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Will AI Put Legal Professionals Out of Business?


Throughout history, people feared technology or automation replacing their jobs. Unfortunately, in many cases, those fears came true. With increased automation, at one point or another, most professionals have worried that robots or artificial intelligence (AI) may replace their jobs in the future. Lawyers have the same fear if AI or automation system will put them out of business?

The advancement of AI and machine learning (ML) is already taking over jobs that were until now reserved for legal professionals, for example, researching cases, drafting briefs, or advising clients – at least in the preliminary level.

According to a report published in Social Science Research Network, researchers say they have found a way to predict summary judgment outcomes from the text of the parties’ briefs. They have used linguistic analysis and ML techniques to do that. In a nutshell, they have been successful in automating part of the work lawyers do, using software.

“We propose a freely available, computationally-enabled citation identification and brief bank tool, which would extend to all litigants the benefits of good lawyer and open up access to justice,” the researchers said in the study abstract.

Two of the three authors of the study — Elizabeth C. Tippett (Associate Professor of Law, University of Oregon) and Charlotte Alexander (Associate Professor of Law and Analytics, Georgia State University) — also wrote a long piece published by The Conversation, explaining the importance of their study.

This technique can be helpful to lawyers in reducing their workload. It could help clients more as they would not have to seek expensive legal assistance to cite the right cases as precedent in their legal matters. The researchers said their software could easily pick the right cases to cite and tell the lawyers. All a person needs to do is to feed the other side’s brief into the software.

“There is no doubt AI is replacing manual tasks in legal enterprises—legal research, documentation, citation, and ensuring litigation support to the contract. A lot of these task is being done with the help of automation software,” said Rahul Malhotra, CFO of legal professional services company Integreon Managed Solutions (India).

To that effect, Malhotra said that most legal firms have adopted document and business process automation. They are also deploying Natural Language Processing (NLP) and document automation capabilities to reduce mundaneness from work.

“Virtual Legal Assistants are also a fast-growing trend, especially in large enterprises. Law firms are looking at cloud storage for their data storage needs. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are being increasingly adopted for remote consultation of clients, training new lawyers, and collaborating with the experts. All these technological developments are shaping the new normal in legal firms,” he said.

To conclude, one can say that lawyers are relying on AI as a beneficial tool to improve efficiency and reduce manual tasks, but AI will not replace lawyers anytime soon. Practicing law effectively requires a complex set of interactions between human beings. AI/ML cannot yet mimic these human-to-human interactions. A McKinsey study on Automation and Productivity suggests that it is possible to automate about 25% of a lawyers’ time. That certainly leaves more room for legal professionals to focus more time on their clients—while increasing the time spent on billable work.

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