Legal practice is a rather interesting field of work. Looking at the history books, we will find its roots in the Ancient Greek’s era. Even though the conflicts in the past were of a simpler kind than they are now, people needed a counselor to solve them. However, whereas the conflicts used to concern the pigs that were traded for lumber, nowadays the problems involve big merges and acquisitions. Times have certainly changed, and jurists need to ask themselves if the legal practice needs to change too. They also need to keep in mind that changes can cut in both ways. Changing the legal practice will bring advanced and bright things, however, changes may carry the danger of neglecting the initial charm of the old traditions of legal practice.
Over 2,5 quintillion data are being generated each day and the pace is only accelerating . This, therefore, means that everyone, including lawyers, needs to deal with a much larger amount of data than hundreds of years ago. The humankind’s knowledge and ability to process information has also evolved, yet not nearly enough to keep up with the rapid data growth. Thus, there is a need for change in all fields involving processing data, of which this piece focusses on the legal practice.
A considerable way to bring innovation to the legal practice is using artificial intelligence (AI). In case you are not up-to-date on AI, it includes teaching computers how to learn, reason, communicate and make decisions. Once a computer is ‘schooled’ to do a task, the human effort will be superfluous. In practice, a computer gathers much information, analyzes the information, and eventually will be able to make a decision based on its understanding of it. This process is similar to the daily occupation at a law firm.
Regarding the pace of the data’s growth, it is thus a good idea to implement this way of practicing law. Presently various software programs are already being used in multiple law firms that use AI, of which an example is ROSS Intelligence. This program uses AI to perform legal research, speeding up the completion of such tasks. Manual legal research in the future will be close to impossible. Even for one as Hercules who cleaned all Augeas’s stables, it would not have been possible to get the job done. Therefore, investing in AI software now is the right choice for law firms.
Another important task of a lawyer is reviewing contracts and identifying the possible risks and issues for their clients. The software program Kira can do this work much faster and with fewer mistakes than a human . Furthermore, there is a financial benefit that could drive law firms to invest in artificial intelligence. The number of billable hours that a lawyer would make to review a contract is bigger than the hours a computer would need to do the work. The final result is that investing in AI is more profitable than letting the lawyers do the work.
Many people think that using AI will have a negative influence on the employment of workers. Partly they are right, in the sense that using a computer instead of a lawyer means less work for the lawyers. However, with the arrival of AI, a lot of time will be saved, meaning the lawyer will have more time to participate in other activities, which he normally has no time for. Many lawyers will recognize tight schedules, resulting in little to no time for conferences with their clients. Unfortunately, a listening lawyer nowadays is rare, despite listening being one of the core tasks of an attorney. When the computer does a part of their work the lawyers will have the time to listen to their clients and practice law as it should be practiced. This way legal practice will become a product of good quality and no, not only because AI will make fewer mistakes than a human. AI is an innovation that not only law firms, but everyone should embrace. Fear of the unknown is understandable, but this should not stop people from experimenting with AI. If you refuse to adapt to the innovations to come, you will face many difficulties in keeping up with your competitors.
Despite all the benefits AI brings, we must not forget that every cloud has a silver lining. As stated before, legal practice finds its roots in the ancient past. The legal profession is all about listening to your client, doing literature research and orating to prove that your client is right. In this process, a special connection derives between the client and the lawyer, a connection a computer most likely will never be able to establish. This is one of the beautiful sights of judiciary. Introducing too many novelties could thus influence the charm of the legal practice negatively. Once AI starts to grow, it will be difficult to stop its development. We can see a similar development in the following example: in 2008 no one believed it would be possible to use a phone without buttons, yet in 2019 there is almost no one without a smartphone. Allowing AI to grow too much, could, therefore, result in lawsuits filed by computers instead of humans, which would be a pity.
To conclude, we must not be afraid to implement AI in legal practice. Taking distance from such innovation will result in problems in the future. We must keep in mind that we need to set boundaries to the changes, as dangers come into play. However, with the growing data-supply, even the ancient Greek heroes would not have been able to complete the work manually, so the helping hand of the future is very welcome.
B.Marr, ‘How Much Data Do We Create Every Day? The Mind-Blowing Stats Everyone Should Read’, Forbes, 2018.
L.Cumming, ‘How AI is helping small and medium-sized law firms stay ahead of the curve’, Bluejlegal, 2018.