For more than a decade, advances in robotics have disrupted manufacturing sectors, requiring many workers to pursue new skills and careers. At the same time, advances in artificial intelligence have done the same to some office administrative fields. But with AI large language models, specifically GPT3 and GPT4, new threats to human jobs are emerging. One in particular involves the use of AI for law firms, as new chatbots show the ability to take over many tasks. Some are even predicting a rise in AI in legal services may drastically affect the growth of the profession.
Of course, this is not the first time there has been a concern for AI for law firms. Early versions of these technologies prompted some to forecast the legal professions demise a few years back. But as it turns out, early AI posed little threat, and the growth of legal careers surpassed most other professions. The question now is whether improved AI in legal services today might revitalize these worries. Certainly, as demonstrated by ChatGPT, the latest AI systems are robust and highly efficient. At the same time, they have some noted limitations that are specifically concerning to the legal profession. In other words, if you need a lawyer, please get a human.
“The reality is AI has not disrupted the legal industry. At its best, the technology seems like a very smart paralegal, and it will improve.” – Ben Allgrove, Chief Information Officer at Baker McKenzie Law Firm
The Benefits of AI for Law Firms
In a recent study, it was estimated that 44% of all legal work could be automated. Based on the nature of legal services, it was proposed that AI in legal services could be quite beneficial. For example, the capacity for AI and ChatGPT products to search, analyze and generate text is tremendous and fast. As a result, these technologies could greatly speed up many legal services that normally take hours to days. In some instances, the use of AI for law firms has allowed some to identify new case strategies. AI in one case specifically identified a loophole in the opposing attorney’s defense that paved the way for success.
Thoroughness and efficiency are clearly the main advantages for the use of AI in legal services. But some have suggested additional benefits may exist, including the capacity of AI to provide in-court supports. One company, DoNotPay, uses AI in the U.S. to help consumers get out of traffic violations. In this regard, AI reviews details and case studies to assist the individual. A script is then provided to help them make their argument in court. At one point, DoNotPay was even going to offer a live version that fed AI-generated information via a wireless earbud. These are the applications that have some suggesting that AI for law firms may be a major game-changer.
“There is a huge opportunity for A.I. in legal services, but the professional culture is very conservative. The future is coming, but it will not be as fast as some predict.” – Raj Goyle, Adviser to Legal Tech Companies
Issues with AI in Legal Services
While there are definitely advantages associated with the use of AI for law firms, risks also exist. The most notable one involves the potential for AI to generate falsehoods and make confident yet unsupported conclusions. This has already been recognized as a shortcoming of ChatGPT in other situations. For the use of AI in legal services, however, such occurrences could spell bigger trouble. On the lighter side, it could mean losing cases and clients should firms rely too heavily on AI models. In more concerning instances, it could lead to malpractice claims that might cost firms big. Given this, it is evident that AI oversight will be essential in the legal profession.
These aren’t the only issues linked to the use of AI in legal services. There are also data privacy and client confidentiality concerns that have to be worked out. Individual law firms and corporations must devise strategies to institute safeguards in settings where AI is leveraged. In addition, current use of AI for law firms has shown it functions poorly in some areas. For example, it tends to be weak in posing open-ended questions, which are essential in legal inquiries. It also is often challenged to identify which sources and witnesses are most credible. Based on this, it is clear that the practice of law is still an art form for which AI is not yet ready.
“These [AI advances] are positive developments. But we need to be cautious about removing humans altogether from the decision-making process. AI is a tool and must be considered as such.” – Angelo Anglani, Commissioner for the IBA Future of Legal Services Commission
Moving Ahead with Caution
It would appear that the use of AI in legal services isn’t prepared to put attorneys out of a job. However, it is evident that cutting edge firms are leveraging these new tools to gain advantage. Already, some major ones have invested heavily in AI and ChatGPT-like products to enhance their services. For example, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) recently secured an AI product for its 4,000 legal professionals. It plans to utilize these technologies in contract analysis, regulatory compliance reviews, and due diligence matters. Other national law firms are doing the same in other areas. Based on this, it would seem the use of AI for law firms will become a norm rather quickly.
The key in moving ahead with AI for law firms will be how they choose to implement it. Most appreciate the concerns linked to giving AI like ChatGPT too much authority and access. For this reason, most are choosing to adopt legal-specific AI products that tailored to niche needs. Several such companies and products now exist, including Harvey, CaseText, and CoCounsel. These offerings offer software oversight of AI chatbots that allow a more structured and cautious use of AI in legal services. Thus, while AI indeed may displace some legal jobs, the profession itself looks to be quite safe. But if firms wish to compete in the future, it will need to embrace AI as a tool in order to stay competitive.