We've all heard about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Rise of the Machines, and Automation Nation. But what happens to the legal industry when AI enters the picture? Michelle, a student at Taylor's Law School, gives us a glimpse into the future.
The mediaeval knight in shining armour has been replaced by a new symbol of honour and justice: the modern lawyer in a sleek suit. Lawyers, with their pledge to integrity and quest for fairness, have played an integral role in defending the rights of individuals and upholding the rule of law. However, the recent rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal industry has stimulated debates about the potential of lawyers, in turn, being replaced by machines. In this article, we examine the impacts and implications of AI in the legal industry, including legal research and practice, legal services, and legal decisions, to consider the future of law (and lawyers).
Despite being perceived as conservative, the legal profession has come to leverage the technological revolution powered by AI. In legal research and practice, AI tools and techniques are revolutionising how lawyers work, making the industry more efficient and accurate.
Natural language processing (NLP) is an AI technique which uses computational linguistics with statistical, machine learning, and deep learning models to enable machines to understand, interpret, and generate human language. By using NLP to automatically extract relevant data from large volumes of legal documents such as case law and statutes, lawyers can build stronger arguments in court.
Another AI technique, machine learning (ML), uses data and algorithms to enable machines to learn and improve from experience without explicit programming. LawGeex, a legal tech startup, uses supervised machine learning and NLP to review and redline contracts automatically, streamlining the legal process and freeing up lawyers to focus on higher-level legal work.
Predictive analytics, which uses data mining with statistical and machine learning models on historical data to enable machines to make predictions about future outcomes, is the other AI technique with practical applications in the legal industry. Lawyers can use predictive analytics to analyse data from past cases and predict the outcome of future ones with a certain level of probability, helping them make more informed decisions — either take a case to trial or seek a settlement.
ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot, has great potential for use in the legal industry. Using a combination of natural language processing, machine learning, and deep learning techniques, the tool can generate human-like responses to user inputs. According to a Harvard Law School article, ChatGPT can assist the legal industry in four areas: legal research, document generation, legal information, and legal analysis. However, it is important to note that using ChatGPT to analyse confidential information can be illegal and can lead to legal action for violating data protection laws and contractual obligations.
As a result of the innovation, AI-powered legal tech platforms are revolutionising how clients receive legal services, making them more efficient, cost-effective, and accessible.
LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are two online legal services utilising AI tools and technologies to provide legal services to individuals and small businesses. Both platforms offer business formation, document preparation, and legal advice services. LegalZoom uses document automation technology to help users create legal documents such as wills, contracts, and business formation documents while Rocket Lawyer uses AI-powered document review tools to ensure that their legal documents are fit for purpose and legally compliant.
DoNotPay — 'The World's First Robot Lawyer' — is another online legal service. The platform offers to fight parking tickets, sue robocallers, file neighbour complaints, and many more. Its parking ticket feature uses AI to analyse the legal language of parking ticket appeals and generate customised appeal letters on behalf of users. Its robocallers feature, on the other hand, uses AI to generate legal claims against robocallers and fills out and files a small claims court lawsuit on behalf of users. DoNotPay's AI-powered chatbot also helps users navigate complex legal procedures by providing legal information and advice in a conversational format.
As much as the AI-powered technological revolution has presented benefits for the legal industry, it also presents risks. The use of AI in legal decisions is a complex issue that raises ethical, legal, and social concerns:
Human judgement: While AI can be very effective at making decisions based on patterns and predictions, it is still limited in its ability to emulate the nuances of human judgement.
Binding precedents: At its current stage, AI cannot establish binding precedents or principled cases as it is unable to fully understand the nuances of the law and the societal context in which legal decisions are made.
(Lack of) ‘True’ empathy: AI may be able to recognise and respond to emotions, but it cannot experience them in the same way humans can.
Bias and discrimination: AI can perpetuate or even amplify bias and discrimination if not designed and trained appropriately.
Using AI in legal decisions, therefore, requires caution and care. Although AI can aid in the decision-making process, human judges or lawyers should make the final decision, considering the nuances and complexities of each case. This procedure ensures that legal decisions are fair, just, and equitable.
Undoubtedly, AI has ushered in a new era for the legal industry by making legal processes more efficient, accurate, cost-effective, and accessible for not only legal practitioners but also clients. However, does that also mean the end of an era for lawyers?
No. While AI may be able to 'replace' lawyers in doing the more tedious tasks, it cannot completely replace the skills and expertise of lawyers, such as judgement or ‘true’ empathy. But, if AI is to become more prevalent in the legal industry, AI regulation is required to ensure that it is being developed, used, and deployed in a transparent, reliable, and ethical manner. Thus, the future envisioned for law and lawyers is one powered by AI but empowered for humans.
Michelle Lee Shu Ling is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Law (Honours) at Taylor’s University. When she’s not serving as President of Taylor’s Lakeside Model United Nations (TLMUN) Club or PR Director of the Taylor’s Mooting Society, she writes!
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