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.