November 20, 2019
AI and machine learning have developed significantly in recent years. In fact, so profound is the transformation that reports now claim that up to 1.5 million jobs are at risk from being replaced by automation. Industries around the world are set to be transformed by AI. The rise of legal artificial intelligence is just one such example.
In most cases, the danger is exaggerated; outside of a few vulnerable industries, the focus will largely be on automating tasks within jobs, rather than the jobs themselves – at least in the near future. But to what extent will the legal industry be affected by automation? And is it possible that, one day, law could become one of those industries that is largely or even wholly automated? In this blog, we discuss legal artificial intelligence and the challenges and opportunities it can provide for the legal industry.
Legal artificial intelligence
The legal profession is one that, on the surface, should be ripe for automation. The law is, after all, a codified set of rules, which is the kind of environment that technology like machine learning thrives in. But, of course, the situation is more complicated. The law is messy, many cases require interpretation, context, and interpretations of complex precedents, rather than hard and fast rules.
In the short term, therefore, there’s small chance of the legal industry becoming wholly automated. But, as with most industries, tasks within people’s jobs can be automated. In fact, AI and machine learning is already at work automating common legal tasks right across the sector. Here’s a look at some examples of legal artificial intelligence.
Documents are the bedrock of the legal profession. The public image of lawyers assumes they spend most of their time in and out of courtrooms. The reality is that their working day is spent creating and combing through documents. These highly manual tasks can be automated. Documents like employment and client contracts are largely similar from version to version – and can be automatically populated from a CRM or similar database. This is a clear benefit to both lawyers and customers, since it allows the lawyer to accelerate their daily tasks, and then pass that cost and efficiency saving onto the customer.
In many law firms, chatbots are now in use to improve the preliminary stages of the client enquiry process. This is particularly true for new enquiries, where users can communicate their query with the chatbot, and be pointed towards the relevant department to take their inquiry to the next level. This eliminates unnecessary secretarial and processing resources. As well as this, chatbots are also in use for low level judicial advice enquiries, such as flight rights and parking ticket advice.
Research is another significant task that takes up a large chunk of lawyers’ time. Lawyers spend hours trawling through documents, legislation, contracts – and a whole raft of other information sources. With developments in AI and machine learning, this task can be rapidly accelerated. In particular, a field of AI known as natural language processing (NLP) can help, by allowing algorithms to search documents and identify the relevant passages. This is the same technology that allows voice assistants such as Cortana and Alexa to interact with people. In short, it allows machines to analyse and understand the deeper, semantic meaning of language.
In law, NLP can be used to vastly accelerate the process of combing through statue law, case law, and a whole raft of other complicated documents. It also improves the due diligence process, allowing lawyers and clients to more efficiently access the information they need to investigate businesses or individuals before entering into a legal agreement.
In Miami, a technology company called Kira Systems has been working on a legal memo service, known as Ross, which can automatically generate legal memorandum documents, or ‘memos’. These documents, common across the legal profession, are a way of presenting researched information in a standard, formal manner. Memo requests filed into Ross are returned within two days, with some input required from legal professionals when writing and presenting the final information. The system is far from completely automating the memo writing process, but it’s taking significant steps in that direction – and could be with us sooner than you might think.
Automation in the courtroom
For now, AI and automation are being used to improve research and document generation. But there have been calls for the law industry to take that one step further and introduce automation into the courtroom as well. This is naturally a controversial move – but many think that we can relieve pressure on a heavily backlogged judiciary system by automating decisions of minor cases and bail eligibility.
A future for legal artificial intelligence
Like all industries, law will be changed significantly by AI technology. Today, the extent of that change remains unknown – but it’s clear that changes are now inevitable. While there’s some chance that there’ll be fewer lawyers in the distant future, there’s little chance of them being wholly or largely replaced by technology. That’s because too much of law work requires human judgement, reasoning, and empathy – tasks that even the most significant AI systems will struggle with.
But the potential is vast for law firms to make their services more efficient and cost-effective with AI. And those law firms that take advantage of that potential are best placed to get ahead in the future.
At Law365, we work exclusively with Microsoft partners, so we’re at the cutting edge of both technology and law. That means we’re best placed to take advantage of developments as they occur, and pass those efficiencies on as better services for our customers.
If you want to find out more about how Law365 can help provide better and faster legal services for your Microsoft Partner business, get in touch with us today.