Artificial Intelligence won’t replace lawyers – It will free them

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have already arrived in many law firms and legal departments. Remarkable advances in AI technology customized for legal work have led some lawyers to worry that their profession may soon become a victim of Silicon Valley.

AI and legal technology will not automate the legal profession out of existence. Technology will facilitate growth and productivity by increasing accuracy, saving time, and driving efficiencies. Cleverly integrated AI algorithms are already transforming outcomes in corporate compliance, due diligence, contract management, and E-discovery. Also, numerous ‘less routine’ use cases, including legal research, document mining, and predicting case outcomes, are becoming faster, better, and cheaper with the assistance of intelligent software.

For lawyers and law firms who embrace artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, legal work will become more efficient and cost-effective. More importantly, clients will demand it.  Increasing sophistication in client technology adoption will continue to apply pressure on law firms and lawyers, who will be selected for their technology enhanced services and ability to focus on complex higher-value work to solve their clients’ legal and business problem.

AI Won’t Replace Lawyers, But Lawyers Who Use AI Will Replace Those Who Don’t

Altman Weil’s Law Firms in Transition Survey depicts a legal market experiencing increased price competition, a lack of efficiency in service delivery, an influx of new competitors, and the inescapable force of technology innovation. Their annual survey kicked off just before the pandemic, so they were able to capture the slow and reluctant ongoing practice transformation in addition to early insights on the disruption of massive remote work transition and increasing pressure from clients.  To stay relevant, traditional law firms and legal departments need to continue to “improve the efficiency, value, and profitability of legal service delivery”. Lawyers must embrace the emerging value of legal focused collaborative, analytic, and predictive technologies as they build an efficient, refreshed legal culture that also reinforces the human value—lawyers exercising independent professional judgment, focusing on meaningful, complex, and mission-critical work for their clients.

While some transformation imperatives like remote work have accelerated, recommendations are still to thoughtfully and systematically plan process transformation.  The McKinsey Global Institute found that while nearly half of all tasks could be automated through technology, only 5 percent of jobs could be entirely automated, estimating that 23 percent of a lawyer’s job can be automated. Technology will transform multiple aspects of legal work, but legal experts predict highly paid lawyers will spend their time on the top rungs of the ‘legal ladder,’ working on tasks with higher-level cognitive demands; non-lawyers or technology will perform the more routine legal services.

Prediction vs. Human Judgment

As machine intelligence rapidly improves, the value of human predictions without AI enhancement will likely decrease. However, this does not spell doom for lawyers. AI will change the way we make decisions, employing machine derived predictions as a complement to human judgment. The value of human judgment that is enhanced by machine analysis and predictions will increase.

Traditional law firms and in-house legal departments who adopt AI and appropriate advanced legal technology will be well positioned to deliver real-time insights, enhanced decision-making, and improved efficiency. In these legal organizations, lawyers will be able to do what they are trained for, and that technology cannot replicate—to exercise their independent professional judgment, with higher-order order cognitive skill – while leveraging legal services performance tuned technologies that will make the work smarter, more accurate, and replicable even across dynamic or less experienced legal teams.

Technology is transforming the legal profession, but it will not make the professional judgment and expertise of lawyers obsolete. It will enable those who adopt, employ, and leverage it to provide better and more cost-effective legal services and representation for their clients. Legal organizations and lawyers who embrace advanced and AI legal technologies today will reap those benefits—and have a competitive advantage over those who do not.