Experts don’t expect legal industry interest in artificial intelligence to wane any time soon. Legal practices have adopted AI in the form of bots writing briefs, medical record reviews, document organization, and more - a few highlighted at the recent 2023 ABA Techshow. So while AI-powered robot lawyers have yet to win over the judges, there’s still plenty of room for impactful innovation and adoption of new technology: not from replacing the work of legal professionals but from redefining how they manage their documents, data, and time.
From Automated Processes to AI-powered Change for the Legal Sector
Past attempts to automate the processing of large amounts of legal data or lessen the impact of a heavy manual workload have been limited. Accuracy matters, and this is especially true when it relates to the documents and details that make up the basis of a case.
However, manual labor is both time consuming and resource intensive. Automating repetitive tasks makes sense from a financial standpoint, as well as for the quality of outputs and the efficiency of your firm. In the past, automated tools were unable to handle the massive amounts of unstructured data involved in a case: medical documents, for example, often still need to be processed by hand. This could mean thousands of pages of paperwork to be manually summarized, indexed, and filed before it can be used in a legal case, which can mean a time delay on the resolution of a case.
Fortunately, modern technology has risen to the challenge. Research scientists at Thomson Reuters suggest that AI will become as ubiquitous as email for lawyers—with new tools acting as an indispensable assistant and allowing them to make better use of their time.
What AI Does Differently for Legal Professionals’ Workflows?
Automation in legal workflows goes as far back as the Dictaphone. While technologies over the years have come and gone, tools like fax machines, emails, text messaging, and automatic dictation have all allowed for legal professionals to spend more time on their work and less time on administration. Unlike the early attempts at automation (like the earliest forms of chatbots) today's AI-based tools allow technology to complement—not replace—the lawyers themselves. These tools can help in:
- Deduplication of documents.
- Document indexing and organizing.
- Medical record and file review.
- Access restrictions and privacy compliance.
- Paperless workflows and remote work.
AI tools remove duplicates, organize case files, and provide an index of documents in a fraction of the time it would take for a human user to do the same. When thousands of pages of paperwork can be processed up to 70% faster, legal professionals can work on more files per day, spend more of their time doing client related tasks or advising junior associates, and achieve better results than they could without these tools.
Without removing the elements of professional judgment, opinion, and skill that make up the ‘human’ part of the job, AI can search through vast quantities of information more quickly than its human counterparts. So while indexing and organizing documents doesn’t sound as futuristic as AI-powered robolaw, it can still have a dramatic impact on the efficiency of the firm.
Human in the Loop: AI and Legal Work Together
Having a human in the process ensures accuracy and the quality of results, a process artificial intelligence experts call a ‘human in the loop.’ AI-supported, human-led processes allow human users to take over decision making or complex thinking while harnessing artificial intelligence’s capacity for breadth and speed. Human in the loop allows for consistent results in less time—which is why analysts at Gartner predict that these tools will soon make up 30% of automation in legal tech.
Human insight is essential to the legal process. Bob Arens, one of the research scientists at Thomson Reuters, says computers “have no inherent capability of associating pieces of information. You can give information to a computer about apples, bananas, and fruit in general, but on its own, it will never come up with the realization that apples and bananas are both fruit.”
AI technology can’t replace the creativity, strategy, or persuasive speaking required to practice law. However, by eliminating the most tedious aspects of the manual workload, AI makes it possible for legal professionals to do more tasks in less time—which can dramatically improve both the quality and efficiency of the firm.
AI Will Continue to Complement, Not Replace, Lawyers
As research scientists and legal experts suggest, lawyers shouldn’t be worried about the future of AI. Although AI tools today create new opportunities for legal practice and administrative support, they don’t replace the knowledge and skill of a professional. Instead, AI offers a dramatic reduction in manual workload and time—a shift we can expect to see the impact of for many years to come.