The adoption of artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is undoubtedly transforming the practice of law. Many in the legal profession are aware that using AI can greatly reduce time and costs while increasing accuracy. But some legal professionals are being affected by this shift more than others, and certain areas of legal practice are seeing greater changes as a result of AI. Here’s an examination of how the technology is currently affecting the industry.
Today’s AI technology is best at accomplishing narrowly defined tasks and work that is time-consuming and repetitive. While machines can process, store and recall information much faster than people, human lawyers still need to apply critical thinking to that information.
This means that despite fears of robot lawyers taking over the profession, a scenario that is currently impossible due to technological constraints, legal tasks that are being automated are largely those that used to be performed by new law school graduates and paralegals. Junior attorneys, in particular, used to be responsible for tedious work such as going through legal documents and highlighting keywords. Now, AI is able to assist in some of those tasks, especially document review and legal research.
More experienced legal professionals, however, are also seeing a change in their day-to-day work. The use of AI in areas such as contract review and management is making contracting faster and easier and lets lawyers eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks from their daily routines. Professor Gillian K. Hadfield, a law professor at the University of Southern California, says in Harvard Business Review that increased use of AI tools in contracting will allow lawyers to make better use of their time: “Lawyers will shift their focus from routine activities to much more high-value work involved in shaping strategies and navigating complex legal problems.”
Rather than being replaced, Hadfield says that lawyers have to focus on different skills and working alongside AI technology. For example, rather than spending a large amount of time reviewing contracts, they can focus on providing counsel. While advancements in AI are affecting all corners of the legal industry, the technology is likely to have a larger effect on in-house legal departments rather than outside law firms. In-house legal departments have more incentive to find lower cost ways to do their work and are more subject to budget and personnel constraints.
Lawyers are already using AI in a variety of areas. Here’s a brief overview of common use cases.
AI has had a huge impact on eDiscovery, which involves using technology to review documents to find those that are relevant. Research shows that lawyers now only spend 4 percent of their time on document review as a result of outsourcing and automation.
Numerous studies have found that AI is more accurate than humans in identifying relevant sources. Machine-learning algorithms train on millions of documents, case files, and briefs and learn to identify and prioritize the most relevant sources. This technique vastly reduces the time and cost of document review while achieving greater accuracy.
Many companies deal with a large volume of contracts but are often inefficient and ineffective at contracting. AI is now helping firms in creating, reviewing and managing contracts.
AI tools can create form contracts that have standard terms and conditions according to parameters set by a legal department. In addition, AI is assisting in analyzing contracts by going through large numbers of contracts and flagging them based on specific criteria. Some companies are using contract management software with AI capabilities to help them organize contract data as well as locate data.
The effect of these tools is that it increases accuracy, decreases the potential for contract disputes and increases the number of contracts that lawyers can negotiate and execute.
Finding relevant cases while doing legal research used to be a time-consuming process. Now, AI allows lawyers to ask questions in plain language and get instant answers after the technology reviews resources such as regulations, case law, secondary sources and more.
AI significantly reduces the time that lawyers spend on legal research, says Luis Salazar, a partner at Salazar Law in Miami. He was skeptical at first, but after testing ROSS Intelligence’s AI-supported legal research platform against himself, he found that ROSS instantly found a case that he had spent 10 hours searching for on online legal databases.
Lawyers often need to predict the outcome of litigation to help clients make decisions, but not even the most experienced lawyer can match AI in accessing all of the relevant data to make those predictions. AI is often superior to humans when it comes to predicting the outcomes of legal disputes and proceedings. For example, a recent study found that an algorithm built using a database of Supreme Court cases was able to correctly predict 70.2 percent of the court’s decisions from 1816 to 2015. In comparison, a study in 2004 found that human legal experts had about a 66 percent accuracy rate.
Soojung is a content marketer at ROSS Intelligence. She is also a writer, user experience designer and former journalist who is interested in all things related to technology and startups.