Will robots replace lawyers?  The short answer is no, not yet. A report by McKinsey estimates that only 23% of a lawyer’s job could be automated with current technologies.  With that being said there is a lot of buzz about AI at the moment and it has reached the offshore legal market. AI is a topic of discussion at partner strategy meetings, internal training seminars and industry conferences.  AI will undoubtedly change the way we do business and it is important for law firms to invest the time and money to understand its applications and potential pros and cons.

The main areas it is being applied is in mundane data intensive tasks such as document review, legal research, document analysis and comparison, and practice management (timekeeping, billion, file management).  AI is much better and quicker than humans at completing these tasks.  Hours of research can be done in milliseconds.  Machines are 100% accurate all of the time and they don’t get tired.  The productivity gains and cost savings are obvious.  The good news for lawyers is that these are the tasks that they often find frustrating and stressful (no doubt some of the old school might disagree on the legal research but times have changed!).

If a computer is doing much of the heavy lifting this will free up lawyers’ time and energy for problem solving, strategic analysis and advice, things that are innately human and things lawyers enjoy doing.  The results, happy lawyers and happy clients.  There is also a good case to be made that these technologies will increase access to self help resources and justice to a much larger audience than is currently the case.

It is still early days but things are moving quickly.  There are challenges due to the infancy of the technology and there will certainly be growing pains.  Some jobs will be eliminated but others will be created (at the time of publication Highbury Consulting was yet to receive instruction from a client to hire AI talent but expect to do so in the near future).  Law firms need to figure out how technology can help humans be better at what they do rather than replace them.