How artificial intelligence can transform the legal sector

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Over the last decade, artificial intelligence technology has been integrated into a number of industries and the legal sector is no exception; a recent study of London law firms by CBRE revealed that 48 percent are already beginning to use AI.

As AI tools become more widely understood and sophisticated, firms will increasingly look to AI as a means of streamlining their processes and cutting down on labor costs. Consequently, I believe it’s only a matter of time before the legal sector is radically transformed by the integration of AI.

As an innovator in the AI space, I’ve seen how far things have progressed over the last few years and I’m optimistic that the coming decade of disruption will ultimately lead to a better, more accessible legal industry. However, the growing use of AI also presents unique challenges for lawyers and their support teams that have to be carefully and critically assessed in the coming years.

What can AI bring to the law?

For individual law firms, the potential benefits of adopting AI across their business are incalculable. Integrating AI allows firms to streamline procedural work and create new, innovative ways of managing their workflow that lessen the need for the large backroom teams that many large firms employ. In essence, the legal industry is particularly ripe for AI disruption because of the vast amounts of administrative work that habitually prevents firms from operating efficiently.

However, AI’s contribution to the legal sector is not limited to automating vast swathes of paralegal work. AI software can revolutionise practice management by automating the billing process and generating smart invoices for every one of the firms' clients. AI could even be used to draw up complex contracts and suggest additional material from a library of thousands of existing documents.

Firms are experimenting with the use of chatbots technology to deliver basic legal advice. DoNotPay has already garnered a lot of attention for allowing users to appeal parking fines and it’s not unreasonable to expect that as the technology becomes more sophisticated, higher quality and more specific advice could be offered by a similar machine learning (ML) tool.

As with all new technologies, the ultimate aim is to ensure that firms offer a higher quality and more consistent service. It is important to note that AI is not positioned to outperform the high-end tasks performed by legal professionals, but should rather be seen as a tool designed to support them by carrying out time-consuming research or administrative tasks. That’s why now is the time for forward-thinking firms to begin integrating AI into their legal services as well as their administrative procedures.

Staying vigilant when integrating AI

The use of AI does however give rise to a few practical and ethical considerations that legal teams must be aware of. Many revolve around the sensitive data that firms would be required to store on clients in order to offer an optimal service. Of course, data breaches and leaks are a constant threat in the digital age but these can be avoided by ensuring that staff are well-trained on the latest data security practices.

Furthermore, AI technologies have come under scrutiny recently for being prone to bias. The problem is that, to be free of bias, AI tools require a completely unbiased dataset. While theoretically, this is an ideal that is hard to live up to in reality. Besides, AI is no more biased than the human decision makers who currently predominate.

Biases can have consequences but this just means end users have to be vigilant to discriminatory patterns arising from AI software. Afterall, it is still an evolving technology and to be adopted effectively by organisations in the legal sector, there needs to be proper understanding of AI’s limitations and strengths. This will then determine what tasks it can perform.

Leading the legal industry into a bright future

The important thing to bear in mind is that AI has the potential to provide huge benefits to practitioners and their clients. For example, AI can allow firms to better manage and index through their historic data in search of relevant information. Digitised libraries are already the norm and AI is a natural extension of this more efficient approach to managing the stores of information available to the modern firm.

However, if AI is to truly realise its potential then industry leaders can’t simply view it in terms of allowing lawyers to do as they always have done but more efficiently. Lawyers have to start thinking more like innovators. After all AI should be seen as a tool employed to reach a bigger objective – it is for industry insiders to ascertain how to best apply new technologies to their business and industry more generally.

Still, it’s of the utmost importance that firms adhere to ethical and professional standards in order to ensure that they can fully benefit from AI, and this is where consulting with experts in the field can be extremely helpful.

AI is still evolving and it’s important that lawyers play a role alongside developers in shaping the future role of AI within the legal space. However, in order to meaningfully contribute to the lawtech conversation, lawyers first need to familiarise themselves with the different AI toolsets available.

Ultimately, with proper understanding of AI’s strengths and limitations, lawyers can begin to make their firms more technology and data driven.

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