Just as electricity stole the lamplighter’s job, and robots replaced auto assembly line workers, technology continues to alter the need for human labor. Some studies suggest technology will swipe up to 800 million jobs worldwide by 2030.
Should legal professionals be concerned? How is artificial intelligence going to affect the careers of lawyers during the next few decades? Is A Space Odyssey’s HAL 9000 going to be cross-examining the witness next month?
How is artificial intelligence going to affect the careers of lawyers during the next few decades?
For those of us too wrapped up in case law to keep abreast of technological innovation, artificial intelligence (“AI”) is exactly what it sounds like. Coined in 1955 by computer scientist John McCarthy, the term “artificial intelligence” refers to systems that instruct machines to receive information, process it, and interpret its meaning. AI computer algorithms detect patterns in data and suggest actions to be taken based on the interpretation.
Estimates suggest the AI industry will reach $12.5 billion by 2020. With such rapid growth, we are all sure to encounter AI technology in our careers very soon, if we haven’t yet.
What does this mean for young lawyers? Are firms going to be paying for AI-powered systems instead of attorney salaries in 20 years? Probably not.
AI is, of course, transforming the way we do business, but its function is to relieve us from more tedious tasks, allowing us to spend more time with clients, our legal teams, and the courts.
What is AI Doing for Law Firms Today?
What exactly will AI be doing in the legal workplace? AI systems are already in development to help law offices complete a variety of tasks such as analyzing contracts and other documents, collecting background information, and conducting legal research.
- Analyze contracts for potential writing and provisions issues, helping to reduce risk.
- Conduct more efficient and accurate due diligence, collecting background information, verifying facts, assessing precedent, and gathering client information while removing the potential for human error.
- Evaluate historical trial data, court decisions, judge tendencies and statistics for patterns that can help predict opposing counsel arguments and potential litigation outcomes.
- Locate and analyze documents for relevance to specific cases.
- Conduct legal research and discovery using electronic databases.
- Prepare and fill in template documents with data.
- Conduct personnel and human resources services including electronic billing.
- Detect and remove confidential or sensitive information on documents.
AI systems can sift through thousands of documents within minutes, searching for and compiling specific data, even translating languages in real time as needed. According to JPMorgan, their Contract Intelligence (“COIN”) system can complete 36,000 hours of legal work in just a few seconds.
Lawyers will be using artificial intelligence as a tool to enhance our own expertise, efficiency, and creativity - keeping the potential for machine bias and ethical issues at the back of our minds as we go.
Some legal AI software systems claim to speed up due diligence reviews by 40% to 90%. Other software companies claim their automated documents reviews are 10% more accurate than manual reviews.
AI is attempting to remove the tedious, repetitive tasks attorneys deal with every day; speeding up the process, mitigating risks, eliminating the potential for human error and freeing us up to tackle the more complex aspects of our jobs.
Rather than being bogged down with mundane tasks, new lawyers are more likely to have opportunities to do more challenging work and gain experience faster. Something many young lawyers are excited about.
What AI Can’t Do (Yet)
A significant limitation of AI’s in the legal profession is the absence of the human element. Automated research and analysis algorithms may not dig as deep as a human researcher would. Search results obtained via artificial intelligence methods could still be biased to limited databases.
Some states are taking action to ensure that the legal profession does not jump into heavy reliance on AI technology too quickly. In 2015, the California State Bar announced it would require lawyers to have a certain level of experience in using AI programs before allowing them to apply the technology to discovery methods without considering the lawyer to have committed an intentional or reckless act.
AI technology is nowhere near replacing the lawyer’s prudence, intuition, and interaction with clients. Instead, lawyers will be using artificial intelligence as a tool to enhance our own expertise, efficiency, and creativity - keeping the potential for machine bias and ethical issues at the back of our minds as we go.