The Future of the Legal Industry: Will AI Take Over?
November 30, 2022, may very well be viewed as a “day that will live in infamy” when it comes to the AI revolution. This was the day that ChatGPT, an AI-powered language model developed by OpenAI, was released to the general public. ChatGPT has quickly taken the internet by storm because of its ability to generate human-like responses to text prompts.
Chat GPT can also write computer code and do countless other tasks, and it has supposedly passed the bar exam as well as several medical exams. It is like having a research assistant who holds countless degrees and MBAs and can give you whatever information you need clearly, concisely, and in a matter of seconds.
With something this powerful that is bound to improve exponentially over the coming months and years, professionals who work in the legal field would be crazy not to be at least somewhat concerned about what the evolution of AI means for their careers.
Is your legal career at risk of being automated? Is AI coming for your jobs?
It is nearly impossible to answer that question for the long term because most of us have no idea where all of this is going to end up in three to five years. We can speak with much more certainty about the short term, however.
At the moment, AI is a very helpful tool that allows those in the legal field to automate mundane tasks and complete much of the work more quickly and efficiently. But the way it looks right now, AI is a long way from replacing humans in our industry. And there is a good argument to be made that it never will.
AI Use Cases in Law Firms
The use of AI in law firms is growing, and it is being applied to a wide range of tasks. I figured ChatGPT would be an expert in the use of AI across various industries, so I asked it to tell me what tasks lawyers are currently using it for. Here is what he gave me:
- Document Review: AI can automate the process of reviewing and categorizing large volumes of legal documents, such as contracts, pleadings, and discovery materials. This can save lawyers time and increase efficiency, allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks.
- Legal Research: AI can assist lawyers in conducting legal research by analyzing large amounts of data and presenting relevant information in a concise and organized manner. This can help lawyers find the information they need more quickly and accurately, allowing them to make better-informed decisions.
- Contract Analysis: AI can be used to analyze contracts and identify potential risks and opportunities. This can help lawyers understand the terms of a contract more quickly and accurately, allowing them to negotiate more effectively.
- Due Diligence: AI can be used to automate the process of due diligence, which involves reviewing financial, legal, and operational information about a company or transaction. This can help lawyers identify potential risks and opportunities more quickly and accurately.
- Predictive Analytics: AI can be used to analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns and trends. This can help lawyers make more informed decisions about legal strategy and help them better understand the potential outcomes of a case.
- Chatbots and Virtual Assistants: AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can be used to provide legal information and support to clients, freeing up lawyers to focus on more complex tasks.
- Sentiment Analysis: AI can be used to analyze large amounts of text data, such as social media posts and news articles, to identify sentiment and understand public opinion. This can help lawyers better understand the public’s perception of a case or issue and make more informed decisions about legal strategy.
So, you can see that there are a lot of potential uses for AI in a law firm to make the jobs of lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants easier. But when you think about it, how is this different from the trend toward automation in other industries?
For example, how many humans do you see at toll booths these days? Or how about grocery and department stores? Most of them that I go into have at least some self-checkout lanes. Automation has been happening for a while with blue-collar work, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s starting to play a bigger role in the white-collar world as well.
The Human Factor in Law Firms
Although AI can take care of a laundry list of routine tasks that, if we are being honest, most people who work in law firms would rather not do, there are a number of key functions within a firm where humans are going to be needed for a long time to come. These include:
As everyone in the legal field knows, the law is extremely complex and nuanced. There are countless laws on the books addressing every area of our society, and even the best legal minds often disagree on how these laws should be interpreted and applied in various situations.
Think of how many split decisions we have every year at the Supreme Court, for example. Even the most accomplished lawyers in the country cannot agree on many of the cases that reach the highest court.
Interpreting a law and determining how it is likely to be applied is a crucial skill when you are representing a client. Lawyers must be able to analyze legal issues, identify relevant laws and regulations, and apply them to specific situations.
This ability only comes with the knowledge and experience that you gain by practicing in your area of law. A machine might be able to make some suggestions about how a law could be interpreted (based on previous precedents, etc.), but there is no way that it can replicate your experience and the unique insights that you can offer based on the specific cases you have been involved with.
Customizing Legal Solutions
Lawyers must be able to provide customized solutions and legal strategies for their clients. For example, when preparing an estate plan, a lawyer must be able to understand the unique needs and goals of the client and develop a plan that addresses their needs and accomplishes their goals. This requires not just technical knowledge of the law, but also the ability to listen, understand, and respond to the client’s needs. This, of course, is something that a machine will probably never be able to do.
Negotiations and Dispute Resolutions
Another key area where AI is unlikely to replace humans is in the negotiation and dispute-resolution process. Lawyers must be able to build relationships, understand their clients’ goals and concerns, and use their interpersonal skills to resolve disputes and negotiate contracts. This requires empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to understand and respond to the needs of others, all of which are qualities that AI lacks.
Imagine two machines going back and forth trying to negotiate a divorce settlement, for example. Or imagine two machines negotiating a settlement for a car accident victim.
I have heard about digital dating – the idea that someone’s “digital twin” simulates dates with the digital twins of numerous other individuals to produce a handful of people whom they are likely to be compatible with before going on a real date. I don’t think this is happening yet, but this is a technology they are working on.
Digital dates seem a bit far-fetched to me, but I can see this happening someday if it is not being done already. What I cannot imagine though is two adversaries creating digital twins and sending them off into cyberspace to negotiate with each other. If machines ever become that dominant in our world, then I think we will all be out of a job 😊
As ridiculous as machine-generated negotiations sound, the idea of machines arguing cases inside a courtroom seems even more absurd. Even if you brought a robot into court that had all the information in the world about your case at its fingertips, imagine this robot trying to make a persuasive argument in front of a judge or jury.
Success in court requires not just a deep understanding of the law and legal procedures, but also strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to think on your feet. Many cases are won or lost in court based not only on the law but on the strength of the arguments and how well they resonate with those who are hearing the case. These of course are skills that are exclusive to humans.
Much of an attorney’s success in getting clients comes down to how a client feels about the person who will be representing them. The client must believe that the attorney is truly looking out for them and has their best interests at heart. This requires the ability to establish a personal connection and build rapport with prospective clients. These again are qualities that cannot be replicated by a machine.
AI in Lawyer Marketing
AI is also having a significant impact on the world of legal marketing, and we at TDL Marketing are using the tools that are available with this technology to help our clients achieve their goals more effectively and efficiently. AI enhances our efforts by automating a lot of mundane tasks and giving us more accurate data. This allows us to produce better results for our clients and maximize their ROI.
There are a lot of areas in which AI can be helpful. For example, it can be used to write code for websites, analyze a website’s content and structure, find keywords to target, suggest ways to improve search engine optimization (SEO) and generate ideas for blog content and social media posts.
However, while AI can assist with many aspects of attorney marketing, we are not worried about our jobs either (in the short term anyway) because humans are still essential to the marketing process. For example, AI might be able to give us ideas for content and provide various statistics, but it cannot write compelling content that establishes an emotional connection with readers.
It should also be noted that while Chat GPT can give you some good information to work from, it is not always accurate. The current version of the language model only knows information through the end of 2021, so it does not have the most up-to-date statistics and data, for example. More importantly for law firms, it does not know about changes in the law that took effect in 2022 or 2023.
For these reasons, tread carefully if you decide to generate content from Chat GPT. We would also suggest that you heed the advice of OpenAI co-founder Sam Altman, who warned against using the language model for important topics.
The bottom line (as we see it) is that AI’s role in law firm marketing is similar to its use inside law firms. It is a very useful tool that helps us with several aspects of our business, but it will never be able to replace the creativity, empathy, and depth of understanding of our target audience that our team possesses. These are the intangibles that we bring to the table every day, and it is what sets us apart and allows us to drive exceptional results for each client we serve.