The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Law Firms

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Law Firms
The impact of artificial intelligence on law firms

Artificial intelligence. Once the stuff of science fiction (who remembers Captain Kirk’s concern that he might be replaced by the advanced M5 supercomputer?), artificial intelligence (AI) is today very much a part of our reality. And while it’s easy to pick up where Captain Kirk left off and worry that the explosion of AI will take all the work and leave the current labor force with nothing to do, a report from MIT predicts that AI will actually create as many jobs as it eliminates. That goes for the legal profession, too.

According to Marek Bardonski, Managing Partner & Head of AI at Sigmoidal, “AI is here to help lawyers and researchers by taking over the mundane and tedious tasks, leaving more time for business-critical procedures.” The removal of the drudgery that pervades law should be cause for celebration. Think of the inordinate number of hours law practitioners spend – and complain about!  – each month on time-intensive processes such as contract review, contract due diligence, legal research, billing, and more. Then consider what leveraging AI might open up for all of us.

Here’s a closer look at how AI is transforming the legal profession:

Contract and Document Review

Fast, accurate, and easy document reviews? That sounds too good to be true. Well, not anymore. AI is already working to make the manual review of contracts page by endless page a distant memory.

After working through yet another night, it finally occurred to Konrad Pola that there had to be a better way of doing this “essential, yet grueling, and time-consuming, work.” A corporate lawyer, whose experience spans securities law, corporate finance, and M&A, Pola turned his attention towards solving this problem and created Diligen Software.

Diligen’s AI technology cuts contract review time in half by streamlining the end-to-end process of sorting documents, summarizing contracts, and spotting critical provisions. A study of Diligen customers over a 12-month period revealed that the platform increases the accuracy of contract analysis by 80% compared to a lawyer manually reviewing contracts alone. And, to boot, this contract assistant doesn’t ask for vacation.

Another form of artificial intelligence that is widely used in relation to legal documents is OCR, or optical character recognition. This technology turns scanned paper documents and digital images into editable, searchable files. Without OCR, your only option is to manually re-type these documents by hand, which is extremely time-consuming and error-prone. Software such as Adobe Acrobat, NetDocuments, and Evernote already employ this type of AI, which is invaluable to both lawyers and court employees.

Legal Research

The practice of law inherently requires a lot of research. Basic research is a staple of first-year associates: Attorneys spend their formative years learning how to conduct precise, accurate research that wins cases and positions them as experts in their field. But finding details relevant to new cases can take days (or sometimes even weeks) when using standard keyword search.

ROSS is an example of an AI tool that augments keyword search with machine learning that both speeds up the research process and improves the relevance of the results that are found. Just how fast is it? The New York Times once featured a Miami-based litigator who attempted to find a case that was relevant to a matter he was working on. It took him around 10 hours to find what he was looking for. ROSS found the same case in less than 10 seconds.

Predictive Analysis

Artificial intelligence can help lawyers when it comes to predicting the outcome of cases. More specifically, AI can let you know the statistical probability of winning and how much it will cost. Since AI has the ability to analyze millions of data points, it can help predict the outcomes of legal disputes and proceedings and therefore help lawyers and clients make smarter, more informed decisions. 

This particular form of artificial intelligence is already being used in the legal industry. For example, London-based personal injury firm Hodge Jones & Allen has been pioneering a model of predictive case outcomes that analyzes records of past cases. It has not replaced human skills such as experience and judgment, but this AI model has proven itself invaluable in giving the firm a highly competitive edge over the competition. 

Protection Against Cybersecurity

A recent report by the ABA Technology Resource Center reported that 29% of law firms have experienced some form of security breach. And if you think that artificial intelligence raises your firm’s risk for a cyberattack, you may want to think again. Certain forms of AI provide an additional layer of support in preventing these kinds of attacks. Some algorithms are intelligent enough to understand and predict potential threats in ways that a human could not, which means that implementing AI in your law firm may account for a significant decrease in cybersecurity risk. An example of such a solution is Crowdstrike, which uses AI to spot network vulnerabilities, malware, ransomware, and more.

So…Will Arificial Intelligence Replace Lawyers?

As it stands, artificial intelligence has the greatest impact on paralegals and junior lawyers since their roles mostly include the duties listed above. AI can also perform these duties faster and with less margin of error. It is because of this that these positions will most likely become completely automated over the next several years.

However, AI cannot replace the roles of lawyers. Chris Perram, CEO of FileFacets, emphasizes that “it cannot replace the years of legal experience and real-world interactions, judgment, and knowledge of lawyers and those in the law community.” Instead, there is a complementary relationship developing that offers significant upside. “Combining human knowledge and skills with AI technology and tools can, and is proving to be, very successful in enhancing a firm’s scope of services and ultimately revenue, making processes more efficient and helping lawyers and staff get things done faster, cheaper, better—for themselves and their clients,” he says.

There is no doubt: Artificial intelligence is poised to become the new normal in the legal sector. Those law firms that embrace this technology will be viewed as cutting-edge and innovative, while those who do not might struggle to keep up.