Artificial intelligence (A.I.) has taken the white-collar market by storm, and lawyers appear to be next on the Silicon Valley agenda. Analysts predict that A.I. in the next decade will outsource and automate many of the legal jobs carried out by lawyers. Advancements in A.I. technology, especially with ROSS (IBM’s Watson), and Beagle (Contracts platform), could lead an increase in efficiency and affordability. But, they could also lead to fewer flesh-and-blood associates hired in big law. Canadian law firms rely heavily on articling students to conduct research, and an increase in A.I. technology could lead to fewer articling students hired. Similarly, legal tasks currently performed by paralegals and legal assistants could be effected as well, as firms will utilize A.I. in order to research databases and drafts routine contracts. Thus, the better question is not whether A.I. ‘will’ replace legal jobs, but rather ‘when’ and ‘how’ it will.
Whilst it is enticing to have an intelligent legal assistance that never strikes or takes any days off, the ability to evaluate a client’s case holistically will continue to remain in the hands of lawyers. Jordan Furlong, asserts that A.I.s will not necessarily automate but rather augment the legal tasks carried out by lawyers. A view corroborated by James Yoon, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, in California, who admits that while the natural language technique employed by A.I.s will predict the relevant documents and assist with drafting legal memos, “it” will not be able to replace lawyers. At least, not yet. While A.I. can help with scanning and research they cannot advise clients, negotiate with other parties, or appear in court.
The CEO of ROSS, Andrew Arruda, predicts that ROSS will increase the overall productivity and output. He believes that this will translate into more jobs in market. Further, he asserts that the implementation of his A.I. platform will decrease billable hours and increase clients.
In concurring with Arruda’s view, I believe that the incorporation of A.I. in law will promote access to justice. The high cost of litigation has turned lawyers into a luxury that not many Canadians can afford. This is why the courts have experienced an exponential increase in the number of self-represented litigants in court. Moreover, the inclusion of A.I. in the office, will mean that less time will be spent researching and drafting memos and more time spent on advising clients. As a result, the focus of legal transactions will change from reactionary—the traditional lawyer reaction to client issue—to a proactive role, where lawyer will, in advance, pursue their clients’ issues as new legislation and statutes are introduced. This would also foster healthy competition and would enable the legal market to diversify itself. On balance, A.I. can assess data and research legislation but lacks the requisite cognitive abilities, creativity, and empathy to be an effective lawyer; these human skills, that set us apart from machine, have yet to automated.