Future of Professional Work: Evidence from Legal Jobs in Britain and the United States

56 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2021 Last revised: 2 May 2022

See all articles by Mari Sako

Mari Sako

University of Oxford - Said Business School

Matthias Qian

University of Oxford

Jacopo Attolini

Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: December 24, 2021

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of digital technology on professional work by combining insights from the future of work debate and the system of professions. With the adoption of digital technology, who ends up undertaking digital tasks depends on the nature of professional jurisdictional control, which we define as a profession’s power to maintain or shift from existing jurisdictional settlements in the face of external disturbances. Protective jurisdictional control implies that the profession engages in full or subordinate jurisdiction, delegating new tasks to subordinate semi-professionals. By contrast, connective jurisdictional control leads them to prefer settlements by division of labor or advisory links, enabling equal-status professions to work together. Using a large database of online job postings by Burning Glass Technologies, we find evidence for this hypothesis. Empirically, we deploy three ways to gauge the nature of professional jurisdictional control: first, by comparing traditional law firms and alternative business structure firms in the UK regulated legal industry; second, by contrasting the US (with protective jurisdictional control) and the UK; and third, by examining the legal sector (in which the legal profession is dominant) and non-legal sectors. Moreover, we find that protective (connective) jurisdictional control is associated with lower (higher) pay premia for new digital skills, consistent with theory. Our findings highlight the importance of the mediating role of professional jurisdictional control to inform the future of work debate.

Keywords: Future of work, system of professions, digital technology, lawyers, data scientists, Burning Glass Technologies

JEL Classification: C8, J24, J31, J44, L84, L86, O57

Suggested Citation

Sako, Mari and Qian, Matthias and Attolini, Jacopo, Future of Professional Work: Evidence from Legal Jobs in Britain and the United States (December 24, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3946629 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3946629

Mari Sako (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Said Business School ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain

Matthias Qian

University of Oxford ( email )

Park End Street
Oxford, OX1 1HP
Great Britain
+44 7958 921145 (Phone)
OX1 1HP (Fax)

Jacopo Attolini

Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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