Machines are gradually creeping up into workplaces and displacing humans as these robots finish multiple tasks in so short a time and with more consistency in the quality of work they deliver. Although this threat of automation was mostly secluded to routine and clerical work, recent studies have shown that machines have the potential to disrupt areas where more complex human work is required.
The field of law, where the central practices involve mapping out a legal strategy and crafting arguments using facts—and of course, critical thinking—is a good case in point. After all, artificial intelligence-powered robot-lawyers have long been a buzzword, especially in recent years.
Exhibit A: The studies stoking AI takeover fears in the law profession
A 2016 study authored by Dana Remus, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Frank Levy, a labour economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Labor Economist, dealt on how automation can displace lawyers.
They concluded that all new technologies applicable for a law firm’s use could trim by 13 percent a lawyer’s working hours.
The findings were quite similar to a January 2017 report by the McKinsey Global Institute which found that 23 percent of a lawyer’s daily task can be eradicated with the application of technology.
Meanwhile, some studies went a little further to the extent of testing whether AI can beat lawyers in assessing the risks contained in five non-disclosure agreements.
For the study which was published in February 2018, legal tech startup LawGeex challenged a group of 20 experienced lawyers—among whom were associates and in-house lawyers from major companies such as Goldman Sachs, Cisco and Alston & Bird—to test their skills and knowledge against its AI-engineered algorithm.
In terms of accuracy, the AI levelled with the top-performing lawyer as both scored 94%. In all, lawyers logged an 85% average while the lowest rate stood at 67%.
On speed, AI outperformed the 20 lawyers at 26 seconds to a 92-minute average of the participants. The fastest lawyer completed the task in 51 minutes while the slowest took 156 minutes.
So with the mounting studies of how AI and robots can replace lawyers, should the law business fear tech disruption?
This fear may not be the case when you see the number of law firms letting in the technology into their legal departments and law firms.
Exhibit B: Lawyers embrace AI
In the United Kingdom, about 48 percent of London-based law firms are already into AI while another 41 percent are revving up to transition into adopting the technology, a 2018 study by CBRE showed.
The study noted that the most common uses of AI include legal documentation generation and review (as 63 percent of firms pointed out), e-discovery (also 63 percent), due diligence (47 percent), research (42 percent), compliance and administrative support (both 32 percent).
Meanwhile, the latest Technology Survey Report by the American Bar Association shows that 10 percent of lawyers surveyed in the US used artificial intelligence-based tech tools for their legal work in 2018.
Aside from firms, individual lawyers are starting to join the trend as well.
James Yoon, a forty-nine-year-old lawyer in Palo Alto, California, revealed using tech tools which help him file court decisions and predict possible decisions of judges and lawyer based on their profile data.
For Mr Yoon, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, such technologies aid him in coming up with a winning strategy rather than bump him off.
To sum it up, instead of shunning the technology, law firms have been welcoming AI. However, why?
Exhibit C: The advantages of AI in the law profession
AI systems such as ROSS Intelligence, dubbed the first robot lawyer, uses an IBM Watson-engineered online research tool which leverages on natural language processing to help go through over a million pages of legal documents in a minute.
Meanwhile, iManage RAVN, a similar system this time developed in the UK, specializes in the law business, among others. Solicitors, among other white-collar professionals. Winner of the 2017/2018 Modern Law Awards for Best Use of Technology category, RAVN offers lawyers a web-based document management systems for purposes of organizing files into one easily accessible location via mobile and even when offline.
Although AI initially served the legal profession merely for searching keywords in megabytes of data, AI, a trained machine, has transformed the business with its ability to sort through a vast amount of disparate documents and determine which ones are relevant to the case at hand.
Simply put, the allure of injecting AI into the legal research process is owed to its tremendous capability to gather, validate and analyze data as it focuses on the overall language and context of a document instead of going through each on a per-word basis.
The benefits the technology impacts several areas in the legal profession:
1. Due diligence review
A due diligence analysis refers to an audit of an investor, investment or product to verify facts, such as financial and legal records among other materials deemed essential to assessing the potential risks that can harm the other Party involved in the transaction.
2. Predicting outcomes even for judicial use
AI in legal analytics can go as far as predicting a judge’s possible decision based on the arguments offered.
These decisions are possible as computers also look into traditional determining factors: similar historical cases on which the decision will likely be based; the strength of the facts; and even the pattern of the judge’s decision-making based on cases he has previously handled.
Some firms already engaging AI in their operations include Lexis Nexis which acquired Lex Machina and Ravel Law and are expanding these uses to several areas in its business operations.
Aside from analysis, such machines can offer their own recommendations on the language and precedent cases on which lawyers can base their argument. However, recommendations can also be used for the courts’ decision-making as well.
A recommendation given by a software had been a basis for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to sentence in 2015 a man convicted for six years.
Meanwhile, some are attempting to draw up a mechanism wherein the courts’ involvement will no longer be required.
The UK government, for instance, had been mulling over the employment of an Internet-based dispute resolution system to resolve minor civil legal claims—less than £25,000— without the intervention of a court.
3. Contract formation, review and management
AI tools can also create contracts. Contracts can be set up using a platform that both the lawyer and client can access. On the platform, can draft contracts on a self-service basis. The parties can choose the type of contract they need and then input variables that will serve as the salient terms of the contract. Legal parameters are inputted to become the set standards in the automated contract making.
Law firms can customize their involvement in some instances. Lawyers can choose to only view and deal with contracts of a specific nature or if a client requires a nonstandard agreement.
Aside from making contracts, AI can check whether clauses are within legal confines and are compatible with previous agreements if there are such.
Moreover, when all contracts are completed and verified, the storage of these documents along with some key information relevant to the contract should be added, for example, termination date, issuance date for a notice of renewal, among others.
In the days of yore, all these details were written on a spreadsheet. With AI, the method has evolved to one wherein the task is completed without any human intervention, except during the setup and the often fine-tuning of the program.
4. Consultancy services through legal bots
Bots are online tools designed to interact with an audience with the aim of assisting them by providing customized responses to specific situations.
In law firms, bots are helping current or prospective clients in dealing with a legal issue based on their own circumstances and facts. Other groups are developing pro bono legal bots to assist people who may not otherwise have access to the legal system.
As it seems, AI, instead of sweeping away altogether the need for human resources, takes on tedious tasks that nevertheless account for a significant part in building a lawyer’s strategy. Lawyers’ time is being maximized to be used in other more productive tasks; operational cost is tempered with the cutting of jobs and work, which runs 24/7, results in very accurate results.
Moreover, to give an idea of the speed of AI, one study had shown that TAR provides much more efficiency, almost fifty-fold higher than when conducted by humans.
Although more and more law firms are embracing the technology, it is still worth mulling over the possibility that 800 million workers worldwide will be replaced by robots by 2030, as management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company forecasts.
Although the report did note that some jobs— like physical ones in “predictable environment”, collecting and gathering data, etc.—are more susceptible to others.
In this case, it will be the junior lawyers, the paralegals, and other support law jobs who do most of the research work who are not on the safe side. According to CBRE’s research earlier cited, 45 percent of firms surveyed expect to see headcount fall at these while a measly 7 percent expect AI to result in a shedding of senior-level lawyers.
Also, when you think about the recent advancements of technology and how abrupt they emerge into the scene, these make machines-takeover in critical-thinking jobs, not a far-fetched concept.
All these are therefore compelling an adoption strategy to be drawn from policymakers and business leaders.
On top of this strategy should be welcoming the advantages that automation can bring while addressing employment concerns; history has taught us that those who fail to leverage technology in their progress will be left behind.
However, of course, policymakers across the world are driven to strive for automation across industries to bolster productivity, thus, achieve their economic growth targets.
However, they will have to face labour deployment which is turning to be one of the most compelling societal challenges that are resulting from automation. After all, an economy’s growth story is heavily contingent on the production capacity of its workforce.
What government can do is start discussing the issue with stakeholders to come up with a joint decision on the requirements. Both the government and the private sector can help ensure that these steps are implemented.
Policymakers can also craft policies and campaigns to help educate and train workers to develop skills fit for certain automation jobs, particularly those seeing a lack of applicants such as data scientists and business translators.
Mckinsey & Company pointed out the significance of mid-career job training, labour market dynamism and enabling worker redeployment as some of those essential in the transition.
Economies that defy modern transformations will, of course, see its jobs growth stunted or even reduced. Moreover, lawyers may not be exempt from that feared scarcity of jobs for humans.