Opinion

Artificial intelligence and its disruption of the legal sector

By Carl Buckley
Issue No. 03 The Legal One
January 2019

4 Min Read

Architecture Law Firms

Artificial intelligence is transforming the day to day operations of many sectors - and law firms are no exception.

A recent study found that 48% of London law firms are already using AI and 41% are planning on bringing it into their business in the future. So, how is AI being utilised in the legal sector and what does the future look like?

How AI is being used today

Due diligence, a task that consumes a significant amount of a solicitor's time per year, is mundane and time-consuming work. It's also very easily botched by typical human error. This makes due diligence the perfect candidate for AI involvement and AI systems have already been developed to undertake it. AI is already showing to be more efficient and accurate than a human at due diligence, freeing up thousands of employee hours.

AI is also regularly used to carry out contract reviews, and global companies like Deloitte are already utilising it for this task - which AI can do in bulk and individually. By sifting through masses of information and only cherry-picking the relevant parts, AI focuses a solicitor's time, energy and expertise on the issues that matter.

AI isn't just a time saver - but a money saver too. Some cases can require the reading of thousands of documents (a recent investigation by the UK Serious Fraud Office into Rolls-Royce involved looking into a staggering 30 million documents!), leading to some firms hiring independent contractors to assist with the workload. AI can do the job at massively reduced costs and typically in half the time.

Taking a solicitor's time away from the more tedious tasks gives them the ability to put their skills and expertise towards more complicated work, and gives them time to develop stronger relationships with clients. However, there is a reluctance to allow AI to take on any more responsibility, such as decision making, due to some issues that have arisen in recent years.

A report from Pro Publica found that AI algorithms do discriminate on race - a major issue for any sector that deals with customers or clients in any form, and especially for any organisation whose business is justice.

This bias is going to hold AI back for some time, but once it's resolved, AI could have a strong future in the legal sector.

The future of AI

AI is already showing to be performing well in administrative tasks and research, but some industry experts believe that one day we could see AI take the role of a judge in criminal trials. It sounds unbelievable now, but law firms are already pushing the use of AI to see what it is capable of. It's worth bearing in mind that AI can learn - and if we can eliminate bias from algorithms, a robot may prove to be a fairer judge than any human.

This leads us to the most commonly held fear of AI: will it make our jobs redundant? In truth - possibly. Some AI systems are already taking on many of the tasks given to junior and administrative members of staff in law firms, and increased reliance could lead to AI taking a full-time role away from a human being. Will this lead to an entire workforce finding their skills replaced by robots, or will it encourage support staff to build their skill set and knowledge to a point where they are irreplaceable - either by a human or AI?

The answer is probably a mixture of both - AI will replace some roles normally performed by people. It's inevitable. On the positive side, utilising AI can and will free up a solicitor's time to focus on developing their skills and their knowledge - leading to a highly skilled workforce. How much time would your employees save with AI by their side? Could that time be spent gaining more qualifications or developing a specialism? AI isn't capable of replacing your entire team, but it could help you build a stronger one.

Whatever happens, we can't ignore the brilliance of AI. It has the potential to transform our working day and make our workplace more efficient.

After all, it is happening and isn’t going to go away.

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