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February 13, 2024 Feature

An Introduction to Artificial Intelligence for Lawyers

Mark W. Bobb
Law firms and legal departments using AI technology will likely see an increase in revenue, decrease in costs, and improvement work product quality.

Law firms and legal departments using AI technology will likely see an increase in revenue, decrease in costs, and improvement work product quality.

Qi Yang via Getty Images

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a driving force in changing the landscape of the legal profession. From data processing to document drafting, AI offers both opportunities and challenges for legal practitioners.

Overview

AI refers to the use of machines that have been programmed to replicate human intelligence. In the legal field, AI has transformed trial preparation, evidence gathering, legal research, document drafting, and case assessments. It utilizes technology to streamline and enhance the delivery of legal services.

AI’s use in the legal field has increased gradually over time—it certainly was not adopted overnight. Initially, AI met resistance from legal practitioners. However, as AI-powered tools have continued to improve in efficiency and accuracy, legal practitioners have begun to lean on AI’s ability to simplify mundane, time-intensive tasks.

Navigating AI’s Impact on the Legal Landscape

AI’s use in the world of legal tech presents an excellent example of the intersection of advanced technology and the intricate world of law. Legal tech, as currently constructed, encompasses a wide range of tools, software, and applications designed to improve efficiency, accuracy, and accessibility in the legal field. AI has become a key component of legal tech, encompassing technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and predictive analytics. Machine learning enables computers to learn and improve from experience, aiding in tasks such as legal research and predicting case outcomes. Natural language processing empowers machines to comprehend and analyze the complexities of legal language, facilitating tasks such as contract analysis and e-discovery. Predictive analytics, through statistical algorithms, enables legal professionals to anticipate case outcomes and assess risks based on historical data.

The integration of AI into legal tech has not been without challenges; potential issues range from data privacy to bias to ethics. Yet, the potential benefits, including increased efficiency and enhanced decision-making, are profound. As technology continues to evolve, the synergy between legal expertise and artificial intelligence promises a future where the delivery of legal services is more sophisticated, accessible, and responsive to the dynamic needs of the legal field.

Applications of AI in the Legal Field

Legal Research

A pillar of the legal profession is and has always been legal research. The ability to sift through a mountain of cases to find supportive law or precedent is one that is as monotonous and time-intensive as it is rewarding. AI-powered research tools have the potential to greatly simplify and significantly enhance legal research. For example, AI’s natural language processing capabilities enable it to understand and interpret legal texts, which in turn facilitates a quicker and more accurate search for relevant case law, statutes, and regulations. AI-powered legal research platforms, such as ROSS Intelligence and Westlaw Edge, use machine learning algorithms to provide comprehensive and relevant legal information. With the use of AI, these platforms are able to assist lawyers in finding precedents, analyzing case law, identifying any emerging legal trends, and staying updated on legal developments. By constantly monitoring changes in laws, legislation, and regulations, AI systems afford lawyers an opportunity to stay informed about compliance requirements, which is crucial for industries with rapidly changing regulatory landscapes. The software can also review news articles, social media discussions, and legal documents.

AI’s ability to review and analyze patterns in past cases, assess historical case data, and identify legal trends allows it to forecast a case’s outcome. With this information, lawyers can make more accurate case assessments and strategize accordingly for trial, settlement negotiations, and jury selection. This can save time and costs for both the firm and the client. In essence, AI streamlines the legal research processes, improves efficiency, and empowers legal professionals with valuable insights.

Document Review and Due Diligence

AI has significantly transformed the landscape of legal document review, revolutionizing the way legal professionals handle vast amounts of information. Traditionally, legal document review has been a time-consuming and resource-intensive process, involving the scrutiny of documents for relevant information so that a lawyer can identify key patterns and extract critical insights most relevant to the case. For larger cases, this process traditionally requires a dedicated team of lawyers spending innumerable hours—time that could otherwise be devoted to other matters. An AI-powered machine can streamline this document review process, using algorithms that excel at recognizing patterns and trends within large legal documents to review, analyze, and categorize documents based on predefined criteria. Tasks that would have taken weeks or months for a large team to complete through manual review can now be completed by a smaller team in a fraction of the time, potentially yielding large financial savings for law firms and legal departments. The savings of time and personnel would also allow lawyers to redirect their efforts toward tasks that require human expertise, strategic thinking, and nuanced decision-making, maximizing the overall value of their contributions.

Further, AI technologies assist in minimizing the risk of human error commonly associated with the performance of repetitive tasks for an extended period of time. By automating document review, the chance of overlooking critical details and information is greatly reduced, which in turn ensures a more accurate and reliable outcome. And by applying predefined criteria and standards consistently across all documents, AI systems promote uniformity in the review process, mitigating inconsistencies that may arise in manual reviews.

Document Drafting

When it comes to drafting legal documents, such as contracts and agreements, AI is a valuable ally, offering a range of tools that can streamline the process and elevate the quality of any deliverables. AI systems are able to analyze legal texts, providing intelligent suggestions for language, style, and terminology, ensuring precision and consistency. AI’s automated document generation capabilities significantly reduce the time a lawyer would ordinarily spend on routine documents, while the template creation and customization features provide a solid foundation for tailored documents. AI’s versatility allows for seamless integration into legal research platforms, providing AI with the ability to ensure that drafts align with current laws and any applicable precedents. Beyond that, AI systems can include tools that conduct risk analysis to identify potential pitfalls and areas of concern in documents being drafted. Further, AI is able to facilitate version control, enabling collaborative drafting with transparency and efficiency. This eliminates the need to exchange multiple versions of the same agreement between all interested parties. Overall, utilizing AI to assist in the drafting of legal documents enhances the accuracy, efficiency, and effectiveness of legal professionals in providing high-quality work.

Jury Analysis

The most beneficial use of AI in the legal field may well be the endless opportunities it offers during the jury selection process. Conducting wide searches and analyses of potential jurors using traditional methods would not only be detrimentally time-consuming but also highly impractical for any attorney working an active case—not to mention expensive for the client. The role AI can play in jury analysis and selection stems from its ability to process huge amounts of data. Using AI, lawyers can gain valuable insight into potential juror biases, preferences, and decision-making tendencies. AI can sift through voluminous data on social media platforms, public records, and other online public locations to assess a potential juror’s favorability. Further, by analyzing demographics and social and behavioral data for potential jurors and predicting biases and preferences, AI allows lawyers to substantially enhance their jury selection process, which ultimately may allow for the formation of a fair and impartial jury and possibly a favorable outcome for the client.

Evidence Gathering

Another time-consuming yet crucial area in the legal field is the process of gathering evidence. Reviewing electronic documents for relevant exhibits to be used at trial is critical. The review, collection, and initial analysis of items such as emails and text documents for relevant information can be facilitated by AI’s ability to centralize and analyze vast numbers of documents, including such tasks as identifying useful information and potential risks, efficiently extracting pertinent details, and prioritizing the most relevant information for further review. In assisting with identifying patterns and connections within the evidence gathered, AI helps lawyers build winning arguments to defend their clients or make informed decisions based on evidence that is well-organized.

Practical Benefits of AI in Legal Practice

Time Savings

AI software provides lawyers with the opportunity to dedicate their time to tasks that require their expertise and judgment, as opposed to tasks that do not. Legal research is not a skill-based task, nor is evidence preparation/review or document review. In a law practice, time is currency. The more time that lawyers can spend on income-generating tasks, the better and more efficient the practice will be.

Costs

AI software can effectively cut in half the amount of time it takes to complete an accurate document review or contract analysis. As a result, clients are billed less and are afforded the opportunity to allocate their resources elsewhere. Further, AI could potentially save firms a significant amount of money because legal professionals would no longer dedicate the enormous amount of time previously spent on completing various mundane tasks. Law firms and legal departments would also no longer be forced to outsource tasks such as due diligence because of time constraints.

Potential Challenges of Using AI in Legal Practice

The integration of AI into the legal field could potentially unleash a multitude of challenges that should receive careful consideration. Achieving a balance between the advantages of AI in the legal field and the possible downsides of its use requires careful attention to ethical guidelines, an ongoing refinement of algorithms, and an implementation of robust regulatory frameworks.

Usefulness and Trustworthiness

Although AI has proven to be effective in various areas, safeguards must be put in place when determining what parts of a law practice it should be used in. For example, AI may be used to generate a boilerplate agreement; however, if it is used to conduct legal research, there should be a lawyer present to double-check the work product. Lawyers run the risk of relying on deliverables that may not be entirely accurate (e.g., the case law might have been overturned). Further, AI is prone to “hallucination,” whereby the AI system generates results that contain false or incorrect information. It is imperative that lawyers verify that the information generated by AI is not entirely fictional. Reliability and trustworthiness are pillars of the legal field, so legal professionals must ensure the information generated by AI is authentic.

Ethical Compliance

Lawyers must ensure that any AI software used within their designated practice adheres to any existing ethical standards, guidelines, or regulatory bodies. AI technology’s rapid advancement may outpace regulatory frameworks, leaving a gap in oversight and accountability. Another possible issue revolves around the inherent bias embedded in AI algorithms, which could inadvertently perpetuate and amplify existing inequalities in the legal system. For example, if the training data used to develop the AI’s algorithms reflects historical biases, the AI could reinforce these discriminatory past patterns. Any AI software used should be transparent and unbiased to ensure that there are no discriminatory outcomes.

Confidentiality

The data that AI relies on may include confidential information, and lawyers must ensure that they protect client confidentiality. Law firms and legal departments must ensure that the proper safeguards are in place when using AI in their law practice to avoid any possible issues that could compromise a client’s data and possibly run afoul of the rules of professional conduct.

Job Replacement

As different AI technologies continue to advance, there is a growing sense of apprehension that tasks and jobs traditionally performed by humans could be automated, potentially leading to people losing their jobs. These concerns about job security and future employability are not fully unfounded, as many industries have replaced routine roles with automated systems. However, the basic premise of AI is to simplify tasks—not replace members of the job market. AI’s ability to streamline processes will enhance the job market and all participants within it—including the legal profession. Most importantly, a successful integration of AI into the workplace still requires human supervision and quality control.

Conclusion

AI technology will continue to improve with time and will continue to change the way lawyers approach their practice, from intake to trial. Law firms and legal departments using this technology will likely see an increase in revenue, a decrease in costs, and an improvement in the quality of their work product. The digital world has never seen an innovation of this magnitude, and its impact in the legal field will continue to grow. If properly embraced, the possibilities are endless.

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Mark W. Bobb

The Bobb Law Firm PLLC

Mark W. Bobb, Esq., MBA, LLM, is the managing attorney of The Bobb Law Firm PLLC, practicing family law, immigration law, and business law. He is also an adjunct professor at Florida International University College of Law, a mediator in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and a member on multiple municipal boards. Lastly, he is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.