How AI Could Transform the Legal Sector

by Legal Author on March 25, 2020

ai-lawyer-robotWhile binge-watching Suits on Netflix, the award-winning legal drama that sadly turns into a soap opera throughout season 5, I had a sudden thought – Rachel and Mike would never have started dating if Suits took place only a few years from now. That’s because Rachel, as a paralegal, would likely not even have a job at the fictional law firm, because her role (along with pretty much everyone else in the legal research field) would be completely performed by artificial intelligence.

Sound like a bold statement? It’s not. People like to predict all kinds of Skynet-type scenarios for AI, where artificial intelligence almost entirely replaces the human workforce, especially when Elon Musk calls AI humanity’s “biggest existential threat”, and that AI is “far more dangerous than nukes”. But this isn’t one of those predictions.

AI won’t kill us, just the paralegals

While there is some truth to the hazards of AI, superintelligent AI that could threaten the safety of humanity is decades or centuries away, depending on who you ask. We can breathe a sigh of relief for the time being, but advancements in current AI technology are going to have serious impacts on the legal sector in only a few years. To get a better understanding of AI technology, online AI courses are a great resource.

Where AI will have the largest and most immediate impact, as mentioned above, is in the paralegal and legal research job sector. A paralegal’s role is to prepare legal documents, research court cases and find precedents, and other tasks related to the organization and presentation of data – all things which AI are superior at. Imagine being able to type in a few keywords and pull up not just examples of past court rulings, but suggested strategies on winning cases, in mere seconds – that is the power of AI.

Of course, AI will not be able to handle the more human elements of a paralegal’s responsibilities, such as meeting with clients and lawyers to discuss cases. On one hand, lawyers may have more free time to perform those duties themselves with the help of AI, but on the other hand, lawyers may in fact have less free time due to being able to take on a larger amount of cases simultaneously.

Could AI rule courthouse decisions?

If the latter becomes true, that may benefit the public by allowing the entire legal process to move much faster, i.e. court cases will be expedited through the system much faster with the help of AI. In fact, some even predict that AI could replace courtroom judges. Algorithm-powered justice systems are already here, they just haven’t been widely adopted yet. The current most well-known systems are ODRs (online dispute resolution) service providers, which numerous courts in the US are adopting.

ODRs are used to settle disputes between parties through online methods, with the algorithm-based technology being used to assist in litigation and negotiations. In the event of a stalemate during negotiations, parties still have methods of ADR at their disposal, such as blind bidding or arbitration.

Does all of this mean that artificial intelligence will entirely replace our court system, with high-profile cases being decided by robojudges? Perhaps, to a small degree. The current argument against allowing AI to entirely control the court system is based on the fact that AI does not have emotion.

While AI can offer case decisions based on its programmed logic of what’s “fair”, it still lacks the essential human element of what courtroom cases are all about – being judged by our peers, not our future overlords. It’s a pretty strong argument that would hold merit in court.

Stewart is a content manager working with Udemy. In his free time, he enjoys reading Stephen King novels and playing football.

The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the editor. 

Image credit: Frank V via Unsplash

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