Tuesday, 25 April 2017 15:04

Warning that artificial intelligence has legal implications

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Artificial intelligence will be woven into almost all the tools and services lawyers use to do their jobs and this will greatly assist them in enhancing productivity and making better legal decisions, a professional in the trade says.

For example, while drafting a letter or an email to a client, a context-sensitive AI-powered feature will suggest clauses perfectly suited to the current correspondence, James May, head of product, Legal Software Solutions at LexisNexis, told iTWire.

An AI tool may be able to detect new matter or a new client opportunity and prompt the partner to initiate a business development activity. It may also recommend which barristers are best suited to a specific case using a research tool which knows the lawyers’ backgrounds and recent case history, as well as the details of the current matter, he said.

"From an interactive perspective, a lawyer can ask questions directly to the AI tool while doing legal research in order to receive guidance.

"The best way to embrace change is to look at the benefits that AI will have in the legal space and the way in which lawyers can take advantage of this innovative development."

Lexisnexus James May

May has been with LexisNexis since April 2015 and has initiated new products for the legal market including exploring the impact of new technologies such as machine learning, blockchain, and AI.

What are some of the impacts of AI on lawyers?

AI will be woven into almost all the tools and services lawyers use to do their jobs. This will greatly assist lawyers in enhancing productivity and making better legal decisions. For example, while drafting a letter or an email to a client, a context-sensitive AI-powered feature will suggest clauses perfectly suited to the current correspondence.

An AI tool may be able to detect new matter or a new client opportunity and prompt the partner to initiate a business development activity. It may also recommend which barristers are best suited to a specific case using a research tool which knows the lawyers’ backgrounds and recent case history, as well as the details of the current matter. From an interactive perspective, a lawyer can ask questions directly to the AI tool while doing legal research in order to receive guidance.

In this way, an AI-powered system will help firms manage time and resources to create efficiencies in case processes. Administration can also benefit from AI’s ability to predict capacity bottlenecks to ensure that workload is managed more smoothly.

What are the impacts on their clients?

Clients can benefit from having greater access to more cost-effective and higher quality legal services. As affordability and access to legal services become easier, small businesses and consumers will start to recognise the need for legal services and protection. Adoption in these emerging markets will grow particularly quickly, and more entities will become familiar with the concepts of the “rule of law” thus allowing the direct social, political and economic benefits of rule of law practices to further extend globally and locally.

Lawyers are already using software tools to help them perform research, draft documents and manage their practice. AI technology will allow these tools to simply become smarter so that lawyers can achieve greater productivity and deliver better quality legal services. AI technology will need to prove itself by creating value that is sufficiently greater than the cost in order to be widely appreciated by the market – it will not be up to lawyers to make this decision.

Is there are a risk in commoditising AI and machine learning?

The commoditisation of machine learning technology, led by companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, is allowing legal technology providers such as Lexis Nexis and Lex Machina to leverage these base technologies to innovate more quickly and cost effectively within the legal industry. We use these technologies to invent and enhance the applications used by lawyers and their clients, thus offering clients a premium legal service that goes above the commodified technology.

Last words?

AI technology is not something that should be dismissed as the latest “trend” in modern technology. Machine learning is likely to have a bigger economic and social impact than any previous technology wave including the PC, the Internet, and mobile technology.

The influence of machine learning will be seen across all industries as it weaves into everyday experiences and its value begins to be seen in terms of creating more efficient workflows. Through AI, lawyers can transmit their expertise to a greater amount of people, build their clientele and consequentially provide access to justice to individuals and entities who may not normally have exposure to this right.

As the demand for legal services increases, so will the awareness of the “rule of law” principles, therefore ensuring more transparency and less corruption across private, public and social sectors. Eventually, we may find that a certain level of “machine learning literacy” is required for almost any job or education, the same way computer literacy has become standard today.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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