Can lawyers be automated?

The first most talked about use of AI perhaps was when IBM developed a chess playing computer named Deep Blue which beat the then reigning world champion Gary Kasparov in its second attempt, way back in 1997. In the year 2005, Stanford robot won the DARPA Grand challenge by driving autonomously for 131 miles along a desert trail thanks to tedious engineering application and increased speed and capacity of the computer. AI was soon used throughout the technology industry in fields like data mining, industrial robotics, logistics, speech recognition, banking software and medical diagnosis. Not to forget Google?s search engine.

In the legal industry too, AI is becoming increasingly crucial in enhancing legal research and analysis, helping in law practice management as well as providing easily accessible legal customer service. Many people are actively wondering whether Artificial Intelligence will gradually eat into the jobs of legal professionals or will it eventually lead to the creation of automated lawyers? The answer lies somewhere in between.

Increasing role of AI in the Legal domain

When it comes to legal research, AI-enabled systems are assisting lawyers in finding relevant material pertaining to their case by quickly filtering through related documents and sites. These systems also help law firms prepare for big cases with immediate court dates quickly as well as help them cut costs on manpower required to analyse large amounts of data in a short span of time. Law firms are also reaping the benefits of AI?s predictive power that allows them to examine years? worth of legal data and predict the outcome of these cases. The systems are so advanced that they can even use court docket databases and other key sources of information to give lawyers valuable insights into how a judge may rule in a particular case.

Artificial Intelligence software is also being used as a second set of eyes to recheck important contracts and look for any incorrect, missing or improper clauses. Contract intelligence systems are able to sift through thousands of credit agreements and analyse them for consistency in a few seconds, saving weeks of manual work. Moreover, intelligent document management systems enabled with machine learning can rapidly confirm facts and find background information which in turn helps accelerate arbitration and litigation proceedings.

Lawyers can also easily access intellectual property information with AI?s assistance and search huge quantities of patent filings, existing claims, pending or granted trademarks and copyright filings to know if an existing filing, claim or trademark infringes on an existing intellectual property claim.

AI capabilities employed in legal practice management software also help lawyers as well as law firms keep track of billable hours of each client and automatically generate invoices. More importantly machine learning AI applications help in document classification as well as text summarization by digesting and examining enormous quantities of legal documents from contracts to court notices. This reduces the need of junior legal assistants by simplifying law practice management.

Customer Service is another area that has got an AI boost with AI-enabled tools and chatbots providing quick legal support to consumers with the help of an online interface.

Will AI make lawyers redundant?

Coming to the moot point; while AI-based technology is making a series of manual legal jobs automated, it will certainly not make lawyers and judges redundant. What it is doing is increasing the efficiency of legal professionals, significantly reducing time and energy spent on a series of mundane jobs and allowing lawyers more time to bolster their practice.

Law firms who enrol AI-based technology in a major way will certainly save a few positions of researchers and legal professionals. However, this is how Artificial Intelligence has been impacting all industries across the board by refining processes and adding value. Much like the advent of computers did eat into a series of manual jobs but also created entire new avenues of work, AI is also unleashing greater specializations and better avenues for early adapters.

The freedom from hours of research based drudgery will allow lawyers and prosecutors more time to interview clients, derive deeper insight from their investigation and focus on improving legal processes and outcomes. This will also serve to accelerate the judicial process and help the courts dispose off cases faster.

However, if you are envisioning a courtroom where chatbots or intelligent robots will replace lawyers, you are stretching your imagination a bit too far. Artificial Intelligence is not here to automate lawyers, it is here to automate their manual tedious work and allow them more time to improve their work outcome. Lawyers and judges are not becoming redundant any time soon.

The author is Founder, LegitQuest

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