Artificial Intelligence and Legal Function

These days it is one of the hot topics in Legal circles – alarming predictions of artificial intelligence (AI) replacing lawyers. How will AI, machine learning, and big data affect the legal system as technology improves?

Algorithms pervade our lives today, from music recommendations to credit scores and now, to bail and sentencing decisions. There are courts in United States which use algorithms to determine an Accused’s “risk”, which ranges from the probability that such an individual committing another crime to the likelihood of whether that person appear for his or her court date. These algorithmic outputs inform decisions about bail, sentencing, and parole. Like any other tool, AI here aspires to improve on the accuracy of human decision-making that allows for a better allocation of finite resources.

Artificial intelligence can mimic certain operations of the human mind and is the term used when machines are able to complete tasks that typically require human intelligence. The term machine learning is when computers use rules (algorithms) to analyze data and learn patterns and extract insights from the data. Artificial intelligence is a large factor shifting the way any work is done – legal is not an exception.

The most common AI myth is that it will take the place of human beings. But AI will actually augment the roles that lawyers play within their organizations. It will support, rather than supplant, their jobs. But we must remember the rapid pace of AI’s acceleration is faster than we realize or fully comprehend. Those lawyers, firms and professionals who assess the situation and plan for hiring and training the right skill-set of future lawyers and professionals will be much better prepared for the AI-age.

According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036. They report that by 2020 law firms will be faced with a “tipping point” for a new talent strategy.  Now is the time for all law firms to commit to becoming AI-ready by embracing a growth mindset, set aside the fear of failure and begin to develop internal AI practices.

The common misplaced notion that many legal industry executives, lawyers and law firms have is that Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning is a threat to their existence, or put simply, that AI is going to replace Lawyers. The evidence, from other industries such as eCommerce, healthcare and accounting is that AI will only enable Judges, lawyers and law firms to do more with less, to become way more productive than their predecessors.

As AI rapidly being applied to all major sectors, including medicine, finance, national defense, transportation, manufacturing, the media, entertainment and social relationships, that will create a lot of new legal issues for lawyers! There will be new subject matters like liability issues of autonomous cars, the legality of lethal autonomous weapons, financial bots that may run afoul of antitrust laws, and the safety of medical robots. But in addition to changing the subject matter that lawyers work on, it will also transform the way lawyers practice their craft.

In short, we can say AI isn’t the future of law. But AI-assisted lawyers are.