The future of Artificial Intelligence in law


Callum Willey looks at how AI has the potential to initiate far reaching changes within the legal sector.

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By Callum Willey

Whilst Artificial Intelligence (AI) remains in the early stages of development and implementation, in recent years it has begun to grow at an unprecedented rate. With technology fuelling the nature of modern society, these synthetically programmed human intelligence processes are becoming the future of humanity.

Perhaps without knowing, AI has already been implemented within the technology that we engage with in our everyday lives. We unlock our phones every day using facial recognition, which uses infrared dots to capture and compare our face with that stored on our device; we constantly check social media, interacting with personalised information programmed by AI algorithms to enhance user experience. Even when sitting down to relax and watch Netflix, AI software provides recommendations driving viewing habits, specifically targeting you with shows based on your favourite genres, actors and viewing habits.

Unsurprisingly, this successful enhancement of user experience is capitalised on by large corporations and businesses worldwide seeking to monopolise our time and money. The legal sector has always been apprehensive about incorporating new technology into the profession and processes, instead attempting to hold onto the historical yet archaic traditions that formed the law. However, even within this sector, AI is becoming heavily incorporated with the aim of improving and modernising the law.

Already the legal sector uses AI software such as E-discovery within legal proceedings. This allows lawyers to exchange and review legal documents to easily and almost instantly search for relevant evidence in relation to a case using AI to filter and select the most relevant information. Similar AI software is also being used within legal research databases, allowing lawyers to quickly obtain key statutes and regulations during case research. In addition, the implementation of AI extends to reviewing contracts: Machine Learning (a subset of AI) is specifically used to remove the need for lawyers to conduct the lengthy process of drafting and reviewing contracts in search of errors. Often, within startups like Lawgeex, it has proven even more effective than lawyers due to removing human error.

AI has even proved effective in improving access to justice, most notably by removing financial barriers. As this software aims to complete legal tasks more quickly and effectively, clients thus see a knock-on benefit, as the costs of lawyers conducting legal research or drafting are massively reduced. Therefore, clients seeking legal assistance will no longer face the often extremely high legal costs, while lawyers are able to free up more time to help more individuals in need of assistance.

Finally, AI has even demonstrated the potential to replace judges. For example, the startup Blue J Legal has developed predictive AI software designed for tax law, which has claimed to have a 90% rate of accuracy in predicting case outcomes. By removing the human aspect of decision-making, AI eliminates judicial discretion, whereby two judges with the same exact facts and evidence could reach completely different outcomes. Instead, AI offers a more standardised and equal decision-making process for the future of trials. However, removing the human element of decision-making within the law risks ignoring the fact that parties involved in a case are real people, whose case should be treated with compassion rather than data to be processed.

Furthermore, alternative risks with the greater implementation of AI in the legal sector lie in accountability. Allocating tasks to AI over a legal professional means that responsibility for the workload is on software, not an individual. Therefore, if AI software makes an error it is impossible to hold a single individual accountable: instead the whole company is at fault for using it.

Therefore, whilst AI is beginning to provide a more time and cost-effective approach to streamlining legal procedures and the profession's workload through automating tasks, its lack of human discretion and compassion limits its current use in the legal sector. However, at the current rate of growth, it is likely that AI will only grow more complex, progressing beyond a supplementary to a complete replacement for legal tasks and procedures.