Take a trip back a couple of decades and the technology boom was only just beginning.
The emergence of personal computers, emails and legal software, such as electronic document management, completely transformed a profession which was still very much outdated in terms of its practices. Today, it is undergoing yet another transformation by way of artificial intelligence (AI.)
The AI Revolution is Just Beginning
AI is completely changing the way that lawyers think, how they interact with their clients and the way they do business overall. To put it bluntly, it is set to revolutionize the legal profession and it has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift regarding how legal work is done.
In the legal industry today, current AI technologies are being applied to simple pieces of work and tasks which are relatively simple, repetitive and time-consuming, and although these machines can scan, process, store and recall this information, it still takes human lawyers to look at them with a critical eye.
Despite the fears of AI taking over the legal profession – something which, at present, is not even remotely possible – it is only simple legal tasks which are being automated, the ones which once upon a time would burn paralegals and new graduates fresh out of law school.
Tedious work which would once take up most of a junior lawyer’s working hours such as trawling through documents and highlighting keywords can now be performed by AI.
These Changes Aren’t Going Unnoticed
Although newer entrants to the legal world may not instantly notice just how much of an impact AI is having, the same cannot be said for more experienced lawyers who are seeing a dramatic change in the nature of their day-to-day work.
Usage of AI areas such as case management and contract review help to form agreements faster and provides lawyers with more time by eliminating time-consuming and repetitive tasks from their diaries, time with which they can spend with clients and focus on the more important aspects of a case or brief.
Lawyers are now shifting their time away from this time-consuming work and more towards tasks which are of a higher value and help settle complex legal problems. This is a far more efficient use of a lawyer’s time and carries with it endless benefits for law firms. Lawyers are not being replaced by AI; they simply must focus on different areas and adapt through the application of their skills. Rather than reviewing contracts, for example, they can focus on providing legal counsel.
Common Applications of AI to the Legal Sector
AI is already being used in several areas, and companies are working round-the-clock to improve the current solutions on offer and develop entirely new ones which touch upon completely new areas of the legal industry.
Here is a simple overview of the three most common uses for AI in the legal market.
- Reviewing documents and contracts
AI is far more accurate than humans can ever be when it comes to finding documents and relevant sources, and the technology behind AI research solutions is getting better by the day.
Using machine learning algorithms, these research solutions train and learn from millions of documents and case files, and by doing this they figure out how to identify relevant sources.
Only 4% of the average lawyers’ time is spent on document review now, and the rest is left down to AI.
- Drafting legal documents
AI can help firms draft, review and manage contracts with standard terms and conditions which are pre-set. What’s more, it can analyse existing contracts, learn from them and then use this ‘knowledge’ to flag up contracts when specific terms or keywords come up.
It is not only law firms using this type of legal AI, either. Many large companies with in-house legal departments are using it to save both time and money on legal counsel.
By using this type of AI, both law firms and companies maximise efficiency and reduce the possibility for legal disputes to arise out of contractual terms.
- Legal research
Any lawyer will be familiar with the hassle that is trawling through legal publications, databases and law reports to perform legal research and locate cases.
Not only is this a time-consuming process, findings are not always accurate. Now, AI can review statute, regulations, case law and other sources such as journals and opinion pieces.
This dramatically reduces the time which is spent by lawyers on performing legal research.
What Does All This Mean?
Instead of fearing AI, law students and lawyers should embrace it.
The sensible and practical application of AI within law firms help maintain a competitive edge and enable talented legal professionals to spend more time on doing what’s important: raw legal work.