Supercharging the Law: What the Era of Artificial Intelligence Means for Lawyers

Apr 9, 2018

In 2018, it seems like every week an article is published on advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and the drastic social and economic changes it’s expected to bring. From the rise of voice-activated home assistants to algorithms that can accurately predict what we want to buy next, it’s clear that in certain areas of our lives, AI’s impact is imminent. When it comes to the workplace, however, many are still unsure about the extent to which AI will influence our professional activities.

These new technologies are poised to make significant changes in the legal services industry and, more specifically, legal research. As we once witnessed the evolution from analog to digital legal research, the rapid advancement of recent AI-based software indicates we are now in the midst of a shift from digital to computational: an era in which we employ the processing power and pattern recognition offered to us by computers to complete research quickly, thoroughly and accurately.Naturally, legal practitioners are asking themselves what these new advancements mean for their role within the profession.

We’ve summarized three key implications for lawyers as the computational era unfolds. Hint: AI’s impact will drive efficiencies and likely create more jobs in legal services.

Three Ways the Computational Era Will Transform the Legal Profession

1. Predicting Court Outcomes

For the first time, lawyers have the ability to predict how the courts will rule on their clients’ cases with an unprecedented level of accuracy. This breakthrough is possible because of AI-powered software, like Tax Foresight and Employment Foresight, that instantly compare inputs unique to the user’s scenario to all relevant past cases. The result is a report that conveys how likely it is that a court would decide one way or another, along with a corresponding confidence level (expressed as a percentage). The software also generates a succinct and easy-to-understand explanation for the predicted outcome and a list of past decisions that are most similar to the circumstances provided by the user. The user can try multiple scenarios and see how the predicted outcome would change given different assumptions. When tested against cases that the system has never seen before, advanced software is able to achieve 90 per cent or greater accuracy. The most advanced systems are also updated with new decisions as they are published, enabling the system to improve its predictions and provide up-to-date outputs.

Consider tools like this a litmus test for lawyers’ instincts, quickly providing them with comprehensive due diligence and an indication of the strength of their position.

“We had a bad feeling about the case and then ran it through Tax Foresight. The classification was 95%+ against our client. We settled the case immediately.”

2. Quickly Finding Relevant Cases

For the last few decades, lawyers have been limited to few relatively blunt tools when searching for precedent case law. For instance, keyword and boolean searches have been used to navigate massive online databases of case law, yielding over- or under-inclusive lists of results, creating hours of work to refine or expand. With the arrival of AI, lawyers can now search for highly relevant case law by selecting factors unique to their clients’ cases. Using tools like Case Finder, the user quickly obtains the most pertinent cases for their unique situation. Functions like Case Finder contain all of the case law on a particular legal issue, giving lawyers the confidence of knowing their search contains complete, up-to-date and relevant information.

“Even if you have a mastery of law, you can’t possibly keep in your head the sheer volume of case law that now exists in this area…nobody has that ability…Employment Foresight helps bolster your mastery of law” – Stephen Moreau, Partner, Cavalluzzo

3. Eliminating Barriers of Access to Quality Legal Advice

As AI begins to show its practical utility, the initial apprehension that lawyers once felt is quickly being replaced by excitement around the prospect of using these technologies to maximize the value of their time. Similar to the arrival of the digital era, the computational era will further democratize the law and eliminate barriers of access to quality legal advice. For the senior practitioner, these changes mean less time spent reviewing the work of their associates to ensure quality and more time spent on attracting new clients. For the new attorney, greater efficiency in research will provide exposure to more cases in less time, thus accelerating their professional development. And the consumer of these services will receive higher quality, lower cost legal advice. Indeed, the future of legal services looks promising for lawyers and clients alike.

“As large, sophisticated clients start to compare and contrast they’ll notice a difference in the quality of work between people that are using the best tools and those that aren’t and notice the efficiencies reflected in the fees they’re charged.” – John Sorensen, Partner, Gowling WLG