40 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – SEPTEMBER 2023 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM THE BACK PAGE AI & LAWYER TRAINING: THE NEW DRIVERS OF PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT BY DAVID CURLE Law firms’ successful adaptation to the increased use of advanced artificial intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT and other forms of generative AI, may hinge upon how firms change their approach to lawyer training and development. The legal profession finds itself in a new wave of hype about artificial intelligence (AI) due to the popularity of ChatGPT and other forms of generative AI. There’s no question that AI has now made significant inroads in legal practice, with machine learning methods currently at work in eDiscovery, contract review and analysis, document generation, and legal research. The amazing interest in the publicfacing ChatGPT, and ongoing discussions about how it might be leveraged in legal work, is largely driven by the fact that anyone can test it out and use it today. Even in its current, fairly primitive form and with all its limitations, it’s easy for lawyers to see how generative AI could take on some of the tasks that human lawyers now handle. Training and development Traditional training of new lawyers in law firms can be described as informal mentoring combined with throwing young associates into routine tasks such as document reviews. However, what happens when technology automates many of those routine tasks? A 2022 study, the Litera Technology in M&A Report, looked at some of the impacts of AI-based tools on firms’ M&A practice. On the one hand, most agreed that using AI in M&A deals creates new career paths, and freeing young associates from menial tasks gives them time to focus on their analytical and advisory skills. Almost as many respondents, however, thought that using AI-based tools in document review makes it harder for young lawyers to learn the craft because they don’t get the experience of identifying and extracting contract terms. It’s an odd paradox that AI tools make legal work more efficient and accurate but might also make it harder for young lawyers to learn their craft. The struggles that young lawyers have when tossed into a sea of documents that need review, and the realisation that they are in over their heads, is a source of that cognitive friction. Dealing with cognitive friction in legal work provides pathways to learning. It’s a “valuable catalyst for growth, as it encourages critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills by pushing individuals to engage more deeply with the task at hand,” says Josh Kubicki, Director of Legal Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Assistant Professor of Legal Practice at the University of Richmond. The answer, says Kubicki, is a more intentional approach to learning and development. “How can we manufacture cognitive friction in a controlled environment? Well, then you start looking at structured learning programs.” Such programs are more interactive, planned, and just-in-time. They move beyond the legal profession’s preferred model of sitting in a room watching someone narrate a PowerPoint deck, and instead they tie training to the work at hand and vary the pace, medium, and format. And some firms are already putting that kind of intentionality into practice. However, it’s not just the training challenges presented by AI that are driving them there. Other drivers of change Interestingly, the growth of AI is not the only factor pushing law firms to take a closer look at how they train associates. The pandemic, and the technological accommodations that many law firms had to make to enable remote work, have also had a big impact. In addition, law firms are increasingly influenced by trends and research in learning and development outside the legal industry. Even before the pandemic forced the issue, many organisations outside the legal profession were already re-examining their learning and development efforts. Recognising the importance of training in employee satisfaction and retention, a number of new techniques had become commonplace, including: • Continuous learning, a focus on embedding learning throughout an employee’s experience. • Blended learning, where classroomstyle learning gives way to training that combines some online portions, which users can access at their convenience, as well as in-person experiences. • Increased use of technology to create more engaging and interactive online learning tools that go beyond simply transmitting a canned curriculum of information. • Emphasis on soft skills training, including critical thinking, problemsolving, and creativity. Law firms are starting to professionalise the management of their learning activities. Firms are taking a more strategic view of lawyer training that recognises its role in building value. David Curle is an independent journalist and analyst, focused on the legal services industry and on the role of technology in modern legal practice and systems. A version of this piece was originally published by the Thomson Reuters Institute. Reprinted with permission. Asian Legal Business is seeking thought-provoking opinion pieces from readers on subjects ranging from Asia’s legal industry to law firm management, technology and others. Email for submission guidelines.