Before we understand the role of Artificial Intelligence in the legal space, it is interesting to note how this digital technology is poised to transform the industry.
A Deloitte study indicates that 114,000 legal jobs are likely to be automated in the next 20 years
Does this mean lawyers in legal operations are becoming obsolete? No way is the shortest answer to this much-debated question. AI and automation indeed have the immense potential to remove many of the routine and run-of-the-mill paperwork and processing that every lawyer is inundated with. It also acts as a huge time saver by automating contracting information related to document reviews for due diligence, litigation legalese, legal research, etc. Ideally, these tasks take a lawyer’s quality time away from strategic and forward-thinking legal initiatives. However, client advisory, negotiations, client acquisition, relationship management, cross-selling and upselling, and out-of-court settlements will remain within the realms of human control. And certainly, they cannot be taken over by machines.
But what will be a game-changer for the legal industry going forward is the healthy blend of man and machine to bring about positive and long-lasting benefits for lawyers and the legal profession at large. At one stage internet took over our lives, then there was email, and now everything revolves around search engines and information retrieval systems. Likewise, AI will be the currency of the legal profession in the decades to come.
While we are posited at this interesting juncture of the AI-enabled legal industry, let’s take a look at how it is revitalizing this sector that has been averse to innovation and technology.
- Emerging Breed of Lawyers
The legal profession will become more niche, intelligent, and highly sophisticated. In other words, discerning clients will gradually begin to partner only with legal firms with a phenomenal blend of technology and talent. They will not hesitate to pay for routine tasks and demand intelligence from lawyers and efficiencies from tools.
As for the lawyers, they will be able to spend quality time on three major responsibilities of the legal profession: Thinking, Advising, and Focusing on high-value work that catapults clients into accomplishing greater things. Thus, AI will pave the path for a new generation of lawyers who will be the strategic legal counsel steering an organization into proactive legal adoption.
According to a survey of ~100 law firms by real estate giant CBRE, 48% of firms already use AI software in their businesses, and 41% have immediate plans to implement it.
- Easing Contract Management
Contracts are the backbone of every business. However, ensuring error-free drafting and reviewing the multi-page documentation can be exhausting and seem like an uphill battle. Here lies an enormous opportunity for legal firms to automate and adopt AI. Several global legal firms are developing AI systems that automatically include proposed contracts and analyze them using Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology. This helps in identifying the acceptable and to-be excluded sections of a contract.
Many of these functions are conducted as human-in-the-loop, which means AI does most of it with humans reviewing and making the final decisions. But with the fast-paced development of NLP technology, this is bound to change as well. AI will independently manage the churning out contracts. In fact, large organizations like Salesforce, Home Depot, and eBay are already using AI-powered contract review services in their day-to-day operations.
- Predicting Legal Outcomes
What’s exciting and possible with AI is its capacity to predict the legal outcomes of pending cases, which it has demonstrated repeatedly. With the feed-in from a repository of existing similar cases, AI analyses and predicts the possible results. With time, these predictions are likely to become sharper and accurate. This will eventually help plan litigation strategies, fast-tracking settlement negotiations, and minimize the number of cases that need court time.
The CBRE survey also found that 61% of the companies are using AI to generate and review legal documents, 47% for due diligence purposes, and 42% for research.
- Transforming Legal Research
Legal research one of the most required legal functions is often relegated to junior clerks and law students. And these resources have to plow through insane amounts of case law data and arrive at logical conclusions. This is time-consuming and strenuous as well. AI, ever since its entry into the legal space, has been revolutionizing the process. It has become a more sophisticated semantic understanding of legal opinions and their actual meanings from what used to be basic and mechanical keyword matching. Thanks to the efforts of several start-ups focusing on this space.
Artificial Intelligence is going to be the top billing of all technologies since it is opening enormous benefits to the legal profession. And many of the transformative changes are already underway, and it is only a matter of time before it makes a tremendous impact. What’s easy for AI and legal to come together is that both are heavily dependent on past historical data and rely on logic.
But the inevitability here is that instead of jumping on the AI, Machine Learning, and NLP bandwagon, organizations must invest time and effort in infusing AI into smaller pockets, starting with digital discovery, workflow automation, team management tools, contract management, and then adopt an all-inclusive embrace.