As we launch into 2018 with renewed vigour, the press continues to be full of stories chronicling the likely impact on jobs by the advance of Artificial Intelligence. The legal profession itself is not immune to this with a recent article in the January 2018 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology suggesting that nearly 39% of legal jobs will be automated over the next 20 years. Any legal work that relies heavily on collating and analysing legal opinions and outcomes is particularly vulnerable with the relentless advance of intuitive technology that can identify and process data trends in seconds.

And what about those of us who are clustered in the legal recruitment profession? What will be the future for us when an artificially intelligent machine can throw up candidate options faster than we can finish our morning cup of tea?

Well technology has already revolutionised many aspects of recruitment with employers now able to advertise opportunities on multiple online job sites globally in seconds. At the back end, sophisticated software programmes help filter through candidates using sophisticated word recognition programmes that can create shortlists based on trigger criteria very quickly. However, despite the many advances in artificial intelligence the recruitment industry continues to boom. Artificial intelligence has undoubtedly helped improve the speed of identifying relevant candidates but obtaining raw candidate data alone from CVs and other databases is only part of the equation. The “true” recruitment professional is more than an analyst cross referencing data, they are there to make informed candidate judgements using a variety of means in what is and will always be a “people related” business. They are true knowledge experts in their sector and can guide candidates accordingly.

In reality, the real determinants of how well someone will fare in their career relate to attitude and energy more so than qualifications alone, especially where their work involves interacting with others. Whilst there are some online psychometric assessments that can help indicate your personality type and likely style of working, this is no substitute for getting to know someone yourself as a recruiter. Although it is not always possible for recruitment professionals to have long established relationships with everyone they represent, having interaction with candidates and getting a sense of where they are coming from is vital if your role is to be meaningful.

Similarly, having an understanding of the type of culture that exists in a given law firm or the other lawyers a candidate might be working with if they were successful, helps to build up a more informed decision making tree for those having to make selection decisions. Artificial intelligence may be able to crunch data in milliseconds but there is still no substitute for dialogue with people whether they are candidates or clients as recruitment represents an emotional as well as a financial investment for both parties.

In truth, whether it is in the legal sector or elsewhere, there will always be a shortage of high calibre candidates with the right personality attributes. We often spend too much time specifying whether candidates should have 4 or 5 years PQE but fail to readily understand the type of personality fit that will work best in a given environment. Our knowledge of our clients and candidates should help us make a more informed judgment on a likely selection match. This in turn should improve the likelihood of a sustainable and successful placement. It is therefore the “Emotionally intelligent” recruiter who embraces modern technology that will always come through.

Building relationships with candidates and understanding the needs of clients are elements of our work that can never readily be replaced by Artificial Intelligence. The best recruiters embrace modern technology but have the knowledge, influence and personality to find candidates others including in house recruiters cannot reach.

Chris Lipscomb is a Director at Blue Pencil Legal and the former HR Director of Al Tamimi, the largest regional law firm in the Middle East. Aside from advising clients on suitable candidates for their opportunities, Blue Pencil provides interview skills training and coaching/development for lawyers in the UK and globally.