In the recent times, technology has been advancing at a very high rate and has impacted nearly every sector. The legal profession has not been spared as well and thus, we need to monitor emerging trends carefully to remain competitive and up to date. Technological innovations are affecting management strategies in legal departments and changing how legal services are delivered. This has brought many advantages to the profession.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
For instance, Artificial intelligence (AI). Lawyers should not only be aware of the existence of an AI-driven software capable of undertaking legal tasks but also embrace its operations to make work easier. “Artificial Intelligence” describes how computers can perform tasks usually viewed as requiring human intelligence. AI can recognize speech and objects, make decisions based on information received as well as translating languages. It imitates some functions of the human mind. To help it out, “Machine learning” is incorporated. This is an application of AI whereby computers use algorithms.
Currently, AI is taking over and influencing how business is conducted in a significant way. For lawyers, 39 per cent of in-house counsel expect that AI will be a standard software in conducting legal work in the next ten years. AI has had a significant impact and continues to do so on the availability of legal sector jobs, the business models of many law firms, and how in-house counsel leverage technology.
However, several issues might arise. For example, decisions made by AI-powered software might raise critical legal questions such as those of tort liability, and of criminal guilt especially in the instance AI controls a driverless car, and someone ends up being killed in an accident. Who should take responsibility?
In a legal setting, AI can be used to carry out tasks such as reviewing Agreements/ Contracts to ensure the clauses capture what is required and after that, approve it for execution/signature. You can also put a database that can be used to identify those Contracts that need to be renewed so that the renewal is done before the expiration time. Furthermore, whether it is a patent or copyright issue, the same can be done in good time. Notices before renewal deadlines can also be issued through the AI system. Also, repetitive legal work requiring minimal intervention and based on a template can be done solely by the use of AI. AI will take over any legal action dependent on collecting and analyzing past data such as judicial decisions, legal opinions, or evaluating probable outcomes of litigation. The world of technology has taken over.
AI can also be used to undertake Legal Research. Historically this was a manual process with law students and junior firm associates confined to searching through physical case law volumes to find relevant precedent. This is now being faced out by AI.
Offering legal services
Nowadays, Lawyers can acquire clients online, service them online more efficiently and with higher quality than a traditional lawyer. This gives a lawyer the luxury of opening their laptop wherever they are and working on a file. Furthermore, with the introduction of AI makes it easier to do this in terms of time, costs and human resources. This has been very advantageous but has also detrimental. For instance, laypeople and legal clerks can undertake such services for clients without due regard to a lawyers input on some critical requirements.
Nonetheless, tech industry cannot fully take over the profession as services such as litigation, offering advice among others can only be done by a lawyer with the assistance of technology. AI will also help Clients by providing a form of “legal service” to those unable to afford a lawyer or just want to spearhead the process themselves. A good example is the free service “DoNotPay” created by a 19-year-old, which took on 250,000 cases and won 160,000 of them, thus saving users more than $4 million worth of fines.
Case management systems have become very useful for courts and law firms, especially with the introduction of the e-filing systems which are efficient and practical as it is easy to retrieve information regardless of the years. Legal firms are also able to use online networks for marketing their professional services to different audiences using various platforms. Besides, mobile devices and wireless networks have enabled lawyers to work remotely from any location; thus, law firms are reducing the size of their offices and reconfiguring workspaces which save on costs.
Technology has also made it easier and faster to access knowledge, legislation, case law, or general legal documentation. Conversely, this has made the legal profession face unprecedented competitive pressures from accountants, realtors, financial advisors, and others and the Internet is making it easier for them to compete as they can now draft standard documents.
Additionally, there is competition from global legal service providers, as jurisdictional constraints have significantly been reduced, thus promoting transnational practice by lawyers. This has both positive and negative impacts as it increases competition but reduces barriers.
Despite the many advantages, there needs to be a strategic approach to technology to address privacy and cybersecurity concerns regarding the security of privileged information. There are so many dangers posed by technology such as hacking and malware, consequently prompting the adoption of new software applications to protect systems, and safeguard confidential data.
Therefore, technological advancement means more employment opportunities for legal practitioners in emerging areas, improved quality and value of the legal services but also need to promote and deliver the part of a legal service value proposition that machines are not able to provide in an equally efficient manner. So, lawyers and generally the legal profession needs to brace itself for change and maximize its positive effects as well as collaborate with their IT counterparts. Nevertheless, AI is at the moment unable to replicate advocacy, negotiation, or structuring of complex deals. Additionally, some tasks such as advising clients, writing briefs, negotiating contracts, creative writing and appearing in court are beyond the reach of computerization. Thus, human intelligence and AI complement one another.
The report, Technology’s Transformation of the Legal Field, is part of Robert Half Legal’s 12th annual Future Law Office project, which also includes video interviews with leaders in the legal profession. The full report is available to download at http://www.futurelawoffice.com