Artificial Intelligence and the legal profession -- is there a safe intersection?

lawIf you look at the news, it looks like the entire world will be run by artificial intelligence (AI) in just a decade or two. One of the latest conversations has to do with the role of AI in the legal world. Is there a future here?

The legal industry is still based on the same principles that it was decades ago, but it’s undergone some pretty significant changes over the past few years. One area, in particular, that’s worth exploring is AI. In a world that’s increasingly characterized by automation, this industry is trying to figure out what it looks like to automate without sacrificing the quality and attention to detail that’s required in sensitive legal matters.

But there’s real opportunity for AI in the legal world. Not only are lawyers looking for ways to streamline their caseloads, but clients are sick and tired of overspending and having to jump through hoops just to get small matters solved.


"From a chatbot that gives advice about whether you have to pay your parking ticket, to an algorithm that predicts US Supreme Court decisions, applications for using artificial intelligence in tandem with legal service are mushrooming," tech writer Alice Kohn says. "Under the slogan 'democratizing legal service' these applications aim to facilitate access to legal advice without paying historically high fees for a lawyer."

Imagine a world where lawyers can provide clients with the information they need and want without having to use up precious billable hours or turn off potential clients by charging exuberant fees.

People are already using the internet to find answers to their legal questions. Resources like this one from attorney Rowdy Williams are already extremely popular. But what would it look like if this same information could be delivered to clients in a smart, intelligent search platform that provides specific answers based on individual circumstances? We might not be that far away from this reality.

Then there’s the business side of things. "Several corporate legal departments, law firms, and service providers utilize AI for review and standardization of documents, for example. And the list of potential tasks is growing rapidly," Forbes contributor Mark Cohen says. "AI’s impact on the corporate end of the legal market is in its incipient stage, but its impact on efficiency, risk mitigation, and dramatically shortening the time and reducing the cost of human review is significant."

The expansion into AI and automation isn’t coming without resistance, though. As is always the case with new technologies, there’s a faction of people who think AI will render lawyers useless. This simply isn’t true. The purpose of these technologies isn’t to do away with lawyers -- that would never be realistic -- but rather to make things easier on everyone involved. When things are easier, costs go down, clients get more attention, and attorneys enjoy more efficiency.

Putting It All Together

We’re in the middle of a very critical period of AI innovation across all industries. When you zoom in and focus on the legal industry, there are a lot of good things happening. But in order for AI and law to enjoy a safe and convenient intersection, mindsets will have to change.

As attorney Julie Sobowale says, "What will really make artificial intelligence a revolution is to change the thinking of lawyers. Perhaps real change will come with a simple recognition of the need to better serve clients."

The good news is that we’re much further along now than we were one, three, or five years ago. It’ll take some time for it to fully evolve, but AI is coming and the legal profession needs to be prepared.

AJ-3Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant. A columnist for, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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