Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have revolutionized our daily lives. From our smartphones and intelligent cars to e-commerce and smart home devices, we rely on these technologies to help keep us safe and make everyday tasks easier to manage.
A lot of legal professionals resist the AI movement. As these innovations continuously seep into the practice of law, many lawyers fear that machine learning will one day make the legal profession obsolete. While some disruption will occur – especially in the realm of simple legal tasks – AI can never replace the humanity of an attorney-client relationship. Instead of viewing these tech advances as competition, lawyers should see them as effective tools for supplementing their skills, not replacing them.
Big law firms have been utilizing machine learning for years but increasing numbers of small and mid-sized firms are discovering the benefits of these technologies. AI helps smaller firms remain competitive with their larger counterparts. It gives them the ability to handle common law firm tasks in more efficient ways, which leads to greater time savings, cost savings, and work-life balance.
This post will examine how the transformations (and even the disruptions) of AI and machine learning can benefit law firms of all sizes.
What is AI and Machine Learning?
AI mimics operations of the human mind by using algorithms to complete various tasks. These computer software systems aren’t simply handling tasks that they were programmed to handle in advance. They actually learn as they perform the tasks, hence machine learning. These software platforms can learn to recognize patterns, identify important information, spot errors, and point out inconsistencies, even within the most data-intensive documents.
All of this occurs at speeds and accuracies that outperform humans. With machine learning, there is no tedium, weariness, or loss of interest to get in the way. Lawyers can simply start the software and benefit from the results.
What Tasks can AI Assist your Firm in Handling?
The legal uses for AI are expanding every day as legal tech experts discover innovative ways to apply these technologies. Currently, the most common uses for AI include document automation, document review, legal research, and analytics. Let’s take a look at each of these:
- Document Automation – Lawyers and legal staff spend hours upon hours drafting, creating, and executing documents. The time and effort that goes into these tasks can have negative effects on a law firm’s efficiency and profitability.AI automation helps attorneys create documents in a more efficient and time-saving manner, while also minimizing errors. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel each and every time you create an intake form for new clients; draft a sales or real estate contract, or create a last will and testament. AI document automation can quickly insert commonly used the language into quick email responses, form letters, and even court documents. These technologies save time while freeing attorneys to handle more profitable tasks.
- Document Review – AI-powered software streamlines document analysis by quickly reviewing documents for data relevant to a matter. After a particular type of document is identified as relevant, the software looks for others that are similarly relevant. Document review can sometimes involve hundreds or thousands of pages of information. AI-powered machines are much faster and more thorough at searching through voluminous amounts of data and producing results when compared to humans.Contract review is another type of document review that can be quickly performed with AI and machine learning. This task identifies potential client risks and uncovers issues that could negatively impact the contractual agreement. AI assists attorneys by flagging potential problems, editing existing contracts, and helping with the negotiation of better terms.
- Legal Research – Lawyers can spend hours researching precedent after precedent for just the right cases. AI has innovated the lengthy legal research process, using algorithms and learned patterns to conduct comprehensive, up-to-date, and accurate legal research.These tools use natural language to quickly sort through cases, summaries, and legal analysis to find those most relevant to the identified subject matter. AI algorithms can even shepardize so lawyers feel confident that they are relying on the most accurate and timely case law.
The practice of law requires attorneys to consistently practice due diligence. Clients expect their lawyers to investigate background information, confirm facts, and thoroughly evaluate prior case law. Some matters may require gathering documents across multiple platforms and analyzing each for specific data points. This type of work can become tedious for humans to handle, but AI tools can handle these processes efficiently and accurately.
- Analytics and Prediction Technology – AI can also provide law firms with valuable insights, including litigation outcome probabilities, through its analytical capabilities. AI uses data such as past case law, win/loss rates, and a judge’s previous decisions to identify trends and patterns. This information can then provide a more complete picture of a matter and its likelihood of success.According to some legal tech providers, AI technology can correctly predict 75% of case outcomes. It can also generate data that analyze the opposing party’s case, probable arguments, and chances for success.
AI is Transforming Law Firms One Practice Area at a Time
AI innovations are being tested and implemented across a wide range of practice areas, including intellectual property and trademark law. It is also being used for e-billing among law firms that handle medical-related cases.
A recent study found that only about 8% of responding lawyers reported using machine learning-based legal technology. Of that percentage, 26% worked at large firms with more than 100 attorneys, 5% worked at firms with two to nine lawyers, and 4% were solo practitioners.
AI and machine learning can be effective tools that help small and solo practitioners save time and increase profitability. While there may be some disruption to the daily tasks of firm attorneys and staff, these innovations can be used to strengthen the provision of legal services for greater profitability.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a freelance writer with a passion for law. Through her business, Personal Touch Edits, she helps legal professionals deliver effective written messages. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.