Love it or loathe it: Artificial Intelligence in legal services

Blog post - 28 January 2019

The subject of Artificial IntelIigence is a fearsome one amongst lawyers, especially the unknown implications and what the future will hold for legal services. But what will trigger adoption of applications powered by AI? Maybe the bigger firms will lead the way, as they have bigger budgets to invest in solid AI applications. Maybe law firms are looking to automate chunks of their business in order to compete. Moreover, in what manner will clients benefit from AI? But no matter who is leading the way for AI in the legal profession, there are still some unanswered questions.

The key to the adoption of AI lies not within its power to automate lawyers’ tasks. Instead, the impetus will likely come from peer and market pressure. If other law firms thrive on automation and AI and are able to set lower prices as a result, then this is likely to have a domino effect.

Even if AFAs are on the rise, many lawyers still bill by the hour. In this case it wouldn’t be wise in terms of revenue to automate all of the (non-billable) routine tasks, as it might bring some resistance from legal professionals. AI applications could, however, improve the relationship between lawyer and client, as they take work off the lawyer’s hands, meaning the client gets more attention.

AI will also enable lawyers to provide higher quality services to their clients by reducing errors to a minimum, as well as automating a large amount of the organization and referencing involved with documents. It will become an invaluable assistant to every lawyer, and once adoption of AI starts to rise, firms who don’t implement it will get left behind. Lower costs and more freedom to practice law, what’s not to like?

Ethical implications

The big question, which has arisen in articles on this subject, remains: will computers eventually replace lawyers? In a word: no. We firmly believe that there will always be human elements in law which cannot be carried out by a computer. While there may be less need for legal analysis, there will be an increased demand for roles such as negotiator or business consultant. For this to happen, legal professionals need to be able to trust these applications completely.

While Artificial Intelligence is transforming ethics in the legal profession, there might be some teething problems when working with AI-powered tools. Because these relatively new technologies are evolving rapidly, new challenges are being created regarding lawyers’ ethical duties. The three most prominent challenges are:

Competence and diligence

Lawyers must understand the basics of how their AI-powered tools work. When a query is submitted to a legal AI-powered tool, the algorithm works its magic and the tool provides an answer. It is crucial for lawyers to know what is going on.


Delegating certain tasks to paralegals or junior lawyers requires the lawyer in question to check if the work has been done competently. The same goes for an AI-powered tool. While some tasks simply can’t be delegated to a tool, some can but need the output to be checked.

Client confidentiality and privilege

If confidence is to be placed in AI-powered tools then the system needs to be bulletproof to data breaches and other risks related to client confidentiality.

Main benefits of AI in legal services

You have probably heard both good and bad things about AI in the legal profession. In this section we will outline the main benefits of AI for law firms:

  • Saves time
  • Early risk assessment
  • Improves organizational and logical structure
  • Enhances Creative Analysis and Identification of Persuasive Precedents
  • Improves Client Relations

Not only lawyers reap the benefits of AI, clients benefit a great deal as well from this upcoming technology. AI will enhance the quality of lawyers’ output, reducing errors and allowing them to be more creative in the way they approach a matter, while clients will receive more attention and develop a better relationship with their lawyers.

The buzz about AI and its ability to replace lawyers is undoubtedly excessive. As a matter of fact, new roles for legal professionals will be generated, as they have a vital role to play in the drafting of new regulations and laws regarding AI – especially regarding the ethical implications both within the law firm and outside of it.

Love it or loathe it, the creation and rapid developments of AI are unstoppable. Lawyers and their clients can benefit greatly from this upcoming technology and those who get on board quickly