Horsley Christie's two recent law graduates believe artificial intelligence (AI) has a role in the future of legal work but they don't think computers can replace a human in the profession.

Jai Stephens and Elliot Copeland have been with the firm for seven and eight months respectively. Whanganui-born and raised Mr Stephens is concentrating on the commercial side of the business while Mr Copeland, originally from Wellington but with Whanganui connections, is working in family law.

With increasing automation in the legal industry, the pair see some possibilities for AI but are hanging on to their hard copy books and pens and paper.

"There's more to the law than just the law," Mr Copeland said.


"It's people solving problems for people. You have to be able to talk to people and understand their intentions. But it's exciting to see that stuff (AI) coming through as well. I grew up with a mouse in my hand so I'm more comfortable with that being the future than some people."

"A computer can't do the interpretive side of our work," Mr Stephens said.

"Straightforward stuff could be farmed out to a computer if it's a case of putting it through a formula but that's a small part of the work. Lawyers are reading and interpreting and seeing how things correlate."

Both men chose law after pursuing other academic studies and realising it wasn't for them.

Mr Stephens started out studying engineering at Canterbury University but part-way through his second year decided to change paths.

"I picked up commerce for six months to finish the year then law at the start of my third year. I did a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in finance and a law degree."

He is now involved in commercial work including conveyancing, estates, wills and trusts.

Mr Copeland started out with a focus on philosophy, politics and economics at Otago University.


"After six months, I ditched the philosophy and economics, kept the politics and did law alongside," Mr Copeland said.

Mr Copeland, whose grandparents live in Whanganui, is concentrating on family law and making the most of the opportunity to work with the firm's partners. He hopes to eventually move into civil litigation.

They are enjoying the challenges of working for a provincial law firm compared with the mundane tasks their friends in big city firms are doing.

"Being a provincial firm, you get involved in things a lot more," Mr Stephens said.

"It's almost a trial by fire sometimes as you get trusted with a lot but it's good for people to have trust in you. You don't get that opportunity when you're not in the provinces. I like that it's a little more varied, there's plenty to do and it keeps you on your toes."