AI is Coming for Law Firms

AI Is Coming Soon… Buzzwords or Reality?

It’s time for a wake-up call: Artificial Intelligence isn’t coming soon – because it’s already here. If the potential rewards for early adoption — and the concurrent dangers of becoming an “adoption laggard” — weren’t so great, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve heard this all before. After all, it’s been 22 years since Skynet became self-aware, and the world hasn’t ended yet.

Hollywood, science fiction writers, and tech wonks have been beating the AI drum for so long that it’s become easy to tune it out. But we’re actually in an era of both exponential refinement and exponential adoption for the technology. In this blog post, we’ll look at what’s fueling this growth, what’s at stake, and how AI can help your law firm.

AI Adoption Is Growing Exponentially

Venture capital fund MMC Ventures teamed with Barclays for a recent report titled “The State of AI 2019: Divergence,” perhaps the best researched and most comprehensive look at the sector to date. One of their key discoveries is that we’re further into the AI adoption curve than was previously realized — in part because of how quickly adoption has occurred.

At the beginning of 2018, a scant 4% of enterprises designated as large companies had deployed AI. Just over a year later, that adoption rate has ballooned to 14%, a more than threefold increase. A further 23% say they will deploy AI technology within the next 12 months, and an additional 25% say they will do so between 12 and 24 months from now. If this plays out as expected, we’ll have gone from a 4% adoption rate to a 62% adoption rate in just three years. To put that into perspective, it took 19 years for the personal computer to reach a similar adoption rate.

But you may be wondering, what’s behind this soaring adoption curve? Why are so many companies jumping on the AI bandwagon all of a sudden?

AI Technology Is Growing Exponentially

The answer to this question lies in the technology itself. An important thing to understand about Artificial Intelligence is that the quality of the technology itself improves alongside its adoption rate. AI requires an incredible amount of data before it can become functionally useful, and in this era of Big Data, it finally has access to enough of it to push the tech’s usefulness across that line. Because AI “learns” collaboratively across networks, it becomes more useful as it becomes more deployed.

As AI prepares to bridge the “adoption chasm” (the region of the adoption curve where early users shade into an early majority) in the coming year, the rewards of beating the competition give way to the danger of being left behind by them. According to Deloitte, 2020 will represent a tipping point for law firms as they face the decisions that will either put them ahead of the technological curve or behind it. The company estimates that roughly 114,000 legal jobs — some 39% of the sector — will be automated by the end of the next decade.

AI for Law Firms

AI technology is so advanced now that it can create fake faces indistinguishable from the real thing and teach itself Go well enough to beat the game’s reigning world champion in just 40 days.

But how can it help law firms? By reducing the amount of monotonous work lawyers have to perform and eliminating the likelihood of mistakes in the process. Here are just a few examples of how Artificial Intelligence can be deployed in a legal setting:

  • •  Due Diligence and Legal Research. Artificial Intelligence can now read and comprehend more than a million pages in a single second. And its ability to quickly and accurately fact-check can rapidly accelerate the discovery phase, fast-forwarding virtually all legal proceedings.
  • •  Document Review. Forbes describes how AI can review and flag documents automatically, search across databases for similar documents, and underline key clauses. This ability to parse huge amounts of materials and flag relevant items will save countless hours of work in contract review, discovery, and much more.
  • •  Predicting Legal Outcomes. Similarly, the ability to quickly analyze thousands of past cases on a nearly infinite number of data points can help law firms more accurately gauge the likely success rates of particular cases, making them better able to determine when to take a case to court and when to advocate for a settlement.

Artificial Intelligence can take over virtually all lower-level legal functions, allowing firms to refocus working hours on top-tier decisions. Smaller firms, who previously couldn’t compete with the army of associates that large firms could bring to bear on a case, will now be able to match them in resources. It’s a brave new world, and it’s time to determine your firm’s place in it.