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Will AI Replace Lawyers?


Will AI Replace Lawyers?

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Current Legal AI

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology has been a topic of debate in various industries, including the legal profession. The question of whether AI technology can replace lawyers has been discussed for years, and it remains a hot topic today. In 2015, when I was in young law student making my way through law school, I wrote a paper on this very topic entitled Embracing a Bold New World: The Rise of Legal A.I. in the Legal Profession. Since then, the landscape has changed significantly, and as a practicing lawyer, I have always kept an eye out for the development of legal technology in order to improve my practice.


Fast forward to 2023, and we see new articles and commentary pieces that are once again asking the question: can AI replace lawyers? The NY Times recently wrote an article entitled A.I. Is Coming for Lawyers, Again. A group of researchers published a working paper entitled GPTs are GPTs: An Early Look at the Labor Market Impact Potential of Large Language Models. The research paper looks closely at how AI could disrupt the legal profession.


It is essential to note that the legal profession involves handling a large volume of work. People can sometimes see lawyers as artists that work deep into the night creating a brilliant new argument through sheer inspiration, grit, and determination, and then surprise the courtroom with an elegant and impassioned speech. While such a depiction can make a good movie or TV show, the reality of legal work bears no resemblance to this Hollywood invention. Legal work is highly systemized because of the sheer volume and complexity of the work. With the development of legal AI, this systematization has become more sophisticated and streamlined. Lawyers and law firms that have embraced these new technologies and have found ways to incorporate them into their practice have become better positioned to manage the volume that goes along with a law practice. Legal AI has allowed lawyers to offload work that was generally completed by humans onto programs that can analyze information, identify patterns, and make predictions in a much more efficient and cost-effective manner. Such an approach has enabled lawyers to make more informed decisions and provide better advice for their clients while reducing overhead. This development increased efficiency for law firms and created a more competitive legal industry.


One area where we have seen legal AI make significant impact on the legal practice is in eDiscovery, which involves the analysis of large volumes of data, such as emails and documents, to identify relevant and privileged information for litigation. AI-powered tools like these are used to analyze tens of thousands of documents to identify patterns and correlations that may not be apparent to a human reviewer. This process saves a considerable amount of time and resources, as well as reduces the risk of errors and inconsistencies. In the past, this work was often performed by a whole team of junior associates, but law firms have now delegated these tasks to specialized eDiscovery technologies and the staff that know how to operate these programs.


We have also seen significant development in legal AI as it relates to contract management. With contract management, legal AI analyzes contracts and extracts key information, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring compliance with case law, legislation, and regulations. These technologies identify key terms and clauses in contracts and flag any potential issues or risks for lawyers to review. This AI can be particularly useful for large law firms that handle a high volume of contracts.


A similar type of legal AI has developed for document management. Instead of having a team of legal assistants compile a variety of documents for a commercial transactions using word documents which are scatted across different folders, these legal technologies systemize the process by using document templates, which are then automatically compiled into a set of transactional documents for the lawyer to review. These technologies increase the efficiency and accuracy for a variety of different transactional work, allowing law firms to process commercial or real estate transactions much faster.


Many more types of legal AI exist, which you can read more about in Embracing a Bold New World: The Rise of Legal A.I. in the Legal Profession.


Legal AI and LLM

With the invention and development of Large Language Models (“LLM”) and ChatGPT, we may have entered into a new chapter in legal AI. The question that is now being considered is: how much more of the complicated and complex legal work can AI replace? Back when I researched legal AI in law school, I noticed that many commentators and academics found a common issue for AI. The systemization of legal language and reasoning was beyond the capabilities of the current AI technology. Legal reasoning and language are very different from that of computer programming and technical writing. They are often heavily based on context that is ambiguous and not readily apparent, which is something that AI, at that time, really disliked. As a result, legal AI targeted processes that did not contain such contextual legal reasoning and, instead, focused on systemized processes like eDiscovery. However, with the development and deployment of LLMs and ChatGPT, this bridge may be crossed. Current LLMs are much better with contextual natural language processing, and an LLM that is trained on legal documents may better approximate legal reasoning. If that is the case, we could see a systemic shift in the legal profession where AI is completing more sophisticated tasks.


Many of these legal AI technologies that leverage LLM are still in the developmental beta stage. We do not know how effective these new technologies will be and how much more legal work and reasoning they can replace. Two such promising and upcoming legal AI software are Harvey AI and Co Counsel. Both technologies state that they trained LLMs on legal data, and they are getting close to deployment (if only for the US market at this time). According to Clio, Harvey AI assists with contract analysis, due diligence, litigation, and regulatory compliance and can help generate insights, recommendations, and predictions based on data. CoCounsel reviews documents, prepares for a deposition, searches databases, creates research memos, and summarizes contracts and opinions.


While much of this new phase of legal technology is shrouded in mystery, we do know for certain that a responsible lawyer and law firm must stay up-to-date with these developments. The use of AI in the legal profession is inevitable, and it will continue to transform the way legal services are delivered. Lawyers and law firms must embrace new technologies and find ways to incorporate them into their practice to stay competitive and provide better service to their clients.

 

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At Andrew Roy Legal, we are committed to staying at the forefront of legal technology and innovation, and we are constantly exploring new ways to use AI to enhance our legal services. Our team of experienced lawyers combines legal expertise with cutting-edge technology to deliver bespoke legal solutions that meet the needs of our clients in a rapidly changing legal landscape. Whether you are an individual, a small business, or a large corporation, we are here to help you navigate complex legal issues and achieve your goals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.


The information in this article is not legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


© 2023 Andrew Roy

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