due diligence, reviewing contracts, managing files, and proofreading. These are the tasks that most legal professionals would brand tedious and time-consuming, and Heise believes that it is here where AI can be the greatest help to the industry. By reducing the time spent on more menial tasks, AI will allow lawyers the opportunity to engage in yet more substantive work. He adds, When you free yourself up from those mundane tasks, you get to start thinking in different directions.” Thus, the time, energy, and mental bandwidth spent on such tasks can now be redirected elsewhere, saving one’s attention span and creative juices for more purposeful and engaging work. Whilst the traditional administrative duties will always remain important, Heise argues that by freeing lawyers from such work through AI, the more interesting substantive work will instead take on new meaning.  

Asked about future projections on AI more generally, Heise enthuses, It's really excitingI've been through different technological evolutions when I started programmingThe Internet came along, and we all thought, the internet? What is this thing?! And then I was part of the move to cloud and we thought what does this cloud thing do?” But the main strength of such technologies within the legal industry was that they “offered accessibility to technologies so you didn't have to go invest in and purchase the giant infrastructure required to perform such tasks.” And so, Heise believes that the current iteration of technological transformation through AI will be no different. “I look at this as another evolution and it's really, really exciting.” In fact, “I see AI being able to do things we haven’t yet thought of” and “people will be amazed by what it's going to be able to do.” Generative AI too “is a particularly exciting realm for people to dive into.”  

One major criticism of AI and its advocates is that it often ignores the human touch that remains unequivocally crucial to lawyer work. Whether it’s establishing client relationships through empathy and personality or writing and creating documents with a degree of idiosyncratic flair, it’s important we don’t slip into a state of blissful unawareness regarding the uniqueness and subtleties human beings can bring to their workAlways one step ahead, Heise instead suggests that despite AI’s logical benefits, the human touch can never truly be replicated by technology. He explains, lot of people, like writers”(us included) – “feel like, oh my God, it's going to replace me! But you know, writers and people in the arts bring a personality to their writing and to their art” which cannot ever be replaced. So, “I’m excited because I think it’s a great way for those people with real personalities to standout!” Perhaps the best way to look at it is that AI won’t replace lawyers; it will instead make them more accessible, and according to Heise, those who embrace such technological transformation and those willing to “learn to use this stuff, are the ones who're going to be successful." As such, “I just view AI as kind of any other tool to make things faster and to make things easier in order to leverage existing data, and to find relationships that the human mind might necessarily know on an unconscious level. Put simply, “AI is a just a tool for making things to perform analysis faster,” which Heise suggests is probably “the best way to describe it!” 


Here comes Haistack...


“…shorten the time it takes to identify a candidate.”


But AI is not just being used to transform the way in which lawyers work. Whilst reducing the time and cost of basic quotidian tasks remains important, the industry can also utilize AI from a recruitment perspective, giving candidates opportunities to better market themselves in addition to firms enjoying refined technological candidate pools. So, how is this gap being bridged? And who is out there matching suitable candidates with the law firm of their dreams? Enter Haistack Law Firm – platform powered by Lateral Link using AI to identify candidates that would bet he right fit for law firms. Heise explains, What we’re trying to do and what we always have done is we look at a firm and we look at the attributes of the lawyers and attorneys in that firm. We look at where they went to law school, we look at things like did they write for the law journal? Did they have honors? And we look at if we have the information where they used to workand essentially, we build a profile of the firm. And then we take that profile that we've built and we project it out to everyone who's not in the firm. What that does is it creates a subset of attorneys to search in order to shorten the time it takes to identify a candidate so that firms can minimize the time between when the job opens and when the candidate is found. This way, law firms can get to profit recovery sooner. Haistack then “filters the criteria” for the type of candidates the firms are looking for. Taking the job description, location, and specialties of the job into account, Haistack “develops a list of candidates who are fits” for each job based on an internal scoring algorithm. Then “we tell people – (both the firms and the candidate) – why they’re a good match.” To summarize, “what we’re doing is saying to firms, look, we’ve found this person, and we think they would fit into your firm based on this profile we’ve created. That's the nuts and bolts of how Haistack AI works!” 


“We're using those attributes to then match to best match you to jobs.” 


So how can hopeful laterals out there take advantage of what Haistack has to offer? The main thing attorneys can be doing at this stage, according to Heise, is maximizing their profile on their firm’s site. Heise explains, What we do is we scrape the AmLaw200 and look at their public facing sites,” and so building out your bio is what remains the most likely thing to get you noticed. Heise’s advice is to enrich that as much as you can in terms of industries you work in, any awards you’ve won (including at law school), because we scrape that information, and we pull it into our databases. The more that can be enriched obviously the better we can match you with potential jobs that are out there.” Ultimately, it’s all about identifying your skills and qualities compared to what the job is looking for. Soif you're interacting with certain regulatory agencies, that's always good to put in your bio. Or if you're working in specific industries. Or, if you have, say, a postgraduate degree of any type, law or not – even if it’s in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering – those types tend to be more IP focused within law.” Those are always good to have in your bio, and that allows us to pull those out and get your profile noticed. Heise continues, What we're doing is we're using those attributes to then match to best match you to jobs within whatever firm.” Heise believes that AI can also be utilized to ensure maximum fairness when it comes to assessing a variety of candidates. We are matching candidates purely based on credentials, so it's truly a blind match!” In “no way does race, ethnicity, gender etc. enter into the equation meaning it’s the fairest way that you can try and to match people.