Lawyers With AI Skills Can Get ‘Up to 49% Higher Pay’ – PwC

The new AI Jobs Barometer report by Big Four firm PwC has found that lawyers in roles where ‘AI skills’ are a key factor are able to get a pay premium of 49% in the US and 27% in the UK.

In fact, across a range of roles, from systems analysts to marketing staff, lawyers were a group singled out as likely to get higher pay if they were able to get to grips with AI needs. In comparison, accountants – another key professional role inside all large businesses – saw only a 18% premium in the US and 5% for the UK for AI skills.

First – why is this the case? PwC doesn’t really go into the specifics of the legal aspect, but this site would suggest that it’s likely because of the additional legal complexities created by AI, especially generative AI, hence lawyers with such skills and knowledge are more valuable.

One only has to read the media beyond the world of legal tech to see the accumulating challenges created by such powerful technology for corporates and governments, from voice cloning and copyright issues on one side, to privacy, accuracy, and data control on the other.

Moreover, as AI becomes more vital to how inhouse lawyers work, knowing how to get the most out of the technology for their company’s internal legal processes also will be an advantage. So, perhaps there’s a double benefit here.

PwC data 2024.

Would this also be the case for law firms? Tricky. Lawyers have generally always been paid based on their rank in the pyramid, which is modified by time-based bonuses. Then at partner level it’s a profit share. So, it’s hard to see how AI skills can fit into this equation – although they could be a bonus modifier perhaps. Moreover, law firms have teams of IT and innovation experts who are there to provide these specific tech-based skills to the lawyers. Perhaps then what this means is that legal innovation experts inside law firms with ‘AI skills’ will be able to command higher wages now?

Of course, what are ‘AI skills’? It’s a broad area, but knowing how genAI works, the ins and outs of prompting and refining responses, how data flows work, the risk and compliance issues related to what AI can do now, plus some good old understanding of core machine learning and data science foundations, could come under the umbrella, and probably a lot more. AI skills may end up being defined more by the specific employer than the market, based on what they need most.

How broad is this impact? Well, the question boils down to how many companies with inhouse teams need someone with proof of expertise in AI-related matters? At present, it’s probably a fraction of the global whole. Certainly large tech companies will want at least some of their inhouse team to be proficient in genAI, its use and its wider legal ramifications, and hence salary premiums will likely take effect there first.

But, that will likely change over time as genAI becomes a part of every business in the world, with varying degrees of importance depending upon the sector.

And, going back to law firms for a moment. When it comes to lateral hires, of senior associates or partners, having your ‘AI chops’ my well count a lot in your favour, again both from the perspective of expert knowledge on the internal use of those tools, e.g. on how to leverage such tools in M&A, or eDiscovery, and also on advising clients on issues that connect to AI compliance, whether related to data, copyright, or areas that are just emerging such as deep fakes.

To conclude, we should not get too carried away yet, as the number of lawyers where employers are specifically demanding ‘AI skills’ is likely quite small. That said, the numbers will grow and even so, for those who do sense a demand for their skills, there will be more money right now.

P.S. one curious finding was that lawyers with AI skills in Singapore may get 5% less pay, which AL assumes is the result of a very small sample there, rather than a bias against legal AI – let’s hope so.

The report can be found here.

If this subject is of interest – and if you work in the legal field it’s arguably going to be vital to the future development of the profession and your role – then come along to the Legal Innovators California conference on June 4 and 5 in San Francisco to learn more. Tickets are available now.

Legal Innovators California conference, June 4 + 5. 

The event will take place in San Francisco with Day One focused on law firms, and Day Two on inhouse and legal ops. We have many great speakers, along with a group of pioneering legal tech companies and service providers – you can see some more about our speakers here. It will be two great days of education and inspiration! Join us! 

For ticket information, please see here. Come along to what will be a great event in San Francisco focused on how the legal world is changing.