Over the past 10-15 years, the legal industry has seen a myriad of changes, including merger mania, fee pressures, and globalization. Each of these continues to have their effect, and we can now add technology as another catalyst. Technology in law firms has become extremely prevalent in the work attorneys do, and its impact is felt at firms of all sizes.
Small firms are feeling the pinch from online providers such as Legal Zoom and downloadable apps such as Ask a Lawyer and Bernie Sez. Simpler tasks such as forming legal entities (corporations, LLCs, etc) and contesting traffic tickets have become highly commoditized and some people prefer the convenience of a “virtual” lawyer with immediate results over the time it takes to sit with a professional attorney and receive counsel. To combat this, sole practitioners and small firms must stress the importance of customer service in an effort to “de-commoditize” their services.
Mid-size and larger firms are seeing breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that are making much of what they do routine. Particularly in the area of document scanning, case law can be reviewed and summarized in minutes, rather than hours or days.
Programs can now use Watson to not only conduct research, but also draft memos. Is this the dawn of the “robot lawyer”? Hardly, but it’s tough to ignore the time saved from automation of research and drafting of documents. At least for the foreseeable future, an experienced attorney will still need to review any AI drafts to ensure applicability and appropriateness of any writings to the specific client at hand.
At first glance, it may seem like this would eliminate the need for more attorneys. However, when you dig a bit deeper, this may actually be a blessing. What this can do is free up attorney time to work on more profitable lines of business. It may make it more difficult for the fledgling attorney to gain experience, but experience can be gained in other ways, perhaps assisting on bigger cases, rather than being mired in case law.
Of course, AI has its cost. Elaborate systems can be quite expensive, but with enough volume, AI can more than return the investment therein. With Withum, we can help you view AI as an opportunity opposed to a threat. To learn more, reach out to our team at Withum Digital by filling out the form below to help your firm automate repetitive or mundane tasks.