Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Field: Will AI Replace the Future Lawyer?

Jordan M. Zim – Lawyers and law students alike know the importance of understanding a client’s needs, as well as their goals in any legal situation. In a time where artificial intelligence (“AI”) is becoming increasingly popular in almost every employment field, it is not surprising that the concept of AI has now entered the legal realm. Lawyers and legal staff, generally, produce income based on an hourly rate. Lawyers are paid for their time and their expertise in extensive legal drafting and interpreting pre-drawn contracts, which are often the heart of a legal issue. But that all may soon change thanks to artificial intelligence and automation.

In June 2016, JPMorgan Chase & Co. created a program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret commercial-loan agreements. The program, Contact Intelligence, was said to have erased the need for 360,000 hours of work by lawyers. According to Bloomberg, the program enables a computer to review documents in seconds, producing less error than a human while in the process. It’s no surprise that AI and automation have started to invade the legal field; just look at Tesla in the auto industry for example, or ask Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Samsung’s Bixby. We have reached a point in technology and society where our desire for efficiency could affect our own employment, and this desire is, for better or for worse, here to stay.

While current lawyers deal with AI in nearly every other aspect of their lives, lawyers of the near future will need to address this issue head on in their careers. A future lawyer can foreseeably be tasked with drafting demand letters, responses to interrogatories, or even conducting a two million-page document review. Prior to AI, the lawyer would start from scratch, use templates, or utilize previously drafted works. However, with AI, it is not farfetched for the lawyer to click a button and input key information, only to have the software do the rest. Under this concept, instead of billing for hours worked on drafting, the lawyer will bill for mere minutes, saving the client endless amounts of money that it would have otherwise had to pay. Similarly, costs for lawyers conducting document reviews would follow suit. Considering clients are increasingly pushing back on paying for less sophisticated, manual tasks, lawyers will almost definitively need to rely on AI and automation in their everyday work. This doesn’t make the job search any easier for future lawyers in an already difficult field to secure a job, but it would make every day legal tasks easier.

One such legal task is the first in any process for a lawyer: whether to take on a new case. Loom Analytics, a startup that utilizes machine-learning technology and legal analysis, provides the lawyer with “hard numbers on win/loss rates, judge ruling histories, litigation trends over time, and much more.” Such a tool, as described by Loom Analytics’ co-founders, could be utilized to “examine [law firm] litigation data stack of past settlements” to provide a clearer picture as to whether it would be beneficial to settle a case. Having this information is not necessary, but it can be critical in an initial analysis of whether a lawyer will take on a new case.

The concept of AI in the legal field opens the door for lawyers and programmers to create similar software for almost every aspect of attorney work product and litigation, with the exception of court appearances. We will have to wait and see the effects of artificial intelligence and automation on the legal industry as we are just scraping the surface of this new technology and its adoption in society; but, as AI increases in quality and legal tasks become more systematic, the lawyer will inevitably need to incorporate automation into their workplace, or else be left in the dust.

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