The application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the legal field has become increasingly prevalent, yet many legal professionals and practitioners are not fully aware of its use.
Despite the growing adoption of technology in the legal industry, there is still confusion about the role of AI in law and legal practice.
Some of the most frequently asked questions include:
- How can AI help in legal practice?
- What are the disadvantages of AI in law?
And, perhaps above all:
- Will computers replace lawyers?
This blog post aims to provide insight into these common questions and a deeper understanding of what AI means in law.
What Does AI Mean in Law?
AI in law is often referred to as Legal AI and is a combination of multiple natural language processing (NLP) technologies and machine learning algorithms designed to analyze and interpret legal documents and text.
Despite the name, it is not truly AI in the sense of a computer that can think, reason, and learn. Instead, it is a collection of tools and technologies that help legal professionals to automate various tasks and streamline workflows.
This is due to the legal tech companies that develop these tools not having that type of AI. Instead, their systems are designed to perform specific tasks within the legal domain.
The term AI is misleading and often used for convenience. It is easier to say than the full range of technologies used in legal practice.
Therefore, it is essential to understand that the type of AI used in legal is different from the advanced artificial intelligence efforts to create a general algorithm that can learn to do anything.
How is AI Used in Law?
The integration of AI tools and technologies in the legal industry allows legal professionals to work with greater efficiency and accuracy.
As a result, the speed and quality of their services have improved while costs have decreased. Additionally, AI has enhanced access to justice for many individuals.
While AI’s impact may not be immediately apparent, it significantly improves the ability of lawyers and paralegals to put their clients first.
AI-powered virtual legal assistants, for example, can help people find answers to their legal questions, resolve disputes, and access legal services more efficiently and cost-effectively.
Some of the ways lawyers use AI in their firms include:
The use of AI in law is most frequently seen in electronic or e-discovery. In this process, electronic information is searched to retrieve information relevant to a legal case or claim but not privileged.
E-discovery software enables lawyers to search through documents using keywords or specific criteria such as dates and locations. As a result, they get almost instantaneous responses, which is significantly faster than manual document searches.
This extra time saved leads to a more thorough discovery of relevant information.
Legal Research Tools
Like e-discovery software, AI-powered legal research tools help legal professionals rapidly search and analyze large databases that contain regulations, laws, case histories, and more.
These tools provide lawyers with access to data that helps them understand relevant precedents and make informed decisions. The ability to conduct thorough research at a faster pace not only saves lawyers time but also reduces costs for clients.
Integration with practice management software, such as Casetext and Fastcase, allows users to perform and attach research directly to specific case information.
AI-Powered Document Management
Leveraging the tag and profile features of AI-powered document management software, legal professionals can now efficiently store and organize all their legal documents, including case files, contracts, emails, and notes.
Furthermore, through AI-powered document automation, legal professionals can streamline the process of filling in form fields. Automatically drawing information from case records, lawyers reduce the time and energy spent on document production.
This leads to a more centralized and efficient method of producing a wide range of legal documents, including letters, motions, agreements, invoices, and pleadings.
This system of organizing digital files, combined with full-text search, makes finding specific documents a much more manageable task.
The Benefits of AI in Law
Implementing AI in law firms enhances the capabilities of legal professionals to carry out their tasks. By automating manual processes, AI allows for more time to be devoted to building relationships with clients and focusing on their needs. This leads to numerous benefits for both clients and the overall financial success of the law firm.
1. Increased Efficiency in Legal Work
Employing AI technology in law firms streamlines the workflow, freeing up precious time for lawyers to focus on client needs.
With AI-driven automation, time-consuming manual tasks like searching for documents, conducting thorough research, and generating invoices become much faster and easier.
This results in increased productivity, allowing lawyers to spend more time on billable work and strengthening their relationships with clients.
2. Improved Access to Legal Services
Adopting AI in the legal industry can significantly enhance access to justice for clients. In addition, automating certain aspects of civil litigation can increase accessibility to the courts and judicial systems for a broader range of individuals.
Moreover, legal representatives who were previously overburdened with work will now be able to take on additional cases, providing clients with the legal support they need.
While full automation of legal advice and court representation is still a distant possibility, technology that closes gaps in information during the contract writing stage may reduce litigation.
3. Reduced Costs
The use of AI and machine learning in the legal field offers the possibility of breaking down barriers to justice, particularly by reducing the high cost of obtaining legal assistance.
By automating time-consuming and repetitive legal tasks, lawyers are able to save time and reduce costs for clients. For example, if research that used to take 20 hours can now be done in just two hours, the cost savings can be passed on to the client.
Additionally, the time saved from manual tasks can be redirected towards providing assistance to more clients.
4. Enhanced Accuracy
Although machine learning models that will anticipate the outcomes of pending cases are still in their infancy, they yield encouraging results.
Some companies, such as Toronto-based startup Blue J Legal are developing an AI-based legal prediction engine with an initial focus on tax law. According to the company, their engine can accurately forecast the outcomes of ongoing cases with a 90% accuracy.
These kinds of legal AI tools will change how law firms handle cases. For example, law firms will use such applications to develop litigation tactics, speed up settlement negotiations, and limit the number of cases that go to trial.
Furthermore, AI provides an advantage of earlier and more accurate risk assessment. Tools such as Technology Assisted Review (TAR) and predictive coding are capable of reviewing information in real-time, enabling lawyers to identify potential risks early on.
On top of that, these tools provide informed advice to clients about their exposure, and prevent legal problems before they even arise.
In the event of a lawsuit or a threatened lawsuit, these advanced solutions help law firms to swiftly identify relevant information and determine the data and individuals that must be protected.
Challenges of AI in Law
Integrating AI into the legal industry raises many ethical and legal questions. These include the following questions:
- Could the failure to utilize AI in certain areas of law, such as discovery, potentially lead to a malpractice lawsuit?
- Should criminal defendants have the right to access AI tools if they are beneficial for their case?
- Should lawyers disclose their use of AI in a case, and if so, must they also reveal the training data and inputs used to configure the machine learning models?
The following are some of the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure the reliability and accuracy of AI-based legal prediction engines:
1. Authenticity and Reliability of AI-Based Legal Prediction Engine
One of the most significant challenges in AI authenticity and reliability is the risk of bias in AI algorithms.
The training data used to teach AI systems may contain implicit biases, which could be perpetuated in the AI system’s decision-making process. Removing these biases is crucial to examine and cleaning the training data thoroughly.
In legal processes, AI reliability can be tested through various methods, including regular performance evaluations, assessments of accuracy and completeness, and independent reviews. AI solutions must also comply with relevant data privacy and security regulations.
Another critical factor is the transparency of AI systems. The complexity of AI algorithms makes it harder to comprehend the basis for their decisions.
This lack of transparency raises concerns about the reliability of AI systems and the accountability of legal professionals who use them.
The use of AI in criminal law is especially problematic due to the potential consequences of making liberty-depriving decisions based on an algorithm.
Society may trust these algorithms too much and make decisions based on their predictions, even if the technology may not be as “intelligent” as it appears.
2. The Cost of Implementing AI
The cost of implementing AI in the legal industry can vary greatly depending on several factors.
Some of these factors include:
- The type of AI technology being used,
- The size of the firm,
- The scope of the project.
Generally, AI solutions for the legal industry can range from a few thousand dollars for smaller, cloud-based solutions to hundreds of thousands of dollars for more comprehensive AI systems.
For larger law firms, the cost of implementing AI technology may include the cost of software licenses, hardware upgrades, and consulting fees for integrating the technology into the existing infrastructure. In addition, firms may incur ongoing expenses for data storage, maintenance, and support.
Another consideration is the cost of hiring or training employees with AI expertise. This may include hiring specialized IT personnel, data scientists, or legal technologists.
3. The Impact on Careers in Law
AI indeed has the potential to automate some of the repetitive and time-consuming tasks in the legal industry. But, when it comes to discussions about the impact of AI on the legal profession, the media often portrays a bleak future where machines take over jobs traditionally done by lawyers and judges.
So, the question remains: How much of a threat do AI-powered legal services pose to legal professionals?
Some experts argue that AI could displace many legal jobs, particularly those in the lower-skilled and lower-paid categories. Moreover, as AI technology advances and becomes more accessible, the fear of job loss may increase among legal professionals.
Still, many experts believe AI will not replace human lawyers despite these concerns. Instead, they claim that AI will change the way legal jobs are performed rather than eliminate them altogether.
Lawyers will still be needed to provide legal advice, interpret the law, and represent clients in court. AI will simply help them perform their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
Note: The use of AI in law is still in its early stages and there may be additional drawbacks that arise in the future. Therefore, it is crucial to continuously evaluate and assess the impact of AI in the legal profession.
Examples of AI in Law
Here are a few examples of the use of AI in law:
Verifying facts and assessing legal situations is a crucial aspect of a lawyer’s job, which is necessary to advise clients on their options and actions they should take. This due diligence process is time-consuming and prone to mistakes, making it a tedious task for lawyers.
To combat these challenges, AI-based solutions are being developed to assist with the due diligence process. One such solution is eBrevia. Its founders, Ned Gannon and Adam Nguyen, built a startup in partnership with Columbia University with the intention of reducing the document review process.
The software uses natural language processing and machine learning to extract relevant textual data from legal contracts and documents to assist lawyers in analysis, due diligence and lease abstraction.
As NLP capabilities advance, the entire process can be carried out end-to-end by AI programs. Large companies like Home Depot, Salesforce, and eBay are already using AI-powered contract review services in their operations.
AI is also used in litigation finance (third-party funding) to help investors make more data-driven assessments of which cases are worth backing. Using data and machine learning algorithms, companies like Legalist Inc. can make more informed and accurate assessments of the likelihood of success in a given case.
Also, it can help level the playing field for plaintiffs who may not have the resources to pursue their legal rights on their own.
If you want to dive deeper into specific use-cases and applications that showcase AI’s impact on law today, as well as Neil’s expert insights on the areas most likely to be disrupted in the next five years, follow the link: podcast.emerj.com.
AI in Law: Final Thoughts
While the full potential of AI has yet to be fully realized in the legal industry, the possibilities are promising.
The benefits of AI in law include:
- Increased efficiency
- Improved access to legal services
- Reduced costs
- Enhanced accuracy,
However, to ensure that these benefits are realized and the risks are managed, it is essential for law firms to invest in the right AI tools and to work closely with legal technology experts.
This will help to ensure that AI systems are implemented in a way that is aligned with the firm’s values and objectives and that the potential for job displacement is mitigated.
What advantages can your law firm gain by implementing AI software solutions?