What does AI mean for the future of lawyers?

@IE University

AI is the answer generations of lawyers were waiting for. Just like with almost every sector, AI is set to transform how law firms operate, and will liberate the next wave of legal minds.

Or will it?

While the advent of Artificial Intelligence may seem like a dream come true, many lawyers are worried that their jobs might be in jeopardy. And although it’s true that some jobs are at risk, AI is proving to help bring more work to the sector—and with better pay.

First, we’ll look at the many benefits AI will bring to law firms.

How AI can help lawyers

At its best, AI can be a lifesaver. It’s main shining factor is its ability to help with many of the mundane tasks that have plagued lawyers for years.

Much less research

How quickly can you read pages of legal text? One page every two minutes? One page every minute? What about a million pages a second?

AI-powered software can read over a million pages of legal text in just one second to find the exact passage lawyers need. The amount of time you can save researching as a lawyer is simply incredible. With this technology, the discovery phase is a quick, simple process of confirming facts and finding background information.

Finding the right information and revising contracts

AI software can do more than just skim text for you. If you have a particular document that’s been approved as relevant, the machine-learning algorithm can take it from there, and will search through its database to find other useful texts to help you with your particular case.

What’s more, drafting and revising contracts becomes a whole lot simpler with AI. Elsewhere we saw the rise of blockchain-based smart contracts, and AI is poised to make lawyers lives even easier: the technology can identify standard clauses for different applications, while also spotting potential problems (like inconsistent dates or figures) that are easy to miss with the human eye.

Predicting the outcome of the case

If there’s one thing all lawyers know, it’s that nothing is cut and dry. There often comes that point in a case where you wonder if you should settle then and there, or if you should keep going. Any kind of added data to help you (or the client) make up your mind is very welcome.

But then, often the problem is that you have so much data that it’s impossible to gain any relevant insights from it. Step in AI (again). The technology is able to both store and sort through years’ worth of data. With this, you are able to see your chances of winning the case and offer more accurate advice to your client.

Putting lawyers out of business

OK, now for the elephant in the room. You may wonder, if all these excellent, time-reducing uses of AI exist, won’t lawyers be put out of business? You simply won’t be able to bill as many hours as you did before, with AI doing most of the heavy lifting and in a fraction of a second. 

This is where lawyers need to take a leaf out of marketer’s books. If you’re giving away all your work for free, what do you gain? Well, value. You set yourself apart from other lawyers by providing a high-quality service at a lower cost, and with much less time. If you do this right, you inspire more trust in clients while also having the availability to take on more cases.

Put simply, AI gives your clients a solid reason to come back.

The Digital Revolution and Law in the Internet Age Banner

Keeping it human

But of course, AI can’t do everything. As much as it would simplify things, there is no black or white or objectively correct answer to all questions in the legal world. For many, this is where the beauty of law lies—in its subjective grey areas. It takes a human mind to effectively deal with the nuances of law.

Apart from that, you also need finesse to handle the other entirely human elements of the legal system. AI might be a machine, but it’s working in a world of people. That means judges, clients, witnesses, juries, the media, or whoever else, need to be factored into the equation. This calls for good old-fashioned human creativity.

And, since all the mundane jobs have been taken over by machines, humans now have more time to let their true colors show—as creative lawyers who get results.

Separating the good from the great

According to a Deloitte report, 100,000 legal roles will unfortunately be entirely automated by 2036, meaning certain positions will in fact be a thing of the past. But with AI changing the face of the legal industry, there is an increasing demand for lawyers with very high-level skills.

By 2020, firms will have to start using new talent strategies to find lawyers who fit into the new dynamic. According to Legal IT Insider, although 31,000 jobs have already been lost due to AI, roughly 80,000 have been added to the sector. These jobs are generally higher paid and require more skills.

So what does AI mean for the future of lawyers? Overall, it means change—both good and bad—for everyone. But those who are able to stand out in this new environment will have the chance to take advantage of an exciting era of transformation, and define the future of the legal industry.