June 29, 2018
Artificial intelligence is poised to disrupt nearly every industry, including the venerable knowledge fields. Some AI evangelists tout the technology will overhaul many of these fields and replace the need for human workers entirely. While it may reduce the number of jobs in some industries, it will most likely supplement the work done by human workers. After all, a lot of what human workers do on a day to day basis far exceeds the tasks carried out on computers.
A recent article published by Above the Law highlights how AI will make lawyers work smarter. AI already exists in the workflow of many legal professionals making them work more efficiently and effectively.
Legal Research and Natural Language Processing
Lawyers spend a lot of time conducting legal research primarily scouring through case law to corroborate an argument. Searching through online legal sources previously required knowing exactly how to search for the right terms to come up with fruitful results. Now, major legal research sources such as Westlaw leverage AI to help make the search process easier and more effective through natural language processing. The search engine can process searches with inputs akin to how someone would actually say them.
The discovery process also requires sifting through copious amounts of electronic documents. Document software powered by machine learning help quickly identify duplicate information and relevant legal information to the issues involved in the case.
Reviewing contracts makes up a large portion of the workload for attorneys in a wide array of fields. The article emphasizes that lawyers, especially in M&A, lean on AI to review large numbers of contracts. AI embedded in legal software allows attorneys to quickly make comparisons between contracts to find similarities and differences.
Contracts continue to be a hot topic in the tech zeitgeist with the development of smart contracts executed on the blockchain. Some believe smart contracts will start to obsolesce middlemen and attorneys for basic contracts altogether. In a perfect world, this may be true. However, the parties involved need to establish the terms and coding correctly from the beginning. Those without legal knowledge are bound to make mistakes. While attorneys may spend less time working on contracts in the future, it’s unrealistic to think they will be removed from the process altogether.