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How will AI and digitisation impact the legal profession?

  • Posted on February 12, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
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The artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is here and there is nothing we can do to avoid it, even if we tried. From a hotel robot that delivers items to guest rooms to pizza delivering drones and robot bricklayers, the list goes on. There are several authorities and publications that are all reinforcing the fact that we will need to familiarise ourselves with robots in the workplace and that several jobs will be supervised by a robot boss by the end of this year. 

Since the economic crisis in 2008, we have seen law firms in Australia respond to the changing nature of the industry with several mergers among them. But now leaders must answer this burning question – how will they cope with digitisation and the impact it will have on the legal profession?

There is no argument that the legal industry is one that will benefit the most from digitisation of workplaces for several key reasons. Digitisation has created new opportunities and practice areas for law firms such as regulation and legal advice for data protection, privacy, digital ethics and cybersecurity. Plus, the improved ability for lawyers to service their clients on a more agile basis, focus on more complex tasks and a significant reduction in administrative processes. 

Following on from Mark Breading’s article, "Will bots takeover my insurance job?", it is clear that this question also applies to legal jobs: will bots take over my legal job?

It is a common belief that legal professionals think that AI will take away jobs instead of help. However, as categorised using Mark Breading’s analysis, the answer to whether robots will take over legal jobs is “MAYBE.” This is on the basis that a lawyer’s role requires so much human judgement, intuition, advisory skills and empathy that it will be a very long time (if ever) before AI could fully take over. 

In addition, the legal profession will be critical in the governance, protection and regulation of digitisation as we see the rise of catastrophic data, privacy and cyber security breaches such as when Yahoo reported at least 500 million user account credentials were stolen or when a hacker tried to sell 427 million stolen MySpace passwords for $2,800

Avanade's Sarah Adam-Gedge recently wrote an article entitled, "Three strategic steps to get started with AI", suggests that it makes sense to pilot AI in one of two forms; robotic process automation (RPA); or intelligent automation. She recommends that in order to assess the value of RPA in your organisation, you must undertake a thorough review of day-to-day activities and ask several questions: Are workers repeating routine tasks throughout their day? Do these tasks involve predictable decision making? Can the process patterns be taught or learnt with relative simplicity?

It is likely that even though each legal problem is unique in facts and circumstances, the answer to these questions is yes depending on legislation and case precedents. There is certainly an opportunity to introduce some form of RPA in law firm.  

A shift must be taken by legal practices that remain stuck in cumbersome, paper-based processes that are inefficient and costly. There’s a real need for the legal profession to digitise in the information age that we are operating in today. The challenges now faced by law firms are not only increased competition and pressure to reduce operating expenses, but also the rapid deployment of legal software, AI and RPA technologies.

 

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