Matt Farrington* Short of a singularity event occurring, I don’t see AI as replacing lawyers any time soon. Instead, I prefer to focus on IA (“intelligent assistance”). Intelligent assistance technology will massively leverage the power of lawyers to get more done, in less time, with increased effectiveness, and perhaps even more enjoyably.
The bionic lawyers of the near future will spend much less time hunting for precedents or manually reviewing thousands of pages in a discovery or due diligence exercise; instead they will be free to focus their efforts on providing the best possible legal services to their clients.
But lawyers will still be involved. The world’s best mathematicians don’t work out every calculation manually. Their key skill is conceptualising the problem in order to boil it down to its fundamentals, then pose (or program) the key questions in such a way that their machine assistants are able to answer it most effectively. The future for lawyers is similar.
While lawyers will still be involved, I am less sanguine about the legal industry as we know it. We are currently in an age where access to justice is invariably cited as the biggest issue in the justice sector, and almost all corporate clients face increased pressure on their legal budgets.
The legal industry must master technology and embrace the opportunity to provide better legal services at lower cost. Because even without AI supplanting us all overnight, the lessons learned by other professions show us that it would only take slightly different regulatory settings for Professional Services Omnicorporation Limited – operating internationally and the largest employer of law grads in the country – to offer conveyancing services via its online platform for a fixed fee of $299 (or two conveyances for $499).
You can even get a free will if you are a member its loyalty scheme!
Intelligent assistance legal tech has two distinct flavours.
Lawyers must embrace the revolutionary effects that intelligent assistance technologies will have on the profession
There are tools that help lawyers working “in” the business of law – automated contracts, technology assisted review, and smart bots and other legal research tools. But just as important are tools that help lawyers work “on” their business. These might be tools that provide lawyers greater insights into their business, help identify and manage legal risk, or facilitate demonstrating value to clients.
One of the greatest barriers to lawyers adopting new technologies is deciding where to start. Technology may ultimately have massive impacts on the practice of law. However, it won’t change the practice of law overnight.
Lawyers grappling with decision paralysis should identify one or two issues where technology could have a positive impact. Modern software-as-a-service solutions can be deployed quickly, cheaply, and easily. If you try a solution and it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to discard it and move to the next one.
I strongly believe in the power of technology to effect positive changes in legal practices. But not all changes need to be technological or involve deploying massive new integrated systems. Incredible results have come from streamlining or optimising certain processes, which can be as simple as a basic flow chart or step-by-step guide.
Even when considering technology, often the best results can be obtained from tailoring or configuring existing systems (either existing legal team systems, or systems used elsewhere in your organisation).
Lawyers must embrace the revolutionary effects that intelligent assistance technologies will have on the profession. Starting that revolution doesn’t have to be hard, time-consuming or expensive. But you do have to start.
Author Bio –
Matt Farrington is a lawyer and legal technologist with Juno Legal, a modern legal services provider that has lawyers in Wellington and Auckland. A key part of Juno’s service offering is providing technology advice to in-house and private practice legal teams.