Artificial intelligence (AI) is much beloved of science-fiction movies: dystopian nightmares of robots taking over. Well, that’s Hollywood for you. In fact, AI touches your life already in more ways than you could imagine and certainly more than you know about.
How do you automate a lawyer? The simple answer is that you don’t, and you never will. Instead, think of AI as being about attacking tasks, rather than people. Currently, your firm is paying good money to support staff – and even better money to lawyers – to do things which are repetitive, time-consuming, boring and frustrating. And tedium leads to human error. So why not use AI instead? And since AI doesn’t get bored or tired, your work product will be more accurate.
It’s understandable that humans can feel threatened by the idea of being replaced by a computer. The key to the acceptance of AI may be understanding that it can free people up to deeper, richer, more rewarding work, doing what they do best – thinking, advising, mediating, having ideas, having human interactions. The law is, after all, a business about people.
“Within the next few years, we will find ourselves on the cusp of a revolution in the practice of law led by the adoption of artificial intelligence – in particular, by in-house lawyers… AI will become ubiquitous – an indispensable assistant to practically every lawyer. Those that do not adopt and embrace the change will get left behind.”
– Thomson Reuters, May 2019
Obvious targets for AI include research and data-gathering, but it’s also increasingly used for analysing documents, expert witnesses and past decisions; due diligence; contract review and negotiation; predicting outcomes; automating cases; and billing.
Of course, since AI gets the work done faster, that’s fewer hours to bill. But should that be a worry? Isn’t something wrong if a firm is dependent for its viability on charging for the kind of work AI could replace?
With the competitive burner set to ‘high’, it’s important for legal firms to demonstrate to clients that the big bucks are only being charged for the good stuff – the legal advice, not the grunt work. And as for client contact time. isn’t it better for staff to be feeling fresh, motivated, creative and personable, rather than weary, irritated and dulled?
With AI, it’s not a question of whether, but when. And there’s no time like now.
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