The topic of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and its impact on work has long been in the public eye. Popular usage of ChatGPT, an online tool that generates quality essays with any prompt, begs the question: How does AI impact the future of legal work?
The key difference between automation and AI is that automation completes a repeated series of tasks that are done at the direction of a human coder or engineer. AI learns as it goes through tasks and can disrupt its own processes as it discovers more and more. This makes AI a far more useful tool than automated processes.
What would AI look like in the day-to-day of the legal profession? Startups like Lawgeex utilize AI to streamline contract work, and its accuracy rivals that of human reviewers. Other services seek to deal with more sophisticated and specific challenges in the law. For example, the process of discovery requires a delicate balance between deciding relevant documents and those protected from discovery. Software, like Westlaw, is already being used in law firms to conduct legal research and has largely replaced the books that traditionally populate an attorney’s office. Future innovations in AI can provide litigation analysis to forecast the viability of a case by sifting through precedent and determining the relevance of documents.
One perspective is that AI will supplement legal work to make it more efficient. Just like any other technical advancement, AI is already being used as a tool in the legal world to streamline repetitive tasks. This frees up attorney time to handle more delicate matters. AI may also make the judicial system more efficient and reduce the cost of legal work.
Of course, there are those who fear that AI will replace large swaths of the legal industry. Paralegal work in particular, they argue, is at risk of being completely replaced by AI. The response to this perspective is that paralegals can use AI as a tool. Instead of replacing paralegals, AI can allow paralegals to spend more time engaging directly with client work. While it is possible that firms will require fewer paralegals in the future, it is unlikely that the entire profession will become obsolete.