Today, computers drive our cars, answer our customer support questions, and predict what we didn’t yet realize we wanted to buy. In hundreds of industries, artificial intelligence (AI) is rendering innumerable jobs obsolete. Are lawyers next?
Not likely. But AI is gradually infiltrating the traditional, technology-resistant legal world. IBM reports that we create 2.5 quintillion (2,500,000,000,000,000,000) bytes of data every day, many of which potentially relate to the law. This volume of data necessitates a sweeping transformation in how we provide legal services. AI, also known as cognitive computing, refers to the development of computer systems that can learn to complete data-intensive tasks previously relegated to humans—including lawyers and paralegals. These systems are trained to identify patterns in the relationships between words or data points. Over time, they learn to evaluate a specific type of information much faster—and sometimes even better—than humans can.
AI can be used in a host of legal applications. Perhaps the most-recognized application of AI in the law is in technology-assisted review (TAR) of documents and data for discovery. Additionally, computers can now:
compare contracts to highlight missing or inconsistent language and cross-references;
check for errors, proofread, and compare documents for content and change history;
identify instances of likely employee fraud or misconduct;
answer specific regulatory questions, such as whether an employer’s practices comply with necessary laws and regulations;
conduct legal research, identifying cases with similar fact patterns;
predict court outcomes based on the court, specific judge, and facts of a case; and
perform due diligence checks prior to transactions.
How can these applications improve the quality of your legal work?
More Time to Add More Value
Most of the work that AI currently can perform is low-level, tedious, and even mind-numbing. Freeing skilled lawyers from those menial tasks allows them time to add value to their work. With automated, smart contract analysis, document review and proofreading, and legal research, lawyers can focus on the intellectual work that computers can’t (yet) do. Imagine having adequate time to creatively solve problems, counsel clients, write clear and persuasive briefs, or negotiate. With AI handling the repetitive, frustrating, boring tasks, lawyers can invest their time where it really matters.
Earlier and Better Risk Assessment
Technology allows lawyers to identify potential risks earlier, advising clients about their exposure and heading off legal problems before they occur. For example, insider trading and trade secret theft have been identified through pattern analysis. When a lawsuit has been threatened or instituted, TAR allows legal staff to quickly identify relevant information to accurately assess outcomes, minimizing costs and risks while protecting their clients’ reputations.
Lower Stress and Higher Satisfaction
Even better, when computers handle the research and preliminary analysis of a case, they do so faster and more thoroughly than humans can. That early assessment lowers stress for lawyers and clients alike. Additionally, when lawyers have time to attend to their clients and dive into the creative, intellectual analysis that they are trained to do, work quality, job satisfaction, and client satisfaction all improve.
A paradigm shift is coming. Technology allows lawyers to provide better advice to their clients, faster and earlier than they could before. Lawyers will continue to adopt AI gradually and incrementally, as they recognize its power to transform their legal work. Lower risk, more time for creative and intellectual analysis, and higher satisfaction, all with less stress—these benefits can accrue from embracing technological solutions. Meanwhile, true legal work such as advising clients, negotiating and litigating, and writing are all safe—for now—from the computer takeover.