What is the role of Artificial Intelligence or AI in the legal industry? How far has technology affected the legal profession? Well, the legal industry has been functioning in the same fashion for years on end. Lawyers, advocates, and law firms lie submerged in piles of documents and research work.
Historically speaking, it has begrudgingly accepted technological innovations, but only to stay relevant to the times. Nonetheless, the past couple of decades have witnessed significant developments in the field of technology. Today, what seemed like a dream almost half a century ago, seems closer to reality.
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have become the buzzwords of today. However, the credit for increased and improved research into the concept of AI must go to the Big Data revolution. As enterprises look to pounce and get a piece of this cake, the future of AI in the legal industry is exciting.
Big Data is the optimization of basic information (or Data) into strategic sets that assist in strategic decision making. Honestly, though, the world regularly generates an enormous amount of data. In fact, IBM stated that we generate about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. Sifting through such immense datasets will be tedious for anybody. Thankfully, this is where AI saves the day.
Understanding Artificial Intelligence
One can understand Artificial Intelligence as ‘cognitive computing’. It comprises teaching a computer how to,
- interact, and
- make choices.
Therefore, one has to teach the computer how to process information and communicate reasonable and justifiable solutions to the user. So far, machines have made our lives easier, but AI aims to raise the ante and make our lives smarter.
Professor John McCarthy, the Father of AI, defined Artificial Intelligence as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines”. We use Machine Learning (such as predictive analysis and deep learning) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) (such as speech-to-text, translation, and clustering) to bring about innovations in Artificial Intelligence.
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These technological tools have allowed multiple successful applications of AI. For instance, in:
- Self-driving automobiles,
- Virtual assistants—Alexa and Siri, and
- Text-to-speech technology.
The future of AI is unquestionable, and the value it adds is undeniable. Incidentally, the application of AI in the legal industry has its benefits and hindrances.
Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Industry
Law is an integral part of life but is manifestly very dynamic as a profession. It keeps changing and updating itself over time. Consequently, a legal practitioner should be well-read and well-informed. Naturally, this is a tough ask, yet, with the right technology, any lawyer can do the impossible.
Incidentally, the practice of law is becoming more technology-oriented now. The current generation of legal professionals is more accepting of this technological shift and far better at dealing with it. Embracing AI into their lives will help them work more efficiently and increase the productivity of their billable hours. Consequently, those who refuse to adopt AI, are expected to lose out eventually.
Furthermore, advocates and other legal professionals often perform mundane tasks which require minimal knowledge of the law. Thus, crucial billable hours are spent on secondary functions, rather than on primary lawyerly roles such as thinking and advising.
Artificial Intelligence functions just like a virtual butler. It simplifies the legal practice by assisting with the following broad categories:
- Due diligence,
- Data analytics, and
- Automation services.
Also known as fact-checking, a lawyer must fact-check documents, besides counsel clients or argue matters. However, the documentation may often run into pages, which a lawyer needs to peruse to assess the legal situation.
Though, a lawyer must cultivate the element of patience; however,
- your time may be of the essence, and/or
- the case files may be lengthy and tedious.
Therefore, in such circumstances, a mechanism which
- scrutinises pages of information, and
- sets out the strong and weak points of argument,
would be a godsend.
The benefit of an AI mechanism is that, unlike human beings, it is not prone to get tired or irritable. Thus, it can help comb through large amounts of data in a comparatively shorter time-period and provide acceptable results.
Legal research is an important part of every legal professionals’ life, and legal data analytics is basically smart legal research. It comprises using smart means and techniques to not only retrieve citable case laws but to analyse them as well.
Artificial Intelligence has vastly simplified legal research. It can help recover and ascertain, inter alia:
- Case outcome,
- Previous rulings,
- Probability of a verdict,
- Current position of case laws, and
- Expected time frame of litigation.
Furthermore, some AI algorithms can scan legal documents and identify the risk of litigation. These Artificial Intelligence systems examine keywords and phrases and identify their risk percentage.
Senior Counsel Sterling Miller, observes that there is some form of routine work which is very basic, and vulnerable to automation. Moreover, legal professionals may often invest a major chunk of their billable hours in performing unbillable tasks. Secondary or tertiary tasks such as preparing timesheets, or writing email follow-ups are ideal candidates for automation.
Interestingly, the automation feature of AI can:
- Help prepare timesheets,
- Track cases,
- Monitor incomes and expenditure, and
- Raise invoices to bill clients.
Besides, some AI systems are competent to help assess basic legal documents and clauses, such as contracts and Non-Disclosure Agreements. Besides, Artificial Intelligence can also help correct formatting and grammatical errors (think Grammarly). Furthermore, AI also exists in the form of chatbots which can assist with basic user enquiries.
Thus, automation services help save:
- Energy, and
Future of AI
The onset of AI in the legal industry has rejuvenated and revolutionised the ways and means of legal practice. It aims to reduce human effort while amplifying the outcome. Thus, by adopting the appropriate AI mechanism you will surely gain an edge over your peers and competitors. Moreover, AI can help improve your ROI by reducing wastage of crucial resources like time and money.
- Therefore, the automation features provided by AI may contribute to job loss. Those job descriptions which simply involve sifting through documents and preparing a rundown of cases are most vulnerable.
- Subsequently, various employment opportunities will rise as well. Advisory services necessitate a certain human element, which machines cannot replicate. This is because humans are dynamic, while the programme code in a machine is not. Hence, the legal industry will require legal engineers—people with industry knowledge, who can write the AI algorithm.
- Consequently, advocates and legal practitioners will be able to engage in value-added services like thinking, analysing, advising, strategizing, and arguing.
Incidentally, this technological boom has greatly benefitted one branch of law—Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The world-wide applications of IPR require IP professionals to analyse the world-wide IPR databases to verify uniqueness of an IP. AI analytics tools help IP firms and IPR lawyers to incredibly condense their search time for existing intellectual property.
Despite the advancements in technology, Artificial Intelligence still has a lot more to offer. Presently, a machine is not a lawyer, and neither is Google or any other search engine. Moreover, it cannot think like a human being, and comprehend the context. Legal advice and arguments are dynamic and can vary on a case-to-case basis. Thus, human lawyers can offer empathy, which a machine cannot, no matter how modern or upgraded.
Nonetheless, Moore’s Law roughly predicts that computing power in the world will double every two years while computing costs decrease. Upon applying that logic, there seems to be immense potential for innovation of AI in the legal industry.
Artificial Intelligence can help unlock multiple avenues in the future.
- Access to justice will become more convenient. Currently, a huge slice of the global community does not get access to swift or requisite justice.
- AI can be used to reduce the burden on the court system as well. Potential litigants will be able to determine the expected outcome of their cases. AI could help identify lacunas in legal documents, which would restrict repeated filings.
The AI revolution has already awakened and it is here to stay. However, to stay relevant, AI applications will have to constantly keep reinventing itself. Building upon the already working framework, what can the next step for AI be? Perhaps, to highlight passages from the case results and previous judgments, which will be most relevant for an arguing party? We shall soon see!