What would happen when AI eats the legal profession? It is far more imminent than most lawyers realize.
But this is how it works. A few smart people adapt to the changing environments, shifting tectonics and change in climate, while most remain oblivious until it is too late!
Will AI really take over a lot of legal jobs? I have no doubts about it. Take legal due diligence for instance. Junior lawyers used to spend nights doing contract summaries that are being done by software in seconds these days. All you need is a lawyer to go through the summary to ensure accuracy.
Law firm partners at big law firms using AI technology tell me that the due diligence exercise that used to take 4 lawyers earlier is now being done with just one. That is certainly a sign of what is yet to come as AI software becomes more sophisticated and ubiquitous.
Want another insane example? A British teenager made an automated chatbot lawyer that overturned 160,000 parking tickets in London. Here is a link.
Companies are finding ways to use technology that reduce legal work too. One of our clients uses a chatbot that answers legal queries from an existing database of written responses. If the answer is not already there in the database, or if the answer is not satisfactory to the person having the query, they can escalate to human lawyers. Then the new question and the answer are then added to the software too, making it more comprehensive. The chatbot has reduced a great deal of pressure on existing lawyers and their business colleagues are getting answers faster.
Such software will be ubiquitous soon, making a lot of lawyers doing low skill jobs redundant. Some countries, some sectors, and some organizations will be affected sooner while others may take more time, but the change is now certain.
Imagine that there was a time when some lawyers thought that they do not need to learn how to use a computer, and they will continue their practice by using stenos and typists and their volumes of AIR and SCC. Where are they today?
Lawyers who do not wake up to the sweeping changes coming with AI will be toasted. Give them a few years. There will be shockwaves in another 3 years given what AI software can already do today!
So what is the solution? Am I suggesting all gloom and doom for lawyers?
Absolutely not. I think AI is a great opportunity for the smartest lawyers in the room, and for those who will prepare well for the coming changes. A lot of old, orthodox lawyers will fall by the wayside, but that would create space for a new generation of lawyers equipped with a very new kind of technology. A lot of law firms will refuse to or fail to understand how to use this new technology and stumble, while new law firms will rise in their place.
When the dust settles, there may be fewer lawyers with jobs intact overall. But those lawyers will be far more prosperous. The quality of the legal profession is about to improve drastically. The writing on the wall suggests that standards will be set at a very different level.
How is that? Let me use a chess analogy.
You must know by now that there are computers that can defeat any grandmaster in chess. In 1997, Gary Kasparov, the greatest chess player known in the modern world, ever, lost a 6 game match to a computer called Deep Blue.
Do you know what’s funny? Today you can buy a chess engine or even download a mobile app that can defeat Deep Blue. That is how much computers have already progressed. Human players stand no chance to win against a computer that is trained to play chess.
So what do human chess players do? Should they resign knowing that computers and AI will always beat human chess players? What is even the point in playing the game?
Enters Kasparov with a brilliant idea. Advance Chess. This is a game of chess where human players can consult computers to play chess against their human opponents. Three objectives were specified:
- increasing the level of play to heights never before seen in chess;
- producing blunder-free games with the qualities and the beauty of both perfect tactical play and highly meaningful strategic plans;
- offering the public an overview of the mental processes of strong human chess players and powerful chess computers, and the combination of their forces.
This is exactly what Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley genius who created multiple unicorn companies like PayPal, Palantir and Founders Fund (and a lot more to his name), wrote in his book Zero to One. He believes that pure AI doing everything is suboptimal and science fiction. AI on its own will not overtake human beings combined with AI in our lifetimes.
What is here and now is that human beings can use advanced technologies to do things that people in the past could not even imagine. Palantir, his company which was credited for identifying whereabouts of Bin Laden for US security agencies, uses AI combined with smart human beings to run the world’s greatest security and intelligence company.
That is exactly the future of law. Lawyers would be using data, analysis, and predictions by computers to make better judgments about what arguments to take, what language to use in a draft, or how to approach a certain judge. They will use brute force of AI to get the grunge work done, while they focus on the more sublime part of the legal practice, which requires highest level of skill and insights.
Advanced chess is the future of deal-making, it is the future of litigation.
The lawyer will still steer the matter towards the desired outcome, but on every step, they will be assisted by AI, avoiding blunders and repeatable tasks, getting data-driven insights that a human being cannot generate.
You can memorize as many case laws as you want, but an intern can use Indian Kanoon and pull out more relevant case laws by the dozen 99% of the time even today. That is the harsh reality of technology-assisted human beings. AI is going to put this on steroids. This is the future of the legal practice.
How can you prepare for this future?
Upgrade your skills. Become the best at your work. Do not remain the junior lawyer who does only the basic groundwork for every matter, pushes paper, researches case law, puts the citations, formatting and references in place, refurbishes templates with new details, manages files, dots the i’s and crosses the t’s, do the due diligence, carries files to negotiation session or courtroom, or diligently makes notes, because those jobs are not around for long. Btw, right now you have to do these things also, so please don’t stop doing such things and get fired from your job. AI is not here yet 😀 Give it a few years.
However, the only way you can survive the next generation of technology waves is by being a grandmaster of your work.
If you want to know how you could manage to do that, consider setting up a call with us. Reply to this mail and request an appointment for a call with me.
- AI combined with human intelligence will beat humans alone or AI alone, at least in the foreseeable future, during our lifetime.
- Lawyers and legal organizations have to rapidly adapt to technology. Falling behind the curve will be very costly.
- Methods of performing legal tasks will look drastically different than what they look now. The very essence of lawyering may transform. Constant learning is key.
- Tactical skills and strategic prowess will remain valuable while donkey work will be taken over super fast by AI. Please develop high-level skills if you want to stay relevant.
And check out some of our courses that are created with the goal of creating grandmasters of the legal profession:
Executive Certificate Courses
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