Artificial Intelligence (AI) was a term first used in the 1950s to describe machines that mimic certain operations of the human mind and complete tasks that normally require human intelligence. At the core of AI today is Machine Learning, where computers use rules (algorithms) to analyse data, discern patterns and gather insight. AI is increasingly becoming part of our daily lives – whether it’s translating a foreign language on a phone or using a virtual assistant to seek medical advice – it is fast becoming a disruptive force in our working environments as well.
The impact of AI on the legal sector is predicted to be transformational in the next decade, and is already bringing huge benefits to early adopters. Edward Chan, Banking Partner at Linklaters, commented in The Financial Times*1 “AI is an indispensable tool for coping with the ever growing amounts of data that lawyers have to handle in running complex matters.”
The Law Society believes 67,000 legal jobs will be replaced as a result of automation by 2038, and of course, there is some trepidation in the industry about how this will affect daily operations and longer term career prospects. However, we shouldn’t fear that the robots are coming to take our jobs. People with machines – rather than against them – can really accelerate business benefits. There are things that machines can do faster and with more accuracy, and there are things that humans excel at – the secret is to spot the difference and use resources insightfully to reboot productivity. Indeed, in the same Law Society report it was also predicted that 80,000 new roles will be created in the next decade – 25,000 by 2025 alone.
So rather than becoming redundant, the role of the lawyer is changing. With AI in a firm, lawyers are freed up to focus on more analytical and strategic aspects of their work, interpreting information and providing greater depth of knowledge and advice. The AI robot will never be able to replace the relationship of expertise and trust that develops between lawyer and client. There will always be a need for professionals who understand the intricacies of situations and can provide the insight, interpretation and empathy required, especially for complex cases.
AI promises much. There is enormous scope to improve legal services through technology. It can standardise and automate processes, reduce drafting errors, preserve knowledge and speed up transactions – increasing efficiency, reducing costs, simplifying pricing structures and heightening competitiveness. AI will enable firms to do more high value and highly paid work. It also provides the opportunity to make the industry more transparent, with self-service offerings that can help de-mystify legal processes. Many legal problems currently go ‘unlawyered’ as potential clients shy away from anticipated costs and complex procedures. AI will help people to know when they need to speak to a solicitor – much the same way as AskNHS, which is currently being rolled out across the health service, assisting patients in understanding when they need to see a doctor.
We looked at some of the different ways AI is revolutionising the legal sector:
- Reviewing documents and legal research - AI can efficiently carry out extensive document analysis, flagging documents that are relevant to a case and producing a refined list for lawyers to review further.
- Performing due diligence - This often tedious work can be done very accurately with AI, confirming facts and figures as well as thoroughly evaluating decisions on prior cases to effectively provide counsel to clients.
- Contract review and management - Identifying risks and issues with how contracts are written and helping to negotiate better terms. AI can analyse contracts in bulk, as well as individual contracts faster and with fewer errors. International law firm Clifford Chance has partnered with an AI software provider so they can offer their clients a faster, and more accurate contract review service. Investment bank JP Morgan recently launched its Contract Intelligence programme that can scan a contract in seconds and interpret commercial loan agreements - it is expected to replace 360,000 hours of work by lawyers and loan officers each year.
- Predicting legal outcomes - With access to years of trial data, AI can answer client questions such as how likely they are to win a case. AI is already being used by a London personal injury firm to determine the optimal time to settle a claim.
- Automating divorce - Online divorce software can reduce time and cost for couples wishing to separate. AI guides them through key decision-making and the necessary steps, while legal professionals can be on hand to provide additional guidance if necessary.
- Automating the work of barristers’ clerks - AI is now able to take an enquiry, identify the legal help that is required, match this to the right legal representation, determine who is available, manage the scheduling of appointments and organise attendance in court. This removes tedious administration and makes the work faster and less expensive for the client.
- Civil claims and petitions - With 1.4 million cases brought to the UK county courts each year, there is an increasing body of knowledge that lawyers need to grapple with. AI can sift through this information with great accuracy, crunching data and finding patterns. Amongst all the witness statements, court logs and judge summaries there will be insights that could help a lawyer win a case. In simpler cases, where facts are undisputed and precedents exist, AI software can even diagnose the situation and produce a draft judgement for review.
- Increasing job satisfaction – AI takes on many of the mundane legal processes traditionally assigned to those in junior roles, increasing job satisfaction and giving graduates valuable early experience and work that is more challenging. This will help attract and retain top talent.
- Dealing with compliance - Automation can efficiently handle customer data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as well as automatically proving compliance, saving time and reducing stress.
The Law Society has advised smaller high street solicitors that they should be prepared to embrace new technologies so as not to be left behind - ‘firms must do or die’. Those who fail to innovate may struggle to compete in the evolving market. A top-down approach with a firm’s management leading the way in line with clients’ needs is vital in determining the quality of the AI implementation. There should be emphasis on unlocking the potential of talent within the firm, supported by innovative automated processes. With the right tools, and forward-thinking leaders who can reimagine how their business operates, AI is set to become a game-changing business enabler.