Artificial intelligence is changing the way lawyers practice

Smart Business

(by Jayne Gest with Chris Farmakis)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is adding efficiencies and transforming businesses everywhere, and legal practices are no exception.

“General counsels and executives that are hiring lawyers need to understand that this technology is available now, so they can make sure their lawyers leverage the latest technology tools,” says Christian A. Farmakis, shareholder and chairman of the board at Babst Calland. “AI can increase speed, increase efficiency and lower costs for clients — if the law firm has the right tools, but more importantly knows how to use those tools.”

Smart Business spoke with Farmakis about the advancement of AI technology in the legal space, which business executives may want to take advantage of.

How is AI technology disrupting the legal industry?

AI is a term generally used to describe computers performing tasks normally viewed as requiring human intellect.

AI legal technology won’t replace lawyers, but these tools will drastically change the way lawyers provide services for their clients. While estimates vary, 23 percent to 35 percent of a lawyer’s job could be automated. As a result, lawyers will need to be more strategic and supervisorial, able to act as project managers and supervise the information being fed into systems, and knowledgeable about the assumptions underlying the machine learning algorithms.

So far, projects that classify data have been impacted the most, allowing those projects to be done faster and more efficiently. This includes:

  • E-discovery.
  • Due diligence.
  • Research.

Law firms can already pass these savings on to clients, but this is only the beginning of the transformation.

What will be the next wave of AI legal technology?

The next generation, which is starting to hit the market now, will be document automation and legal research and writing tools, as well as predictive technology tools. For example, a contract can be put through an algorithm in order to identify how risky it is. It could be used to determine how likely is it to go into litigation or if it complies with the company’s internal contract procedures and policies.

Another use is analytic tools that can measure efficiency and pricing of the legal services. E-billing and practice management tools could measure whether a service contract should cost $2,500, not the $7,500 that’s being charged. In other instances, AI could help firms do estimates for alternative fee arrangements.

Why is it so important for lawyers to use the right tool for the job?

AI technology is not going away. It’s here to stay, and it’s increasing exponentially. While the AI legal tech revolution is still in its infancy, the tipping point is around the corner. In 2016, the industry spent $8 billion on AI technology; that’s predicted to hit $46 billion by 2020.

However, many of these products are single-tasked products and not integrated tools that can perform multiple tasks. And many of the products’ pricing models do not yet meet the market needs.

While pricing adjustments are already starting to occur and integration should happen over the next five years, AI technology is nothing more than a tool. Just like other technology, purchasing the new tool is only a small part of what needs to happen to gain efficiency and lower prices. The organization has to be behind it, the employees need to know how to use it and the entire project must be managed properly.

Lawyers who have an open mind and an ability to use these new tools effectively are already passing cost efficiencies on to clients, and this should only increase in the future.

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