“The robots will replace us all!”
We’ve all heard that before. We were also promised flying cars! But as we’ve come full-force into the 21st century, the idea that artificial intelligence could be useful in our everyday lives has finally emerged as not merely a sci-fi movie concept, but a reality.
The rapid development and integration of artificial intelligence in a variety of industries has proven to be a productive, cost-effective, and efficient practice. The legal field in particular stands to benefit immensely from the adoption of AI, but a large number of legal professionals have yet to embrace automation and utilize it to its full potential. The legal field has always been slower to recognize the value of and adapt to emerging tech, but a failure to embrace AI and implement these technologies as they become available could be extremely detrimental to the legal profession.
Harnessing the benefits that AI offers to legal professionals is the first step to understanding how much the legal industry can gain from its integration. Here are some of the many ways AI can improve a legal department’s functionality.
The Data Angle: Language Analytics & Prediction Capabilities
Where artificial intelligence often bests human abilities is in the realm of data analytics. Lawyers are sometimes accused of speaking a different language – an arcane mix of business jargon, unnecessary Latin, and the Queen’s English – so the language used in legal documents of all types can be hyper-specific and complex. Scanning through millions of lines of text (from transcripts to contracts to court documents to research) can be an impossible task for mere humans. Through the use of machine learning (and the painstaking but worthwhile task of natural language processing), legal professionals can utilize AI to conduct this work for them, expediting the process and allowing them to capitalize on specific judicial language or examples for their arguments.
Beyond language analytics, AI can also be implemented to conduct other data analysis, as well. Assigning AI the task of analyzing similar cases, verdicts, and settlements, for example, can provide informed insights into predictions for current cases such as how long it will take to reach a decision and what motion outcomes are likely. AI can similarly be used to review negotiation outcomes in contracts to understand how often preferred positions were reached. In this vein, AI can help legal professionals more effectively prepare for cases and negotiations by reviewing work they have already undertaken as well as help them determine if it is financially-logical to take on a new matter or transaction.
All in all, AI stands to provide an immensely valuable service to legal professionals with its analytic capabilities alone, but there are other benefits to consider as well.
The Productivity Angle: Heightened Efficiency & Accuracy
The primary benefit of AI integration in most industries is time-effectiveness and general efficiency (which includes accuracy and error-correction), and the same is true of the legal profession. AI is capable of quickly scanning documents to identify and amend mistakes, complete efficient research that might otherwise take days or weeks, and locate relevant data or materials to reference in case or transaction preparation. A drastic improvement in efficiency which is afforded by these accelerated capabilities directly translates to more cost-effective practices as the amount of time dedicated to tedious tasks is greatly reduced.
Using AI for tasks such as the ones described above also allows for better accuracy in risk assessment and preparation work, and it also significantly limits the amount of errors in the work completed. More accurate work saves time, energy, and money, and legal professionals, once they are able to trust in the capabilities of AI, can dedicate their attention and effort to more demanding tasks, facilitated by the efficient, accurate research and analysis their AI conducts.
The Human Angle: Reduced Stress & Improved Relations
By delegating some of the work of researching, proofreading, and reviewing documents to AI, legal professionals can drastically reduce their daily stress and frustration. These tasks are, of course, essential to the work in legal departments, but with the right software, professionals can better allocate their time to more specialized tasks that actually require their legal acumen. When legal professionals are not obligated to dedicate massive amounts of time to non-legal tasks, they can better develop relationships with their clients as well. For an internal legal department, the client is their front-office business, and for a law firm, this is obviously their outside client base.
Another part of the human angle is the “stickiness” that AI can create. One thing we talk about a lot as lawyers is developing authentic relationships between legal departments and outside counsel, i.e.,: “How do we make this technology or relationship stick?” When developing or implementing an AI product or program in your legal department, think about partnering with outside counsel who a) understand your goals, and b) have deep familiarity with the type of AI you want to implement. This synergy will help ensure the successful implementation of AI in your legal department by partnering with lawyers who are motivated to work with technology and capitalize on efficiencies.
The benefits of AI in the legal profession are numerous and taking advantage of this technology will position your legal department for greater efficiency, accuracy, and insight. It can also help you, as in-house counsel, identify like-minded outside practitioners and leverage those relationships to help unlock hidden value across your business. If you have not already begun integrating AI into your practice, now is the time to get the process started to maximize your productivity and success in the field. Otherwise, who knows when those robots might catch up.