Changing the Legal Landscape Through AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the fastest-growing technological industries today, but what effects will it have on legal practices? In addition to the growing number of legal questions that arise as the explosive growth of AI creeps into our everyday lives, artificial intelligence is already enabling some software to carry out legal functions. Let’s discuss the future of AI in law. 

What is artificial intelligence (AI)? 

Artificial intelligence, simply put, is teaching computers to “think” the way humans would, using the given data and desired output requested. There are many different types of systems that utilize AI, from advertising and marketing to shopping, to scheduling. These AI systems, also referred to as “narrow” AI, are not what many people think of when they imagine artificial intelligence. Typically, what may come to mind are human-like computers, such as those featured in movies and television, capable of complex thought and emotion. 

In reality, AI is most often used to carry out specific tasks that require a very concentrated skillset, and AI allows a programmer to “teach” a computer to perform these specialized tasks extremely proficiently. 

How are we using AI today? 

AI is often used for things such as navigation, analyzing large datasets, organizing and ordering inventory, and other tasks that are time-consuming and tedious. AI can also be used to translate spoken or written language, and help make decisions by determining likely outcomes. AI is used by a huge variety of industries, as well as by individuals. 

AI shines when it comes to increasing efficiency. This can be seen in scheduling, planning, data management, and other tasks that typically require the dedication of large amounts of time. Within the legal industry, huge amounts of data often need to be analyzed or searched for keywords, making AI a powerful tool. 

The capabilities of AI

Artificial intelligence is great at recognizing patterns, which is the primary way computers are able to “learn.” This means that AI is perfect for analyzing large amounts of documents and materials, which can help with a huge number of tasks relevant to legal professions. 

Limitations of AI

AI is not yet able to compose legal documents, advise clients, or replicate the services of a lawyer inside of a courtroom. Since AI is dependent on human directives, inputted data, and incapable of certain types of critical thinking, AI is limited by the way in which it is built. As AI becomes more capable of independent decision making, new challenges continue to pop up, as well as legal, moral and ethical dilemmas.  

AI in Law

AI is already being used to review legal documents, as well as assist in research prior to or during a case. Particularly when cases have large amounts of paperwork that would take a significant amount of time to sift through, AI is helpful in making sure documents with certain keywords get pushed to the top of the stack. 

Another way AI is being used by legal professionals is to understand risk and understand the best way to advise their clients. AI can analyze contracts both in bulk and individually much more efficiently than a human could. This makes it much easier to make comments, allows firms to quickly move through contracts, and reduces the number of mistakes and overlooked details. AI is incredibly efficient, which means it can perform legal research much faster, so lawyers are able to build better cases. 

AI is even being used to predict how likely it is that a legal team will win a case, based on all of the relevant data available from similar cases and proceedings. This lets lawyers know the probability of profit and loss when taking on a new case, as well as the best way to proceed, so they have the highest chance of success. 

Why lawyers are reluctant to incorporate AI 

Lawyers are not only reluctant to incorporate any type of technology to their business that may compromise the privacy of their clients, they also don’t want to minimize their billable hours. Not only that, but the learning curve that AI requires to integrate it successfully into a practice can be steep. This makes legal professionals even less likely to consider using AI as a tool to improve their business, since they typically do not have time to learn a new type of technology. 

There are also laws being passed regarding AI and other new technologies that can be used by legal professionals, and they vary state to state. This makes it difficult to know whether new practices put in place may leave a practice vulnerable to legal action against them. 

Artificial intelligence is already changing the legal landscape, and many legal professionals have expressed concern over how AI will directly impact their jobs. Although the legal industry is notoriously slow when it comes to adapting to new technologies and practices, the incorporation of artificial intelligence is inevitable. It is better to be on the forefront of this new frontier, than trying to keep up once AI has increased the speed and efficiency of competing law firms. 

Janelle B. Smith

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