Artificial intelligence, or AI, continues to make inroads across all domains, including the legal industry. Law firms and other legal service providers use AI to automate repetitive tasks and increase productivity. While still in its infancy, legal AI helps lawyers and legal operations professionals abridge mundane and time-consuming tasks, freeing their time to allow them to perform higher-margin work.
AI as a driving factor
A recent report published on JD Supra — in which Furia Rubel Communications’ Jennifer Simpson Carr interviewed Bert Kaminski, the director of legal for Google Cloud — revealed that nearly one-quarter of attorneys’ activities and 69 per cent of paralegals’ tasks could benefit from current automation technologies, based on research from the McKinsey Global Institute. With shorter execution timelines that allow workers to tackle more work more effectively, the automation results in markedly improved productivity.
According to The Future of Law Firms (and Lawyers) in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the AI service provider legal market was about US $12 billion in 2017 and is predicted to reach US $85 billion in 2027.
How AI and lawyers of the future can build synergy
Verum Legal, an India-based law firm focused on the business of law, reported that implementing legal AI across India, a country with major issues stemming from massive judicial pendency and a huge case volume, would resolve most of its judicial system woes. Introducing AI and other technologies could help lawyers conduct better research, thereby freeing tech-equipped lawyers to focus on advising clients and pushing cases through the courts. AI could also assist courts and private parties in determining which cases to pursue, which to settle, and which to dismiss.
While today’s explosion of data and documents continues with no signs of abating, AI tools — such as those involve in eDiscovery — help lawyers extract relevant data and cull insights for clients, which is especially useful in the contract management lifecycle. For example, the JD Supra report mentioned above noted that JP Morgan Chase’s implementation of a contract review automation tool saved the company about 360,000 billable hours of contract review work, performing the same tasks in mere seconds.
One concern that many people have about AI’s wide-scale adoption is that it could lead to possible reductions in the workforce. While AI would eliminate some of the mundane and repetitive tasks in contract review, contract management, and process optimisation, lawyers and other industry professionals could instead upgrade their level of work to maximise their benefits to clients.
“What you want to do as a lawyer is get into areas of really depersonalised legal service, where you are giving your clients the things that machines can’t do. Machines are not very good when there’s ambiguity when the data is amorphous or changing when there are two right answers, where there’s not a sense,” said Kaminski. “Machines … don’t have a moral sense of what is the right answer or the right action, or the wrong actions: no right or wrong for machines.”
Because lawyers’ value to clients goes way beyond analytical output, legal professionals will not be replaced by machines anytime soon. With AI’s assistance, lawyers can contextualise the data and make recommendations tailored to each client’s needs.
AI’s limitations in the legal industry
While AI brings immense benefits to the legal business as a whole, core dependencies on rote automation could lead to ethical considerations, which Kaminski calls “automation biases.”
“A lawyer should not replace their own professional judgment by the output of a computer program, even one that is very sophisticated based on artificial intelligence and machine learning,” he said, “And, there is an automation bias. It’s a cognitive bias that we all have that if a machine provides us with an output, we tend to go with what it sets. We’ve all had recommendation engines and your news feeds and what to purchase and all of this, and there is a sort of an inclination to go with what it says. As machines and the AI-based tools are rendering more and more output for lawyers, better predictive analytics, more recommendations, more actions to be taken, more sorting of legal research, which is another key area, predictions on how juries will work, and judges will come out on different opinions; it behooves lawyers to really look very carefully at these tools and how they’re being used.”
AI automation is part our future, and its adoption in the legal industry may bring respite from mundane and repetitive tasks. However, AI brings certain ethical considerations, which include the introduction of automation bias and reductions in the workforce resulting from automation. With that, the lawyers of the future need to upskill themselves for future-ready legal roles to cater the clients.
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