Researching Professional Careers in the Age of AI

Insight April 16, 2024

On April 1-2, 2024, the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession hosted academics from around the country who study the evolving nature of professions. In particular, the group was animated by the future of research on professional careers, and how new technologies like AI may drastically change such professions. The two-day workshop, held under the Chatham House Rule, focused on what we have learned from our research about how structures and inequalities shape professional careers, and how the strategies used by individual professionals both reify and challenge these structures. On the second day, participants looked forward to how AI and other new technologies may – or may not – disrupt these existing patterns, and the theories and methodologies we might employ to make this determination. In addition to law, participants discussed professions such as healthcare, consulting, business, academia, and more.

You can see the Agenda, including key discussion questions here.

Man presenting data before group of people.

The event was inspired by the publication ofThe Making of Lawyers’ Careers: Inequality and Opportunity in the American Legal Profession (UChicago Press, 2023), a collection of essays drawn from the data and interviews contained in the two-decade longitudinal study, After the JD project. On day one, participants introduced the theory, methods, and conclusions presented in the work and then used the examples of sequence analysis and qualitative interviews as a way of framing the broader discussion about how other participants focused on different professions have studied the interplay between structures and strategies. On the second day, the discussion looked at what we know – and don’t know – about how artificial intelligence and other new technologies are likely to affect the future of work.

The private workshop concluded with a public event launching the new work, The Making of Lawyers’ Careers, with co-authors Robert L. NelsonRonit DinovitzerBryant G. GarthDavid B. Wilkins, and Meghan Dawe in conversation.