Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest buzzwords in the legal industry right now, and for a good reason too. The opportunity that arises with AI may offer benefits such as efficiency gains and superior quality. It could remove the churn work, to allow lawyers to concentrate on adding real value to client assignments.
It’s reasonably certain that the future of law will accommodate AI, and as Tim Sadka from Rix & Kay notes: “there are products available now, but the cost is currently prohibitive for most. We’re probably three to five years away before the economics of AI work for the mid-market”.
Tim is a Partner at Rix & Kay and a key member of the firm’s Corporate and Commercial team. Previously, he was managing partner for eight years at another successful mid-market firm. He is recognised by both the Legal 500 and Chambers UK as a Partner that “brings a depth of experience and technical capability to an already effective and versatile team”.
Tim continues, “Mid-market firms will likely use AI products once the right product is on the market. The large firms are already investing in this software, and it will begin to spread to the mid-market”.
It’s no secret; the AI bots are coming. But how will the profession react or begin preparing today?
Tim also notes that the threat or opportunity, depending on how you view it, is not only coming from law firms.
“The Big 4 Accountants are investing in AI for their legal teams having re-entered the legal market. Perhaps in the past the Accountants resisted this strategy, but this time they’re focusing on specific areas of legal provision and backing those departments. They mean to stay this time.”
Indeed, Simon Drane, Strategist, Innovator & Advisor in LegalTech, echoes this sentiment:
“…there is nothing to disrupt given no significant legacy business, so nothing to lose, but a lot to gain from a broader client service, and if the technology is now there to make it happen, why wouldn’t the Big 4 really expand quickly into this area?”
Should law firms be worried? According to LexisNexis, perhaps not:
“The goal of AI isn’t to change the nature of legal work or replace human lawyers, but to enable lawyers to concentrate on more cognitive tasks such as developing legal arguments, instead of spending long periods of time on routine duties like drafting and reviewing documents, extensive research of case files and other un-billable tasks.”
One concern has been whether younger lawyers will get the experience needed if AI can do most of the traditional work. Tim notes that “the argument for AI is that lawyers will get a better experience because they’ll spend more time looking at the issues properly and therefore spend more time adding value. But it remains to be seen.”
The good news for firms is that the introduction of AI is no secret. The hard question to answer is when exactly mid-market products will become economically viable. Law firms then would be wise to at least prepare for the advent of AI, and the innovative advances in technology that will improve the running of their businesses.
SmartCloud, AI and Blockchain are likely to have a significant impact on the legal profession, and possibly in that order. What the profession needs to figure out is, what type of impact technology is going to have. It may require an active interest and pursuit in innovation and a willingness for change and agility. Indeed, a culture of innovation and change-willingness provides firms with a sustainable competitive advantage.
There are great opportunities for firms to use technology better to improve the running of their businesses, but such a desire requires the right culture and a long-term view. Technology and culture can create better working relationships for employees and customers, and it’s one area which excites Tim, “there’s an opportunity to create organisations that are evolving creatively, and that are more fulfilling for the people working in them”.
Indeed, we know the robots are coming, but how we prepare for that today could lay down the foundations for the law firm of tomorrow.