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Implications of AI in the legal profession

A discussion on what an AI-enhanced lawyer should be like was done during the Law Society’s Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Conference in Sydney, according to a recent report.

More importance should be given to good judgement and skills in lawyering, such as emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity and wisdom as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) increases.

The most important skill of lawyering, in whatever nature of practice they are in, is sound judgement.

It is more than just answering legal questions as it captures the relational and contextual elements of being a ‘problem-solving’ lawyer.

There are no current AI technologies that have the capacity to completely replace lawyers. There is still the need to exercise human judgement as part of the process.

University of New South Wales Law is collaborating on a research project with the NSW Law Society. The talk was a part of that collaboration and is also a response to issues such as legal technology and new ways of working, which was raised in a previous FLIP report.

In the 2016 FLIP report, the change that the legal profession is undergoing was recognised. It is going through change at a pace they have never experienced.

They have also changed in astonishing ways thereby producing major consequences for the legal profession, the clients and society, specifically in relation to access to justice.

A research done by an Israel-based contract review platform was then showed. The research compared the efforts of 20 ‘experienced’ lawyers with those of its software in reviewing five different non-disclosure agreements.

On average, the performance of the lawyers took 92 minutes to review all five. The software, on the other hand, took only a mere 26 seconds to accomplish the task.

Based on the comparison, the software outperformed the lawyers in terms of accuracy, and vastly outperformed them in terms of speed.

What the software did was merely to review the contracts; however, the next question to address would be what the client needs to do once the contracts have been reviewed.

A lawyer is still needed to decide what action follows from the output of the review.

AI will definitely impact different parts of the legal profession in different ways and the lawyers should avoid being complacent about technology.

Australia is experiencing a rapid increase in law tech and legal tech providers. If the lawyers were to work on civil litigation matters involving voluminous discovery, it is necessary for them to understand technology-assisted review of documents.

The options for automated drafting, for instance, are relevant knowledge for lawyers who are practicing in wills and estates.

Knowledge of the underlying technology behind new innovations is important so that lawyers know how it works and can make sense of its outputs.

Armed with the knowledge, lawyers will be able to work effectively with software developers or data scientists to use it.

AI is an opportunity instead of being a threat to the legal profession despite the changes in the legal roles.

AI offers a set of tools which allows lawyers to be more efficient and effective in their work. Technology can minimise the less intellectually stimulating or fulfilling functions in legal practice.

It can also reduce the cost of legal services and therefore promote access to justice.

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