Audrey Dulmage (J.D. ’07)
Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon become an indispensable resource to lawyers practicing in virtually every field of law.
Innovative law firms are already leveraging this emerging technology to reduce costs and improve the quality of legal services. AI can significantly decrease the time it takes to sift through volumes of data to identify relevant information, leaving attorneys more time to devote to upper-level tasks that require critical thinking or human interaction, like devising case strategy, negotiating deals, appearing in court or advising clients.
AI is being used to review documents for discoverable information, conduct due diligence ahead of corporate mergers, analyze contracts and monitor regulatory compliance. It is also used to improve the efficiency and accuracy of research. AI software can even determine the chances that a certain motion will be approved by a particular judge by poring through that judge’s previous rulings.
Clients will expect lawyers to shift their focus from routine tasks that can be handled by a computer to tasks that require human expertise.
For example, AI can save time and money by identifying each instance in which a certain contract clause appears within a large database of contracts. But, only an attorney can determine if that contract clause is substantively sufficient.
Technology is going to transform legal jobs, but it will not replace them entirely. It seems likely that more new jobs will be created that combine legal and technical expertise. In time, lawyers may find they work more closely with the technologists in their companies and firms to complete tasks that were once handled only by attorneys.
Attorneys should embrace these changes. Just as we no longer perform legal research by going to the books, AI technologies will free attorneys from spending countless hours searching for information. That time can then be spent on tasks that provide greater value to our clients.
Audrey Dulmage (J.D. ’07) is a discovery staff attorney at Troutman Sanders eMerge.
David Johnson (J.D. ’89)
Headlines tout a brave new world for the legal profession, as artificial intelligence (AI) pushes us into a new era. Some even speculate that attorneys may be replaced by robots. While change is inevitable as technology advances, we shouldn’t get too carried away with the promise of an AI revolution. We’ve heard this all before.
Sure, big data has proven useful in some cases. An excellent example is Georgia State University’s successful use of predictive analytics to curb dropout rates.
But I’m not sure what’s being done elsewhere will have the same results in legal practice. While these technological advances may be good tools, we should approach with a measured dose of skepticism. We’ve seen where AI can go terribly wrong. Think Microsoft’s Twitter bot Tay, who within hours became incredibly racist and sexist — one example of the garbage in, garbage out theorem.
AI already raises many ethical questions, and more unforeseen consequences will undoubtedly pop up. Some research suggests our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined as we use more tech. Will an AI revolution mean we lawyers will lose some of our essential skills? AI has already impacted job opportunities of law school grads and junior legal staff. Automated work may free us up to do more meaningful tasks, but I wonder if future attorneys will lose something in the transition. And cheaper and faster doesn’t always mean better.
While it is critical lawyers learn these new tools, I hope we can embrace this new world without becoming too reliant upon tech and without losing the human touch.
David Johnson (J.D. ’89) is a partner at Insley & Race.