The global interest in Al and its relationship with IT and non-IT industries has witnessed a staggering, exponential increase. Statistics indicate that the AI market in 2022 was valued at $136.6 billion and is projected to grow significantly to become a trillion-dollar industry by the turn of the next decade, which is just one example of the profound impact this may have on the means of doing business. Investments towards AI are also undergoing considerable growth across sectors, particularly in medicine and the life sciences fields. Law firms are no exception to the types of businesses which have begun paying attention to the potential virtues of AI in the provision of their services. With the use of AI in legal practice no longer an abstract possibility, but rather an imminent change to the practice itself, we discuss in this article the key positive and negative implications of AI in the legal industry.
Benefits of AI in the Legal Industry
AI has been transforming the legal industry, providing law firms and legal professionals with tools to automate routine tasks and improve efficiency. Law firms often encounter several obstacles when comparing and reviewing large number of legal documents, including limited time and resources, the risk of error, difficulty in identifying relevant information and inefficient processes. AI-powered tools and application can help lawyers analyse large amounts of data, make more informed decisions, and deliver better results for their clients. We explore some of the key benefits of AI in the legal industry below:
1. Enhanced Efficiency. AI-powered tools can automate routine tasks, including document review and contract analysis, which can be time-consuming for legal professionals. This frees up lawyers to focus on higher-value work, such as legal strategy and client management. For example, due diligence is one area where AI can provide a significant boost in efficiency. By using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms, AI-powered tools can quickly scan through large volumes of legal documents to identify specific legal concepts and clauses, such as litigation issues, corporate governance, intellectual property, and key contract clauses. This can help reduce the time and resources required to complete due diligence reviews, enabling lawyers to provide more cost-effective legal services to their clients.
2. Improved Accuracy. AI-powered tools enable more accurate risk assessment. Technology-assisted review (TAR) tools, such as predicative coding, can be used to review information in real-time, enabling lawyers to identify potential risks earlier and advise clients about their exposure and potential legal problems before they occur. For example, E-discovery software allows lawyers to scan electronic documents using specific parameters, providing almost instant responses and allowing lawyers to discover more relevant information. Similarly, AI-powered legal research software enables legal professionals to quickly search large databases, including statutes, regulations, and case laws, helping them understand precedents and ultimately saving time and money for clients.
3. Streamlining Legal Workflow. AI-powered document management software allows legal professionals to efficiently store, organize, and automate the production of legal documents, including case files, contracts, emails, and notes. By leveraging AI-powered document automation, lawyers can streamline the process of filling in form fields, reducing 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. Additionally, full-text search functionality makes it easier for legal professionals to quickly find specific documents within the system.
Drawbacks & Related Concerns on Artificial Intelligence & Legal Practice
Role of Young Legal Professionals
Law firms' reliance on AI systems will inevitably impact young legal professionals' training and learning experience, including trainee solicitors, paralegals and legal clerks. This may be considered against a range of practice areas and is not confined to M&A, litigation and commercial law.
Due diligence is an inherently time-consuming process requiring the revision of a large volume of documents. AI in due diligence raises a concern that it would detract from the learning experience of young lawyers and trainee solicitors who hope to practice this area of law. The delegation of such processes would mean that future young lawyers do not have the same authentic corporate training experience as their predecessors. The same principle also stands in the field of commercial law, where lengthy commercial contracts often require careful, nuanced negotiation. Nonetheless, this may be a skill acquired with practice over time. The same principle applies in respect of legal research for client queries.
An estimated 100,000 legal jobs may be automated and displaced as a result of integrating AI into legal practice. In an already competitive economic environment, AI may contribute to more unemployment in the legal industry.
An (Im)perfect Solution: AI's Susceptibility to Bias and Errors
The notion of AI in legal practice assumes that all the processes it aims to streamline would be improved by replacing human input that may cause errors and/or biases. However, technology is not without risk. AI may be a new tool which only perpetuates human error or biases originating from its developers owing to the fact that the technology is "trained" based on data or algorithms provided by humans. This is of particular concern in the context of hiring decisions, AI consultative legal services and legal chatbots if they are implemented by firms.
In addition, and more crucially, a user or legal practitioner may have no immediate way of knowing that the AI-powered tool being used has provided fabricated or false information since the output is not flagged as incorrect or incomplete. To guarantee the accuracy of any AI-generated output would necessitate manual verification of said information. Despite the time and/or cost savings when relying on AI for cumbersome tasks, these benefits may be diminished by requiring an individual to verify all the AI's outputs.
Ethical Considerations & Legal Gaps
One of the interesting implications of AI is the ethical considerations it gives rise to. AI raises important questions regarding the duties owed by lawyers towards their clients.
A lawyer's duty of confidentiality is a cornerstone of legal ethics and the duties owed to clients. AI-powered tools require the transport of client information to third parties. Complex, lengthy documents may contain a large volume of highly confidential and potentially market-sensitive information depending on the context of its use. Hence, AI may be regarded as adding yet another risk to unauthorized access to client data and vulnerability to cyber threats. Lawyers would also need to obtain the client's informed consent to the use of AI technology.
The duty of competence and upholding the client's best interest is another foundational principle in the legal profession. Legal practitioners undergo rigorous training while being bound to uphold high professional standards, yet a potential (over)reliance on AI generative technology would mean that these practitioners are spending an increasing amount of time verifying and fact-checking rather than performing the work traditionally and exercising their professional and independent judgment. When an individual or corporation avails the services of a law firm, there is an expectation that said services are provided on the basis of sound professional, independent judgment that has developed over years of expertise in the field. Where errors have not been eliminated and are passed to the client, the malpractice ramifications may be significant.
AI also lacks a distinct legal personality. In the event of faults in the AI solutions integrated by law firms which are undetected or uncorrected in the course of providing a legal service to a client, although there are possible negligence or malpractice consequences in those circumstances, this would also raise an issue of broader accountability and who is to blame for the faults of an autonomous system capable of legal analysis and decision-making.
Legislative bodies and policymakers must keep abreast of recent technological advancements that have profound sectoral implications, yet a number of questions remain unanswered for the legal sector, such as: in what circumstances may (or may not) lawyers use AI to aid the provision of legal service? When is a lawyer deemed to have acted competently (and ethically) is he/she has chosen to (or not to) use AI technology?
AI is a double-edged sword that presents both opportunities and challenges for the legal industry. While there are concerns about the impact on young legal professionals, potential job displacement, and ethical considerations, the benefits of AI in the legal industry are already apparent. AI-powered tools can enhance efficiency, improve predictive capabilities, and lead to better client relations. As the AI market continues to grow and develop, it is clear that the future of the legal industry is AI. However, as AI continues to revolutionize the legal industry, it is essential for legal professionals to embrace this technology and harness its full potential to enhance the delivery of legal services.
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.