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Legal Talent & Inclusion

Navigating the AI frontier: Taking a holistic approach to legal talent management

Tom Snavely  Principal Consultant / Advisory Group / Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

Tom Snavely  Principal Consultant / Advisory Group / Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

The immense potential of generative AI to change the legal profession isn't limited to operations — the way legal organizations hire, retain, and train future lawyers could be altered as well

In the ever-evolving landscape of the legal profession, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), and more specifically generative AI (Gen AI), stands as a significant catalyst for change within the profession. However, it’s crucial that law firms’ chief talent officers (CTOs) and other members of the C-suite navigate these changes with a focus on nurturing the well-being of their firms’ legal professionals.

While some view AI as a potential enhancer of employee engagement, others express concerns about its negative effects. That’s why it’s imperative for law firm leaders to seize the opportunities these new technologies bring while also addressing concerns head-on.

Thomson Reuters recent Future of Professionals report offers guidance for the development of strategies initiatives firms could undertake, based on this research and additional insight from interviews with CTOs, as the firm leaders focus their discussions on talent management challenges in the new Gen AI frontier.

Clearly, the data speaks volumes: Many legal professionals predict AI and Gen AI will become primary catalysts for change within the profession, with their impact extending beyond the tools used to the very fabric of the industry. However, a lot of the uncertainty lies in their effect on talent, specifically concerning motivation, mental health, and well-being.

First, there are several steps that CTOs and law firm leaders can take to help successfully guide their firms through initial interaction with these new technologies, such as:

Embracing Gen AI to promote value — Emphasize the intrinsic value legal professionals bring to their clients and encourage a culture that celebrates accomplishments and purpose, while at the same time mitigating fears associated with AI. For example, leaders could point out how using Gen AI may ultimately free up legal professionals’ time to spend on the higher-level work they enjoy. Also, in those early days, develop policies and systems for fail-safe technology use that avoids the feared inaccuracies that Gen AI contains, helping to reduce the risk of human error that many legal professionals constantly fear.

Addressing financial and job security concerns — Acknowledge and proactively communicate the firm’s commitment to job security amid AI and Gen AI integration. More transparency in this regard can alleviate the anxieties surrounding the impact on uncertain job roles.

Supporting work-life balance with AI — Ease concerns by pointing out that leveraging AI not only can enhance productivity but also facilitate a transition towards shorter working hours. Follow that up with the implementation of training programs to smooth the learning curve associated with new technologies.

Empowering employees through change — Recognize some employees will exhibit discomfort with change, especially early on, and actively involve firms’ legal professionals in the adaptation process. Communication, clarity, and a sense of ownership can transform uncertainty into a purposeful journey.

Given the impact of these technologies, the legal profession finds itself at a crossroads, which presents a pivotal opportunity for leaders to steer their teams towards resilience. By addressing these well-being concerns proactively, firms will be able to not only enhance the professional lives of their team member but also ensure the longevity and success of the firm in the AI-driven legal landscape.

Charting new trajectories

As AI use evolves and disrupts every stage of the talent journey, strategic leadership is critical in reshaping talent models and training strategies. Law firm leaderships’ guidance is essential in navigating this transformation.

Revolutionizing entry into the legal profession

Our research highlights a consensus among legal professionals that the nature of training at the university or college level needs a paradigm shift. Law firm leaderships’ guidance is essential in navigating this transformation. Again, there are a few key steps that should be taken to make this journey smoother, including:

Expanding skillsets beyond technical competence — Collaborate with educational institutions to ensure legal professionals are equipped with not only technical skills but also with critical thinking and advisory skills. The evolving role of lawyers demands a broader skill set that extends beyond traditional legal knowledge and acumen.

Providing ethics education — Incorporate education on the ethical considerations surrounding AI usage. Equip future legal professionals with the knowledge and principles necessary to navigate the ethical dimensions of AI in the legal arena.

Embracing non-traditional qualifications — Anticipate a shift in hiring criteria as new roles become necessary. Prepare for those professionals who may be entering the legal field without traditional qualifications by reassessing firms’ hiring practices and emphasizing the importance of advanced skills and adaptability.

Adapting training for junior lawyers — Redefine training programs to balance foundational legal knowledge with hands-on experience for firms’ more junior attorneys. Recognize the potential for accelerated skill development as these younger lawyers focus on more challenging tasks with AI assistance.

Offering continuous skill development for all — AI demands ongoing skill development for all legal professionals, so it is critical to establish comprehensive training programs that cover both technology skills and the broader expertise required in the evolving legal landscape. Utilize AI-powered tools to introduce self-directed training programs as well.

Shaping a resilient future for legal talent

In navigating the AI frontier, law firm leaders’ commitment to a holistic approach that addresses both the well-being of legal professionals and the transformation of talent models is paramount. Just a few key steps taken by leaders — such fostering a positive culture, embracing change while allaying fears, and leading the charge in redefining talent strategies — can help position law firms not just to survive but to thrive in the era of AI as they strive to re-shape a resilient future for legal talent.

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