You’ve likely noticed the growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential for transforming various industries—but what is the future of AI for lawyers?
In the legal industry, today’s AI can help automate routine tasks and streamline workflows, ultimately leading to increased efficiency and cost savings. When less time is spent on manual tasks and generating ideas from scratch, lawyers are able to dedicate more time to focusing on clients.
Here, we’ll explore what AI is and how law firms can use it responsibly to save time, effort, and money.
What is artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence by machines to perform tasks typically done by people. AI as a field has been around since the 1950s, but has evolved over decades of technological advancements.
AI systems leverage intelligent algorithms that classify, analyze, and make predictions from large amounts of data. These algorithms are trained using large datasets (i.e. “training data”) so that they can identify patterns in data, make predictions, and recommend actions.
We see AI in a variety of ways, like customer support chatbots, speech recognition, self-driving cars, and in automation tools like ChatGPT.
You may have also heard phrases like “machine learning” and “natural language processing” used as part of the conversation surrounding AI in law. While these terms are often used interchangeably: machine learning and natural language processing are subsets of the broader field of AI.
Machine learning is a subset of AI. It refers to humans training machines to learn based on data input. More than simply performing (or mimicking) a human task, machine learning looks for patterns in data to draw conclusions.
Once the machine learns to draw one correct conclusion, it can apply those conclusions to new data.
Natural language processing
Natural language processing (NLP) is another subfield of AI that focuses on helping computers communicate with us humans in our own language. Put simply, NLP enables computers to read text or hear speech and then understand, interpret, and manipulate that natural language—just as humans would do.
Using NLP, computers are able to analyze large volumes of text data—consistently and without fatigue or bias—to identify patterns and relationships and then determine which parts of human language are important.
This type of AI in law can be applied to help complete tasks like document analysis, e-discovery, contract review, and legal research.
Robotics—or the branch of engineering and computer science where machines (or “robots”) are built to perform programmed tasks—is a discipline that often comes to mind when people think about AI. While AI can be used in robotics, the distinction is that robots perform tasks as programmed by humans, while AI involves machines learning to perform tasks.
AI and the legal industry
Despite the legal industry’s long-standing hesitancy to adopt new technology, AI is also beginning to make its mark on law firms. AI in law firms can deliver significant efficiency and cost-saving benefits for your practice, helping automate routine tasks such as legal research and analysis, document management, and billing.
Let’s explore what AI is and how lawyer AI can help your firm thrive.
How can lawyers use AI in law firms?
The legal industry currently uses AI in many aspects of its work. AI in law firms may not be explicitly noticeable—but it helps lawyers and paralegals do their jobs better.
Specifically, AI in law firms helps legal professionals transform their practice by putting clients first in an unprecedented way.
Below are just a few of the ways lawyers can take advantage of AI in their firms. Be sure to check out our AI for lawyers hub for even more resources.
The simplest and most common form of AI in law is e-discovery: the process of scanning electronic information to obtain non-privileged information relevant to a case or claim.
E-discovery software allows lawyers to scan documents using search terms or specific parameters, such as dates or geographic location.
As a result, lawyers get almost instant responses—which is significantly faster than scanning hard copies. This extra time allows lawyers to discover more relevant information.
While it can’t do the legal research for you, similar to e-discovery software, AI for lawyers makes the process faster and more efficient.
AI-powered legal research software allows legal professionals to quickly scan and search large databases, including:
- Practice areas
- Case laws, and more.
With legal research software, lawyers can gather data and help them understand precedents.
Conducting more comprehensive research at faster speeds saves lawyers time, which ultimately saves clients money. Tools that integrate with practice management software—such as Casetext and Fastcase—enable users to conduct and attach research directly to relevant case details, allowing for even greater efficiency.
Learn more about how to conduct great legal research.
Document management and automation
While law firms continue to move away from paper documents, electronic document storage has similar challenges hard copy document storage. Electronic records take less physical space, but sorting and finding documents is still challenging.
Using tagging and profiling functionality, AI-driven document management software stores and organizes legal files, including contracts, case files, notes, and emails. This method of storing and organizing digital files, along with full-text search, makes documents a lot easier to find.
Document management solutions also enable document ID and check-in/check-out privileges to maintain version control and security. Also, document management software can connect to other systems like Microsoft Office to easily share files with others.
Document automation helps law firms create documents using intelligent templates; legal professionals can automatically fill form fields directly from case records into the templates, saving time and effort. Legal document automation provides a centralized and efficient process for producing letters, agreements, motions, pleading, bills, invoices, and other legal documents.
Conducting due diligence often requires legal professionals to review a large number of documents, such as contracts. As with other document-related challenges, AI can help legal professionals review documents more quickly.
An AI-based due diligence solution can pull specific documents required for due diligence, like documents containing a specific clause. AI due diligence software can also spot variations or changes in documents.
The best part? AI can go through documents in seconds. While we recommend still having a human review the data, lawyers can benefit from drastically reducing the manual effort of document review.
Determining the viability of litigation or quantifying the value of a lawsuit requires extensive analysis of precedent-setting cases. Lawyer AI can quickly review those precedents and help lawyers draft more accurate and appropriate documents based on that data.
How can lawyer AI benefit the firm and the client?
Using AI in law firms augments the abilities of legal professionals to do their jobs. Overall, AI helps reduce the time spent on manual tasks, freeing up more time to devote to relationship-building and client-focused activities.
Law firms can realize numerous benefits for both clients and the bottom line:
Using AI to automate routine manual tasks and brainstorm ideas helps improve efficiency across the firm. AI-driven processes eliminate labor-intensive, time-consuming activities to boost productivity, whether searching for a contract, conducting due diligence, or creating an invoice.
When lawyers become more efficient, they can focus more time on their clients—while increasing the time spent on billable work.
Improve access to justice
Artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to reduce barriers to justice—most notably, the high cost of accessing legal help. By saving time on manual and routine legal work, lawyers can reduce estimates and costs for clients.
For example, lawyers can pass those savings on to clients if research that previously took 20 hours now takes two to complete.
In addition, lawyers can spend the time saved doing tedious research on assisting more clients. While the legal industry does not fully realize these benefits from using AI yet, the potential is there.
Provide a better client-centered experience
The benefits of using AI in law firms boils down to one main advantage: giving lawyers and legal professionals more time.
With AI-driven tools creating time and labor efficiencies, lawyers can have more time to spend directly with clients to foster meaningful relationships.
Ideally, lawyers can go beyond just helping clients solve their legal challenges. Lawyers can get to know their clients better and truly understand how and why they need legal assistance with more time at hand.
By becoming a trusted advisor who takes the time to get to know your clients and deliver an efficient and timely service, your reputation will precede you. Increasing clients’ confidence and trust in you will generate more referrals and better online reviews. This approach can ultimately lead to more clients and revenue for your law firm.
Be sure to check out our AI for lawyers hub to explore more topics like:
Challenges and Considerations for Law Firms
While there are many benefits of AI for lawyers, it’s not magic—and lawyers have a duty to use it responsibility. When implementing AI, there are some challenges and considerations that law firms should bear in mind.
While AI can unlock efficiencies for lawyers, it also raises questions of ethics that law firms should consider—especially the potential for bias.
Because AI uses data that comes from humans to create outputs and predictions—and humans can be biased—AI comes with an inherent potential for bias.
For example, if past legal decisions are made with unfair bias, and an AI tool uses machine learning based on those decisions to draw conclusions, then the AI could inadvertently learn that same bias. With this in mind, it’s important that lawyers consider potential bias when using AI.
You can learn more about all the ethical considerations lawyers and law firms need to keep in mind in this post.
It’s a lawyer’s duty to protect client information and keep confidential data safe, which means that law firms must be diligent about the security of any potential tools they use. And, because most AI tools use data to function, it’s especially important for law firms to be careful about what data they allow AI to access.
For example, you don’t want to add your client’s confidential information to a database that may be accessed and used by AI for someone else.
With this in mind, it’s important for law firms to vet AI vendors carefully, and also to ensure they protect confidential data.
Training and education
Proper training and education are key to helping ensure the responsible and ethical use of AI in law firms. While not every lawyer needs to be an expert on the science of artificial intelligence, having an understanding of how AI tools work is essential to help lawyers use them responsibly and identify any potential ethical or privacy concerns.
By understanding how an AI technology works, when vetting, implementing, and using tools, lawyers can then use their expertise to determine how and when to use them appropriately in their practice.
Final thoughts on AI and its potential for law firms
While it is not foolproof and requires law firms to be cautious and considerate of potential ethical and privacy concerns, AI for lawyers has the potential to transform how lawyers work.
When used responsibly, AI tools can be taught to automate and perform certain routine tasks for lawyers like e-discovery, document management, and brainstorming. This helps lawyers get more done with less time and less effort—freeing up time to deliver better client experiences at a lower cost. In this way, using AI tools can also help improve access to justice for more clients.
As the potential for AI in law continues to grow, now is the time for lawyers to learn more. For instance, this blog post covers the kinds of AI tools that lawyers are turning to.
Another great way to learn more about the latest in AI for lawyers is to attend this year’s Clio Cloud Conference. Taking place in Nashville, TN on October 9-10, 2023, this year’s conference will feature discussion of AI in legal.
Will lawyers get replaced by AI?
No, AI won’t replace lawyers. Instead, AI will be used to complement the legal work that attorneys do, which will help with productivity and save time.
Can lawyers use AI?
Yes, with caution. Lawyers are already using AI in much of their legal work, such as reviewing documents during litigation, or helping with legal research. Of course, a compliance-driven profession like law means a cautious approach to AI best.