Artificial intelligence (AI) in law practice is both controversial and inevitable. Will it make routine work easier or more complicated?
As the practice of law becomes increasingly dependent on technology, it only makes sense to use technology in response to technological complexity to improve your firm’s productivity and your practice. This is not about search engines, conducting Boolean searches or Word or Excel, we are talking about a game changer.
Cognitive computing, another term for AI, is a term for computers learning how to complete tasks traditionally done by humans. Some estimates say that basic legal functions will be able to be done by AI by 2045 or sooner.
Resistance is futile.
Most experts think it will take longer to fully develop an AI replacement of legal work due to the complexity of such work, however, applications will soon be available for eDiscovery and even analysis of unstructured data. Development of capabilities in these areas could help you become a more productive and better lawyer.
The main force driving AI development is that most individuals and companies think they cannot afford professional legal advice. According to ALM’s Legal Tech News, people want their delivery of law better, faster and cheaper. This demand will drive value-based billing as opposed to time-based billing. This is being adopted widely as demand for legal services remains flat, according to Georgetown University’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession study, 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market. The study also reports that all levels of law are seeing a “downward trend in productivity of all timekeepers except associate.” All due to decreased legal spending by businesses.
To give you a sense of how far along the development of AI is, Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, has created an autonomous subsidiary -- NextLaw Labs -- to develop cognitive computing programs that will drive change and innovation in law practice.
As an example of how the technology can help, NexLP (which stands for next generation language processing) has developed technology that can turn unstructured information into stories. Dan Roth, a professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and his partner, Jay Lieb, own NexLP.
NexLP’s Story Engine software is a “program that can read through unstructured data and summarize conversations, including ideas discussed, the frequency of the communication and the mood of the speakers.”
Lawyers are not, as a rule, early technology adopters. They are steeped in tradition and law is very structured. A disrupter, which is what AI is, will not be favored by many in the legal profession, and it may replace jobs done by people today. It is, nevertheless inevitable because of relentless software development, demand for cost reduction and demand in the legal community. If it results in better, faster and cheaper, it will be welcomed by your clients.
Jim Grandone is President of Grandone Media Strategies in Edwardsville, Illinois. He can be reached at 618-444-0971, or at firstname.lastname@example.org