You have no doubt read the recent horror stories about how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to put thousands of employees out of a job. Scaremongering aside, what place does AI really have in the UK Legal services sector now, as well as in the future?
In the ‘Tomorrow’s World Future’ that many predicted for AI back in the 80’s, you’d be forgiven for expecting the country to be overrun with robots carrying out all our menial (and many of our technical) tasks.
While there might not be many robots walking around the average legal workplace, you may be surprised to know how much AI is starting to impact legal practices in the UK.
A Brief History of AI
Back in 1950, Alan Turing (an English Mathematician) published his paper: “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. This paper was highly received among academics, sparking the inspiration which would lead to the later conception of the term ‘Artificial Intelligence’. The term AI was first used by John McCarthy some six years after the publication of Turing’s paper, when he held a conference on the subject for academics.
Since the early work of the 1950’s, advances have mainly been in the areas of search algorithms and machine learning, this includes Google’s implementation of machine learning in their website search ‘ranking’ process.
How is AI being utilised in the legal sector?
There are several ‘attention grabbing’ ways in which artificial intelligence has been used. The Guardian recently wrote about AI judges being able to accurately predict the results of decisions from the European Court of Human Rights decisions. This was on cases involving torture, degrading treatment and privacy.
Whilst not all uses of AI are quite as dramatic, some real time-saving developments have been made in recent years. AI has made a particularly big impact in fields such as document review and case prediction.
Legal disputes & predicting case outcomes
The above AI judges example may seem a potential step too far, particularly if taken to the logical conclusion and implemented for decision making purposes in practice. AI is however increasingly being used by companies to predict the outcomes of proceedings. This enables firms to more accurately forecast results and the outcomes of cases.
The document review process is being made easier, with a growing number of companies choosing to streamline this function through the implementation of AI technology. The technology is particularly useful in semi-automating due diligence as well as compliance related work. AI enables computers to do much of the work that would otherwise take long periods of time if done manually.
Will AI be replacing human employees in the legal sector?
Undoubtedly where there are opportunities to save time, there are also opportunities for firms to save on costs. If the technology becomes more affordable and more widely available for smaller firms, then there is the possibility that staff levels may be reduced in some areas. That said, there will always be a human element of manual checking and analysis required. Perhaps the best way to view the advances in AI technology is to see it as a positive way for firms to free up employee time so they focus on other tasks.