Artificial intelligence, the law and me

1 November, 2017

In this week’s trainee solicitor blog, the team caught up with Elizabeth Robertson. Read on for Elizabeth’s discussion of the relationship between law and new technologies.

When you made a decision to pursue a career in law, you probably didn’t make that choice because you had a particular interest in technology and ICT. However, the advances being made in this field are providing new prospects for lawyers. We must consider the impact and the opportunities that technology can provide to us.


“Law Tech”

Law tech or “legal tech”, is not a new concept. Essentially it is the availability and use of software to carry out legal tasks.

For example, in a large scale property project you might have to obtain and review property titles from the Land Registry. In the past, law firms would assemble junior staff (often paralegals) to undertake the task. A computer programme can now fill this role, obtaining the titles from the Land Registry and doing some basic information mining. This includes obtaining service addresses for owners, tenants or lenders.

With increasing innovation and opportunities, the scope for legal technology is now developing into Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI can already comprehensively proofread legal documents, identify pertinent data in due diligence or disclosure exercises and conduct legal research.

AI technology could extend even further within the next five years and take on more complex functions. Some believe it could predict outcomes of court cases or identify which arguments in a case are likely to be more persuasive.


What does this mean for me?

The use of this kind of technology has regularly been big news in the legal sphere. Recent headlines pose the question of whether AI is set to replace junior lawyers.

AI may well replace some of the basic functions that a junior lawyer would traditionally be expected to carry out. Additionally, AI is efficient, cost-effective and accurate. From a business and client point of view, these are aspects which should not be ignored.

The role of lawyers and junior lawyers is therefore evolving as we move towards a world where AI will become an integral part of the practice of law.  


Opportunity Spotting

Regardless of the changes that AI could bring about we, as junior lawyers, should not be concerned.

AI provides an opportunity for us to take on more complex legal work whilst the computers grind the data. Lawyers can focus more of their time on building business and client relationships. They can also offer clients more competitive prices through the use of AI.

Computers are not infallible and could not ever wholly replace lawyers. It is predicted that AI and lawyers will work together, with results given by the computers closely monitored by a lawyer. Additionally, computers cannot give the same level of nuanced, considerate advice as a lawyer, because each client is different. As lawyers, we can better utilise information and circumstances to provide practical and effective solutions. This is done by tailoring our advice to the unique circumstances at hand. AI could not fulfil this function.

AI could also allow us to enjoy a better work life balance, if we let it. Instead of working late to pour over hundreds of pages of legal documents, the same work can be done by a computer in a fraction of the time.

So do not be disheartened when you see the headlines which suggest junior lawyers will suffer as a result of AI. Instead, see it as an opportunity and as something that runs alongside and in support of lawyers, rather than in lieu of them.