Technology in legal business
Paul Ryan, IBM Watson’s UK Director of Artificial Intelligence goes one step further with his prediction that already in a few years “every major decision, business and personal, will be made with the assistance of cognitive technologies.” This applies also for the Legal function. Already today exist contract review software, fueled by AI. The lawyer can train this, to include required provisions and, or identify potential red flags. The time for a contract review will be reduced from hours to seconds. Time is money, costs get reduced.
Furthermore, non-binding legal advise could be given by a chat-bot. Basic questions could be answered by the algorithms, if this is not enough, Level 2-support will be given by the human lawyer. The first option would be relative cheap, the second more expensive.
As the cost of providing legal cost is directly tied to the amount of time required to do a task (although there are multiple variations), technology can lower the cost of legal services in one of two ways:
- Reduce the time required to complete a task (i.e. software that creates document drafts with a series of Q&As rather than typing out a new agreement from scratch).. OR
- Reducing the qualifications required to complete task such that it can be completed by a less expensive person (i.e. research can be passed down from partner to associate that is billed at a lower rate).
There may be other hybrids, but those are the two basic buckets. Most aspects of law practice have been impacted in one or both of these ways to a significant degree.
As is noted above, there is a big question as to how much savings attorneys will pass on to clients, but if there are additional near-term developments I would see them possibly taking place in the following areas:
- Interaction with courts - Courts are often run inefficiently which means that there are plenty of highly-paid attorneys in courthouses waiting - at their clients' expense.
- Factfinding - There is a finite universe for researching the law, but factfinding is limited only by the physical world and the imagination and ethics of counsel.
- Malpractice law - Avoidance of malpractice is a justification for plenty of marginally valuable legal work.
One way is reduce the cost is documentation. A lot of work is being done on this area though. You can have your documents such as will, agreements and business contracts online -if you don't have much complexity in your documents. And, these online legal services are not very costly. Sometimes very cheap - compare to going to a lawyer's office.