Artificial intelligence law and the use of technology within the legal profession have been recent hot topics.
Just last year it was announced that students at University College London and the University of Sheffield had successfully developed artificial intelligence software that can predict the outcome of human rights cases by analysing previous court judgements. This story certainly sounded like science fiction but the AI software came to verdicts with an astonishing 79% accuracy.
At the time it was made clear that this robot judge is not intended as a replacement for real-life judges and is far more likely to be confined to analysing patterns in legal cases. However, it cannot be denied that AI and other forms of technology will only encroach further on the legal profession.
Since legal advice is often part of a bigger problem, the role technology plays in the legal profession is greatly influenced by how a client wants their problem to be solved.
However, technology has already moved beyond Microsoft Word and Excel and now new programmes are being used to help lawyers deliver a more efficient and competitive service to clients. For instance, a programme called ‘Contract Express’ uses a question and answer form to compile a draft contract from a set of coded instructions.
‘Blockchain’ is also revolutionising the traditional contract. It is a public database for “smart contracts” which makes a private document accessible to the public and consequently makes it much more undesirable for contracting parties to breach the agreement or back out. Meanwhile, a company called Neota Logic creates automated programmes to handle anything from early case assessment to client advice.
At first glance, these exciting technological developments do not appear to leave very much room for human lawyers to get involved. However, technology is also being used to make lawyers’ lives easier and more flexible.
Technology gives legal professionals the opportunity to work from home using Cloud software and remote desktop programmes. However, these developments are comparatively outdated. Companies such as F-Lex are connecting law firms and barristers with freelance law students and paralegals which allows work to be outsourced quickly and easily without the need for a legal team to be in the same building.
LawFlex uses a similar concept to put clients in touch with experienced freelance lawyers who bid for a range of legal work. All these advances are not only allowing lawyers within law firms to work more efficiently, but they are also changing the ways lawyers interact with clients, thus moving away from the traditional large solicitors’ firm.
These technological changes are unlikely to make flesh and blood lawyers redundant anytime soon. While AI and other automated programmes are a great resource, there is a limit to what formulaic and logical programmes can achieve.
Consequently people skills are becoming more highly valued than ever since technology can only really take over if the clients are robots too. This is an important fact to bear in mind as a future lawyer.
Recruiters will certainly be expecting law candidates to be proficient in every-day technology such as Microsoft Word, but they will also be looking for open minded people who are willing to try out and learn about new technology. However, lawyers will still be needed to interact with clients and use their knowledge, communication skills and experience to design a creative solution to a legal problem.
It is likely that technological innovation will continue to reflect clients’ needs. AI is certainly set to change the way lawyers work and will hopefully make day-to-day tasks like drafting and legal research far more efficient and cost effective. However, clients will ultimately still want an experienced legal adviser in their corner who can use new technology to their advantage while maintaining a unique inter-personal relationship.
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