Law firms are known for being steeped in tradition and slow to adapt when it comes to modernizing. But while they still have all those great book-lined shelves, more and more legal practices are recognizing the value in the most modern innovation of them all—artificial intelligence, known to its friends as “AI.”
The idea of using AI in law firms sounds like the premise of an unfunny joke, but the impact of AI on law firms is anything but funny. AI is helping people be better lawyers.
Treat people like machines and they’ll act like machines.
We’ve all heard those jests, designed to make attorneys seem less than human — more interested in fine print, minutiae, sums, and figures than in their clients. But let’s face it, if a huge percentage of your time is spent having to think like a word processor, search engine, or calculator, the essential business of counseling clients and helping them achieve goals is going to take a back seat to get all those documents and their contents in working order.
The impact of AI on law firms is great. When AI takes on the machine-like duties that sap time and energy from lawyers, those lawyers are freed up to do the creative problem-solving that attracted them to law in the first place. That goes for other members of legal teams, too, whose jobs become less stressful and less focused on repetitive details that shouldn’t need to be addressed more than once.
AI in law firms lets machines be machines.
Here are just a few of the many mundane things using AI in law firms makes easier:
Outcomes assessment: Is a matter worth pursuing? Robust AI can dig into case histories on a very granular level to help determine the likelihood of success in pursuing a matter and identify potential pitfalls that may pose unacceptable levels of risk.
Expediting research: Research is a huge time consumer. AI can seek research cues and then reach out automatically, gathering relevant information on databases such as LexisNexis. There’s additional digging the legal team needs to do, but AI can put them way out in front.
Language consistency: Nothing is less professional, and potentially damaging, than a document that reads as if it were written by committee. AI learns essential language and retains it to ensure that documents remain consistent, no matter how many people touch them.
Document completeness: Given the length of many legal filings, it’s no great stretch to imagine that key language—boilerplate, if you will—getting left out along the way. AI learns all of a firm’s document types and alerts users when it notices something is missing.
Proofing for typos: Not even the most eagle-eyed typo spotter in a firm can come close to the accuracy that comes with the unblinking eyes of artificial intelligence.
There’s no denying that law is a demanding profession filled with tiny details that are very taxing, both physically and mentally. And those same details are also taxing for clients, who get billed for the hours spent checking, rechecking, and editing documents and research, and who often wait longer than they ever expected to for an outcome. Everyone benefits from using AI in law firms.
AI in law firms helps lawyers be more human.
What happens when despised tasks are taken off people’s plates?
Stress levels go way down. People feel better, which leads to a much more collegial work environment and an overall culture that’s appealing to both long-time and potential clients who walk through a firm’s door.
AI never tires, never needs a mental health day, and actually enjoys mundane, repetitive tasks. Why? Because it’s programmed to be voracious about learning and applying that learning in real-time without ever breaking focus. Humans, diligent though we are, just can’t be that focused, precise and fast.
And that’s okay because people can do things no machine can. With AI, the machines can handle the minutiae, while people focus on the relationships and results that the reputation of their firm.