For many years now there has been a concerted push towards
automating a number of different aspects of the legal field. The
digital age has transformed the profession, with menial tasks such
as trawling through physical documents and records that would
previously have been relegated to first-year graduates now being
unnecessary with the advent of electronic databases and
search-engines. While automation carries a number of positive
aspects, it is important to keep in mind the limitations and risks
that the practice can carry as well.
Take for example automated legal systems document systems. Their
use is nowhere more prevalent than in business and investment
structures such as companies and trusts, where they are regularly
used to prefill deeds or contracts. While these robotic systems may
be perceived to save time and money, in reality they can have
serious professional repercussions for businesses when not used
Generally, such systems are essentially template legal documents
that are filled in by the computer based on an algorithm or
branching logic system. They are usually sold by online-only
providers that generally do not offer physical assistance. What
assistance they can provide is unlikely to be even specific to a
client's needs or situation. This further complicates the
ability of businesses or individuals using these programs to
respond to difficult situations in a timely and effective
Such complications can arise out of any number of issues with
these programs, beginning with the initial possibility of
substandard legal templates being used by such programs. The
individuals operating these systems will often lack the detailed
knowledge and education of a lawyer who has been trained to become
an expert in the specific field of law, which means mistakes, can
be readily made. Of course, we then need to keep in mind the
distinction between "automation", and "artificial
intelligence" which means in practical terms that the programs
themselves are nothing more than basic coding, lacking the
cognition required to recognise when mistakes are being made and so
are unable to raise any sort of red flag to the user. The problem
is further compounded if advisors filling the role of human
checking mechanisms fail to pick up on errors and they become
enshrined, waiting to be repeated again.
Mistakes such as these are not easily rectified and they can
cause serious problems and liabilities for the affected parties. It
is important to remember that such liabilities will fall on the
advisors using these systems, rather than the automated system
itself. The question becomes, then, whether the monetary savings
achievable through using such automated services outweigh the
In our opinion, progress is never a bad thing. Automation boosts
productivity and it lowers costs. The idea is to understand the
limitations of said technology and recognise where a human touch
may be necessary.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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