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The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in transforming the Legal Landscape

Written by C.A. Jackson; R. Gambara and N.B Nyathi


Introduction


The recent artificial intelligence (AI) revolution has led to concerns about its impact on the labour market, including professional fields such as the legal profession.[1] While it has been predicted that AI will be the end of lawyers, this article suggests that AI may enhance human abilities and allow lawyers to better perform their roles. Robot lawyers have also entered the profession with the first robot lawyer (DoNotPay) DNP sued for practising without a degree, the claim was however dismissed by Chief U.S District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel.


From time immemorial, the legal profession has always relied on extensive research and documentation. However, the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) is set to transform the legal profession as it has the potential to streamline the laborious process of sorting through numerous legal texts, documents, and even provide instant insights into case law and statutes.[2]


This article delves into the implications of the AI revolution on the legal profession in general, highlighting its ability to significantly enhance the efficiency and precision of legal practice. As technology advances, legal professionals are encouraged to embrace AI and explore ways to integrate it into their practice effectively.


What is Artificial intelligence (AI)

The term “Artificial intelligence” was first coined in the 1950s. It is a term for various technologies such as robotics, speech and vision functions, machine learning and expert systems but there is no precise definition. Narrowly defined, however, the term refers to futuristic systems which can perform fast search and computation, providing advantages over human cognition.[3]


Understanding the Potential Impact of AI in the Legal Profession

Perhaps one of the most important developments is that AI has the potential to automate repetitive tasks, analyse large volumes of data, and provide valuable insights for swift and precise research as well as drafting. With AI-powered tools, lawyers can now conduct legal research more efficiently and even draft documents with greater accuracy. In some instances, there might be a possibility of predicting case outcomes based on historical data analysis.


Furthermore, AI has the potential to assist in administrative tasks such as document management, scheduling, and client communication which would save law firms both time and money. In turn, this would free up time for lawyers to focus on more complex and strategic aspects of their work, thus improving productivity and client service.

A 2023 study by researchers at Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and New York University found that “legal services” is among the industries most exposed to occupational change from generative AI. Another report, published in 2023 by economists at Goldman Sachs, estimated that 44 percent of legal work could be automated by emerging AI tools.[4]


Advantages of AI in the legal profession


The following are advantages of AI which would enable lawyers and other legal personnel to effectively perform their roles.


· Increased productivity: Instead of doing manual tasks such as creating invoices, searching for a template for a contract, etc., legal professionals can easily just assign tasks to AI to do it for them. This leaves more time to review and proofread the contract, while also diverting more attention to their clients and other matters. Fletchers, the largest UK medical negligence law firm, has teamed up with the University of Liverpool with the aim of creating a clinical negligence ‘robot lawyer’ – in practice, a decision support system which reviews similar previous cases. The project has the support of a £225,000 grant from government-backed funder Innovate UK (Connelly 2016a)

Furthermore, the use of AI can also reduce the margin for human errors in terms of drafting. Law-focused AI software like Casetext, Latch, Harvey and others have taken GPT-4 and other language models and fine-tuned them for their specific kind of legal work. They can help lawyers research relevant case law, statutes, regulations and legal opinions, sifting through thousands of pages in a matter of minutes to not only find documents but summarise them and highlight important parts.


In addition, AI tools are also available 24/7 and can always be analysing documents and doing legal research at any hour of the day, which means more work can be covered by lawyers. [5]


· Cost reduction: AI’s ability to work constantly around the clock will reduce the amount of time spent on cases. This will help firms operate more efficiently and would help clients as they would have reduced costs when making use of a legal professional. [6]


In February 2023, international law firm Allen & Overy entered into an exclusive partnership with a tool called Harvey, which provides thousands of the firm’s attorneys with assistance in legal research, drafting documents and contract analysis. LexisNexis, a long-time data and analytics provider in the legal industry, announced in May 2023 that it created a new generative AI platform using GPT technology and teamed up with some of the biggest law firms in the United States, including Baker McKenzie, Foley & Lardner and Reed Smith. And several Fortune 50 companies, like Microsoft and Ford Motor, as well as top law firms like DLA Piper and Kirkland & Ellis, have tested a tool created by Casetext called CoCounsel.


This software is not doing anything that attorneys or paralegals cannot do themselves. It is just able to do it faster and more efficiently than any human is physically capable of doing it — posing both time and cost-saving potential.[7]


AI, however, is not without its drawbacks. While it presents many advantages, there are some disadvantages which ought not to be ignored.


· Case outcome prediction: Researchers at University College London, the University of Sheffield and the University of Pennsylvania applied an AI algorithm to the judicial decisions of 584 cases that went through the European Court of Human Rights and found patterns in the text. Having learned from these cases, the algorithm was able to predict the outcome of other cases with 79% accuracy. It found that rather than legal argument being predictive of case outcomes, the most reliable factors were non-legal elements: language used topics covered and circumstances mentioned in the case text (Boran 2016). Yet, this approach is heavily reliant on the quality of the data collected and analysed – as in the old age ‘Garbage-in-Garbage-out’.


Disadvantages


i) Job replacement

One of the primary concerns regarding AI is the fear of job displacement as AI takes over certain tasks traditionally performed by legal professionals. However, it is essential to recognise that AI should be seen as a tool rather than replacement for human expertise.

GPT-4, the large language model serving as the backbone of ChatGPT and several other generative AI systems, also managed to score in the 90th percentile on the Uniform Bar Exam. These results push the boundaries on not only what AI is capable of doing on its own, but what it can enable in the legal world.[8]


Lawyers can leverage AI to enhance their capabilities and provide more comprehensive legal services. By embracing AI technologies, lawyers can gain a competitive edge in delivering faster, more accurate results while also expanding their capacity to handle a broader range of cases.


A much more likely outcome of this generative AI revolution is a change in the billable hour, which remains the dominant business model in legal work. “Ultimately, it breaks the billable-hour model,” Allgrove said, “Once you get into a world where your law firms need to invest larger and larger in the technology to provide the product at the end of the day — not the time — then we are going to have to find different models which enable us to get a return on our capital and our effort that is fair and that’s not based on charging for time”.[9]


ii) Over reliance on AI


One of the other drawbacks of AI is that it is easy to over-rely on the tool. A classic example of this was in an unfortunate turn of events, where a New York Based Lawyer appeared before a Judge for having allegedly used AI to write his heads of argument. In what the Judge termed as an "unprecedented circumstance" it was found that the lawyer made reference to 15 out of 16 cases that did not exist but were made up by AI (Including their facts). The lawyer who used the tool ChatGPT told the court he was "unaware that its content could be false". ChatGPT creates original text at your request, but comes with warnings that it can "produce inaccurate information".


In addition, an overreliance on AI also has the potential to ruin a good case or even land one’s career since it is not always accurate.


iii) Electronic personhood; There is an important gulf between AI that works as an accurate proxy of human intelligence and AI that behaves like a human being. Many concerns around AI taking on more complex and cognitive roles are based on the assumption that any entity with intelligence will have the same kind of ambitions as humans. But we should not assume that an advanced version of AI will become or want to become a person. The dynamics of trust between people and machines are not yet well- understood.[10]


Suggested Strategies for Making AI Work for Lawyers


To effectively integrate AI into the legal profession several strategies can be employed:


i) Education and Training: Providing comprehensive education and training programs on AI technologies for lawyers will be crucial. This will enable them to understand how AI can be applied in different areas of law and how to use AI-powered tools effectively.


ii) Ethical Considerations: it is important to establish clear ethical guidelines for the use of AI in the legal profession. This includes ensuring transparency in how AI algorithms are used, maintaining client confidentiality, and upholding professional standards while utilizing AI technologies.


iii) Collaboration with Tech Experts: Lawyers can benefit from collaborating with technology experts and data scientists to develop customised AI solutions tailored to specific legal needs. Building partnerships with tech companies specialising in legal tech can help facilitate the creation of innovative AI applications for the legal sector.


iv) Regulatory Framework: Developing a regulatory framework that addresses the use of AI in law practice is essential. This framework should ensure accountability, data privacy protection, and fairness in utilising AI tools within the legal profession.

By implementing these strategies, lawyers can harness the potential of AI to optimise their workflow, deliver higher-quality legal services, and adapt to the evolving landscape of modern legal practice.

In conclusion, while there are challenges associated with integrating AI into the legal profession, the potential benefits are substantial. Embracing AI technologies can empower lawyers to work more efficiently, expand their capabilities, and ultimately improve access to justice for individuals and businesses across Zimbabwe.


[1] Legg, Michael, & Bell, Felicity. (2019). Artificial intelligence and the legal profession: becoming the ai-enhanced lawyer. University of Tasmania Law Review, 38(2), p.34. [2] Legg, Michael, & Bell, Felicity. (2019). Artificial intelligence and the legal profession: becoming the ai-enhanced lawyer. University of Tasmania Law Review, 38(2), p.37. [3] Legg, Michael, & Bell, Felicity. (2019). Artificial intelligence and the legal profession: becoming the ai-enhanced lawyer. University of Tasmania Law Review, 38(2), p.38. [4] Ellen Glover, (2023) AI in Law: How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Legal Practice, https://builtin.com/artificial-intelligence/ai-lawyer [5]https://intellisoft.io/artificial-intelligence-ai-in-the-law-industry-key-trends-examples-usages/#Benefits_of_Artificial_Intelligence_in_Law [6] https://aithority.com/ai-machine-learning-projects/transforming-legal-landscape-how-ai-is-becoming-the-ultimate-sidekick-for-lawyers/ [7] E. Glover (supra) [8] E. Glover (Supra note 4) [9] Supra [10] The Law Society of England and Wales (2018) .HORIZON SCANNING: Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession . file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/horizon-scanning-artificial-intelligence-legal-profession-may-2018.pdf

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5 Comments


Unknown member
Jan 19

Technology is our friend. Thanks for the insightful article. Good job!

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Unknown member
Jan 19

Well detailed!

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Unknown member
Jan 19
Replying to

Thank you

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Unknown member
Jan 18

Super insightful, thank you

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Unknown member
Jan 19
Replying to

Thank you. I am glad you found it helpful.

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