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AI is an exceptional tool that is really starting to make waves across numerous industries on a global level. This includes self-driving cars, smart personal assistants (‘Siri’, etc.), sales and business forecasting, security surveillance, online customer support, etc. But, how is AI affecting the legal sector, and will it replace lawyers?

AI is very useful in automated time recording software, which can save time by generating automatic invoices. If extrapolated across finance departments, it is easy to envisage a world where accountants, payroll administrators, etc., would be rendered redundant. This potentially bears ill for support/accounts staff in law firms. Furthermore, AI is currently being used to read and write contracts and to check for missing clauses. It is easy to imagine that in the future we will not need Paralegals, document reviewers, or maybe even lawyers for contract work. 

‘Lex Machina’ is a tool that enables lawyers to form case strategies based on previous outcomes from similar cases, and with this tool it is possible law firms to accurately and easily win cases, close business deals and strategise effectively and efficiently. However, on the flip side, this technology is based on analytics and so is not completely self-sufficient (yet), and there are compelling arguments that human interaction is not just beneficial, but essential, in closing deals, winning cases and to successfully business develop. Humans can sympathise, empathise and interact in a way that machines cannot.

‘Robot Lawyers’ and chatbots are another example of AI. Chatbots can provide basic legal assistance and advice autonomously. ‘Robot lawyers’ have achieved better results than lawyers in the past, especially in volume based legal fields such as PPI or Conveyancing. Both tools could render lawyers and support staff obsolete.

However, it is very unlikely that AI will replace lawyers any time soon. From the cost of implementing and running AI, to the time it will take for AI to become widespread and effective enough to completely replace lawyers, to the fact that human interaction is much more likely to win new business, talk to a client and successfully argue in front of a judge, it is unlikely that lawyers are in any immediate danger.

Whether or not Paralegals and junior members of staff in the legal field will be affected is much more of a realistic concern. And as for the future, who can tell what further disruption AI will bring to legal jobs?

Written by Recruitment Consultant & Legal Support Specialist at JMC Legal - Andrew Burrows