The ABA's new Law Technology Today series kicked off with a series of questions about artificial intelligence in the legal profession.
In the inaugural roundtable of a Law Technology Today series, we asked the LTRC Board, and other lawyers and legal professionals, five questions about AI and lawyers. Their answers range from skeptical to optimistic.
What does artificial intelligence mean to you?
To me, as a full-time practicing lawyer, artificial intelligence is sophisticated computer programming that allows your smart devices to provide more relevant responses to your inquiries. This could include narrowly tailored legal research results or more accurate search capabilities in document management programs. Artificial intelligence also means smart devices that learn more as you use them more.
What area of your practice, or of the law, has benefited the most (or could benefit) from artificial intelligence?
In my experience, legal research has benefited the most from artificial intelligence and, in the near term, will continue to do so. The legal research experience for lawyers has changed and will continue to change dramatically as artificial intelligence is used to provide relevant research results for natural language inquiries. I also expect that these research capabilities will increase to allow functionality where your device will monitor and update your research by alerting you to possibly relevant changes in the law. I also see a future design whereby you can directly tailor your research to the judge who presides over your case.
I would suspect that AI use in data mining for e-discovery might be one of the most helpful advancements. This would include the ability to examine data for contextual relevance.
Where in your practice, or in the legal profession, is artificial intelligence being underutilized?
Online dispute resolution, predictive outcomes, game theory—whatever terms of art you like to use, I believe that these areas will explode as artificial intelligence enjoys more common application by lawyers. I see tremendous value in the time-efficient, cost-effective synthesis of data and relevant law to assist lawyers and clients in risk evaluation and case-outcome analysis. I expect that programming applied in this format will be beneficial across all price structures and case values and will even address access to justice concerns.
What practical AI applications should lawyers be watching out for?
In the litigation arena where I practice, aside from predictive outcomes and online dispute resolution, lawyers can expect to see programming that allows their smart devices to synthesize complaints or answers in a matter of minutes and provide them with an almost immediate analysis of relevant case or statutory law. This will be particularly useful as a first step in narrowing the lawyer’s time and focus spent preparing or responding to litigation filings.
Should lawyers be afraid of or encouraged by AI?
Whether lawyers are afraid of or encouraged by the use of artificial intelligence in legal applications, artificial intelligence is here to stay. I believe lawyers should embrace artificial intelligence and other technologies that make our practices more efficient. Lawyers are often slow to adapt to technology, but when we do adapt, we adapt quite well. I strongly believe that as lawyers embrace technologies they will find that the resulting practice efficiencies will free their time so that they can use their intellect, knowledge and skill to truly add value for their clients—something all lawyers desire. This is a real chance to re-elevate our prestigious profession.
It's interesting to see the practicing lawyer's perspective on AI. The above answers focus more specifically on legal research implications. While this attorney notes that legal research has changed significantly as "artificial intelligence is used to provide relevant search results for natural language inquiries," it is a mistake to think that we are at the point where we can rely solely on the algorithms to determine relevancy for us.
AI is not at the point where it provides total relevant results that are also contextual to the issue at hand. When the lawyer notes that we should be watching out for AI applications that provide "an almost immediate analysis of relevant case or statutory law," that's exactly the type of thing that we are currently nowhere near. AI can search for keywords in a document and knows how many times a particular case, for example, has been cited by other cases (all very valuable), but it cannot analyze the law to determine a complex issue.
Not to say that we won't be there in the future.