How Lawyers are Adapting to Artificial Intelligence

As artificial intelligence technology evolves, with programs being designed specifically for legal work, lawyers are worried that they may wind up like manufacturing workers and factory employees, victims of automated obsolescence. However, much of this stress is overblown as people who have been working with automated legal software have found that integrating AI into law firms is a slow process and not one that will omit lawyers from existence.


In fact, according to industry experts, the idea of automating some aspects of a lawyer's job is popular, but we are far removed from the concept of an AI lawyer working cases from start to finish.

It's estimated that in around five or three years artificial intelligence will improve to the point where some very complex interpersonal aspects of practicing the law will indeed be partially automated. However, no one knows what that means for the field in total. But researchers are hypothesizing that if all available legal technology were implemented at the same time 13% of the billable hours at a law firm would evaporate.

Legal AI Surprising Spread

It's always been hard to predict when technology will improve, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. Labour economists have routinely forecasted that much like factory work, many professional positions would become digitized, removing the human element. The assumption was that professionals such as accountants and lawyers were further removed from having their work subsumed by machines, but not exempt.

However, the march of progress has created AI systems that address some of the routine tasks the legal practice relies on to function. Consequently, large firms, anticipating the protracted threat to their positions have been investing their time and studying the possibility emerging technologies to expedite obsolescence or adapt.

In order to adapt, lawyers are using intelligent legal technology to facilitate the automation of processes in a variety of novel ways. For example, virtual assistants are being designed to take often tedious work like review legal precedence to assist legal firms with corporate contract negations. Other systems have been designed to emulate human decision-making processes, guiding lawyers through relevant documents, templates, and precedents like a second brain.

Yes, artificial intelligence is an interesting prospect for the legal industry and not an impediment to its future as some have suggested, especially when considering the complexity and the interpersonal nature of the law. Still, AI leads to lucrative possibilities as according to analyst and researchers, over 280 legal technology start-ups producing legal AI have managed to raise around $250 million since 2012.

Legal Tradition Coping with Change

Of course, lawyers are not abandoning the traditional legal skills they have been spending years of their lives honing. But, in the past, a firm would've put multiple partners, five associates, and four paralegals on a single case. Now to stay competitive, teams are cut down to a single partner, a couple of associates, and one loan paralegal. There are two causes to this pairing down of the workforce; the first is of course tighter budgets and the second are the burgeoning digital technologies fuelling an automated law firm. Things like searching for documents and sorting files have become the realm of the bot and not the intern. Some practices are using software to guide the process of litigation or to develop a legal strategy. Programs like these route around through past court decisions as well as filing data to create a profile of what a judge or opposing lawyer might do under specific circumstances. These insights are invaluable and can make or break a case, which is more than enough of a reason for firms to embrace the future. 

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