Since artificial intelligence and technologies as a whole begin to take over bigger parts of our jobs as lawyers, people can’t help but wonder – should they be scared? Is AI here to steal the legal profession from humans, task by task?
Some people are afraid to give in to technology because of security threats, and others can’t wait to give up even more control. The question remains – should we fight AI or befriend it?
Benefits of AI in the legal field
It seems like just yesterday we were doing everything by hand. Our parents and grandparents refusing to transfer their notes to digital format is the perfect example of how far we’ve come with technology in such a short time. Some may not realize it, but we’re closer to technology than we think.
Millennials and Gen Z cannot leave the house without their precious smartphones, while their parents didn’t have mobile phones at all growing up. Similarly, those who are new to the legal profession never experienced work without technology. They never had to create invoices by hand or look for phone numbers in a phone book.
Now that all of that is behind us, we can recap some of the benefits of AI.
Huge databases like LexisNexis and Westlaw contain all kinds of information regarding the legal field. You can learn about the Constitution of the United States online, for free. Such databases have begun offering packages to big firms and lawyers. These enable them to create individual searches and get tailored results fast. That saves so much time and provides the quality of research that humans could never achieve.
Paperwork is still weighing heavy on many lawyers, even though it’s all digital. AI software presents an excellent solution to the problem of paperwork. Instead of keeping piles of contracts and documentation in a drawer, you can keep everything in one place – the Cloud. Following a system for similar documents helps lawyers stay organized and on top of everything. It’s also much easier to find what you’re looking for when you know where to look.
Those who cannot afford to pay a lawyer can now help themselves with the use of artificial intelligence. You can find many websites on the internet that provide relatively specific advice for common court cases. For instance, if you’re dealing with a routine issue like a speeding ticket, you don’t really need a lawyer anymore.
AI’s got you! Such websites can also help people draft their own legal documents without the help of a lawyer. Even though these solutions are not tailored and specific, they are making legal services more accessible to those who cannot afford them.
Ethical issues with legal AI
Legal AI is not all butterflies and rainbows. There are certain issues and risks that still need to be mitigated before we can learn to rely on AI (almost) completely. One of the main issues is that artificial intelligence is just that – artificial. It will never be humane and possess the judgment, empathy, and analytical skills of a human.
There is a little thing called attorney-client privilege. The attorney vows to keep everything the client says confidential and not discuss certain sensitive matters with anyone. Breaching that is virtually breaking the law. When it comes to AI, how can we ensure that all the confidential information won’t be released or used by unauthorized individuals?
Another important issue we face with AI is bias. Different algorithms have shown signs of bias and discrimination. These algorithms have no minds of their own, so we can’t say that such biases were intentional. However, they’re still quite disturbing and can lead to unethical practices. There is a lot of work yet to be done in “teaching” AI to be impartial and objective.
The algorithm might go through piles of data and compile a set of results or suggested courses of action. At this stage, it cannot tell you what to do. It cannot predict which course of action would lead to the desired outcome, so analysis by a human is needed at the end of the search. AI is not yet a wholesome solution that can work with no human input.
Engineers still haven’t created an AI algorithm that doesn’t make mistakes. So, if the algorithm fails or misses something, who will take the blame? Will the person that engineered a faulty algorithm be to blame for every single instance of its abuse? Will a lawyer be blamed for taking advantage of a faulty algorithm? Someone has to take the blame and it will most definitely be a human, not AI, which has no heart, mind, or intention to do good or bad.
At the moment, any AI still requires human input. As a result, humans are made partially responsible for the outcome of the query conducted by the algorithm. That statement is made with the assumption that all lawyers are competent to oversee AI, which might not be the case.
The future of legal AI
Recent research by Zion Market Research suggested that the legal AI market will grow 35.9% per year between 2019 and 2026. Does that mean that the role of human lawyers will diminish? Not necessarily. Rather it means that AI will take over more administrative roles. Think administrative tasks that are given to junior associates, paperwork, and research.
That doesn’t diminish the role of a lawyer but rather changes it. In the future, lawyers are predicted to work with the outcomes of AI algorithms and apply their own human judgment to them. That’s something that AI might never be capable of. Additionally, humans are creative and flexible, unlike AI. We can come up with solutions that AI just can’t.
The role of AI is to gather and analyze data following our instructions. It is still up to lawyers to find realistic implementations for that data.