In a recent podcast from @theBar, both Dennis Garcia, Assistant General Counsel for Microsoft, and Conor Malloy, Founding Partner of Chi Chi Legal, believe that people in the legal profession should not consider AI (Artificial Intelligence) as a threat, but as an ally.
With the help of AI, law firms can better manage mundane tasks faster and more efficiently, hopefully avoiding the possible pitfalls of over-reliance on technology.
How AI entered the legal industry
AI is a branch of computer science in which computers learn to do work traditionally performed by humans. People consider this the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The First Industrial Revolution occurred when, in the 1700s and 1800s, machinery such as the cotton gin and the steam engine greatly increased productivity. About a century later, the Second Industrial Revolution focused on the utilization of varied materials for manufacturing and more sophisticated machinery such as rudimentary computers.
The use of electronics characterized the Third Industrial Revolution in the 1990s, together with the rise of the internet and social media. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, fueled by the marriage of man and machine, then gave birth to artificial intelligence.
Legal AI entered the picture when Jay Leib had a revelation while scanning documents related to a lawsuit. He quickly realized that printing and scanning documents was still an overly time intensive process, and could be further streamlined with technology. He and his business partner created a program that allowed lawyers to manage large volumes of documents more easily.
His next creation, NexLP, used AI to analyze the documents and detect trends.
Ways that AI can help lawyers
With today’s technological sophistication, your imagination is your only limitation on how to use AI in the legal profession.
- Data management and document review: Even the simplest cases produce volumes of documents, all of which you must store by date and cross-referenced by any number of categories. AI enables a legal team to compress hours of work into a few minutes of typing. Imagine, though, if, with a few keystrokes, you had access not only to all your case information, but the case information of your predecessors as well. A simple search for “changes to alimony” could not only refresh your memory on similar cases that you have prepared, but also tap into the institutional knowledge of your firm. Most firms practice within a certain geographical region. Your client has an appearance scheduled before a county judge with whom you have no experience. You could ask other members of your firm about their perceptions of this magistrate. The information would be useful, but biased. By combining their perceptions with the actual transcripts from the firm’s appearances before this judge, you will have a much more accurate picture of what arguments the judge finds persuasive.
- Risk assessment: Judges are human beings. They make mistakes. They have good days and bad days. They have outside circumstances that may color their opinion on any given day. All these details are outside a lawyer’s control.AI’s function is to prepare the lawyer for all possible known contingencies through risk assessment. You can use the increased access to data, as well as stronger algorithms to analyze that data, to tip the scales of justice in your favor. If your client accidentally shot someone, which defense stands the greatest chance of success? Artificial intelligence for lawyers can analyze thousands of similar cases and provide you with the risk assessment for each viable option so that you can best advise your client.
- Quality of life: A recent study stated that, if all possible AI were implemented immediately, lawyers would realize a 13 percent decline in their workloads. Since no company completely automates overnight, a more realistic decrease is around 2.5 percent annually over five years. Imagine if, instead of spending 13 percent of your workday scanning documents, you could spend that time practicing law. You would be more productive and feel as though your work made a difference in your clients’ lives.
Possible limitations of AI
Even the most advanced AI application is not foolproof or invulnerable. It may have its limitations, but the benefits surely outweigh most of its shortcomings. What is more, technology just keeps getting better and better, so these limitations may be non-existent in the not-so-distant future.
- Proofreading and error correction. AI is powered by algorithms, but even algorithms are not perfect. Spell check catches many errors, but only if the word is no longer accurate. It cannot distinguish between “lay” and “law” because they are both real words. Grammar check is somewhat better at catching those errors, but even it has its flaw. Before you ask your AI to check for complicated issues, make sure that it can handle the smaller ones.
- Data Volume. “Big Data” refers to any large volume of materials through which you search in order to extrapolate useful information. The quantity of data generated is one of the dangers of using AI to research case information. You could become lost researching the search results generated. Programs exist to help mine the data. But, as they also rely on AI, they can produce false results.
- Cybersecurity. You want case information at your fingertips, but you do not want to compromise confidential data. Your company can take steps to ensure that its data is secure, but one misstep could jeopardize your integrity. Both internal threats such as someone clicking on an email attachment and external threats such as Ransomware place your business at risk. Cybersecurity issues are not confined to the legal industry alone, as it affects almost everyone.
Fortunately, many companies can help you mitigate the risk.
The robots are not taking over your job
Every day, AI advances in leaps and bounds. Computers can now paint, compose musical scores and write poetry – all careers once thought to be exclusively human domains. Even with these advances, AI can read facial expressions with a high degree of accuracy, but it cannot express emotion.
AI can relieve humans of tedious tasks, but in fields with a high degree of human interaction, it cannot replacethe human touch.