The evolution and utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping in the near future. In fact, Statista reports that global revenues from enterprise applications making use of AI are expected to increase by almost $30B by 2025. With such monumental growth, it’s no wonder the legal industry is getting in on the action.
As luck would have it, the legal field is fertile ground for the benefits of AI technology. Time-consuming tasks that attorneys have previously expended manual resources into can now be accomplished using automation and machine-learning in less time and for less money.
The Current State of AI Technology
Artificial intelligence is a useful tool becoming more widely used in real-world applications that learn to complete tasks ordinarily done by humans.
Even for geniuses, it is unrealistic for lawyers to maintain a complete catalog of everything they will ever need to know in their heads at all times. That said, having access to every piece of relevant data on the procedure and outcome of a previous matter can be a huge advantage in producing favorable outcomes in similar matters in the future. That is where AI comes in.
A Harvard Law report notes, “because AI can access more of the relevant data, it can be better than lawyers at predicting the outcomes of legal disputes and proceedings, and thus helping clients make decisions. For example, a London law firm used data on the outcomes of 600 cases over 12 months to create a model for the viability of personal injury cases. Indeed, trained on 200 years of Supreme Court records, an AI is already better than many human experts at predicting SCOTUS decisions.”
AI also has various other–more straightforward–applications of which law firms can take advantage.
Instead of spending work-hours completing tedious and rote tasks, AI can do them for you. Moreover, AI can usually complete tasks more efficiently, thereby improving productivity and standardization.
This increase in productivity allows your firm to reallocate resources as necessary to even further optimize efficiency, cut down on redundancy, and focus on growing profits.
These improvements are not simply theoretical. According to a recent article in Information Age, AI “is not a totally new phenomenon, and the legal industry has been using AI in the litigation discovery process for nearly 10 years.”
In fact, AI has already made its way into the legal profession in the form of legal research, contract review, and management, document review, predicting legal outcomes, and more.
The rise of e-discovery is likely the earliest example of the use of AI in the legal profession. With everything organized in electronic form, AI allows litigators to organize, thread, batch, and search for relevant information in vastly more efficient ways than the manual review of paper documents would allow.
Legal research has also been shown to be greatly aided by AI. For example, a New York Times report chronicles an experiment by a Miami based litigator who decided to test the usefulness of legal research software. The software (Ross Intelligence) is designed to search a massive database of case law and produce the data most relevant to that specific search. This attorney wanted to see if he could find a case relevant to a matter with which he was involved faster than the software. It took him around 10 hours to find the case for which he was looking. The software found the same case immediately.
Furthermore, according to Bloomberg Law, AI “helps legal researchers unearth documents that they could not have found previously and more easily identify similarities between court opinions. Built over five years across 13 million court opinions and counting, this application of AI can minimize the number of errors or missed documents that a user might face.”
This translates to the ability to parse through and analyze millions of legal data points, efficiently organized by relevant criteria, to help forecast a matter’s outcome and expenses–all with the push of a few buttons. AI can provide you with information you wouldn’t have even known to look for.
A recent Deloitte Insight report has shown, in the legal space specifically, “technology has already contributed to the loss of more than 31,000 jobs in the sector but that there has been an overall increase of approximately 80,000, most of which are higher skilled and better paid.”
“Eliminating jobs” at first glance seems like a negative. But, when the jobs being eliminated account for high-turnover and produce low job satisfaction, it is a clear benefit. This makes room to cultivate higher-skilled positions and increase employee value in ways unrealistic without AI shouldering some of the burdens.
Another concern takes the form of confidentiality and cybersecurity – and rightfully so. A recent study by a malpractice insurer revealed that 22% of law firms were the victims of cyberattacks. The victims were bigger names in the field than you might expect, but smaller firms are by no means exempt. For example, the American Bar Association recently found that this figure was 35% in law firms with 10-49 attorneys—meaning over a third of small law firms had been hacked.
However, far from being a liability, CSO reports that AI provides additional support in combating the constant threat of cyberattacks. The self-learning algorithms incorporated into AI technology allow it to better understand and predict potential threats in ways that humans often cannot.
In fact, according to an article in Law Technology Today, AI implementation accounts for a decrease in cybersecurity risk, as opposed to firms that maintain outdated technology.
The combination of natural human-pattern recognition and the support of the self-learning capabilities of AI allow lawyers the ability to extricate pertinent information faster and more easily than ever before.
Aside from the practical benefits the technology provides, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct reiterate the possible ethical implications of making use of available technology to assist clients, stating: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”
The adoption of AI technology is currently a means of gaining advantages of increased productivity and efficiency. As the technology evolves, it may not be long before it becomes an ethical obligation as a tool there is no good reason not to use.