AI won’t replace lawyers, but it will change the way they work


artificial-intelligence-4111582_1920Since humans invented the wheel in 1869, innovation has continued.

Innovation is about finding a new way to solve a problem — but one of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of innovation is the fear of obsolescence. How many times have you heard that the next innovation will eliminate jobs? GenAI was a great success. In March 2023. Goldman Sachs has published a report AI could automate 44% of legal tasks, according to the report. The headlines of the report focused on the implied disruptions and loss in jobs. A closer look at the report reveals that, historically, worker displacement due to innovation has been offset by new jobs created.

Since 1970 there have been six brief periods of time when the Growth rate The U.S. employment market is negative. All were linked to recessions, and not innovation. The two most significant dips were the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 epidemic. In each instance, the economy recovered quickly. Even when jobs were lost in certain sectors (e.g. manufacturing moving overseas), it was due to factors such as cost and not innovation.

Automatic Teller Machines are a fascinating story. Around 1980, the United States began to see an increase in ATMs. There were rumors that bank tellers would be forced to work on the streets. The adoption of ATMs took place gradually, which was far from the truth. ATMs increased branch profitability and efficiency, which led to more branch locations. The number of bank tellers is actually Between 1980 and 2000, the number of people who smoked increased..

AI will automate some functions that lawyers perform. The work of an attorney evolves and changes but AI will never replace the need for attorneys.

Here are a few things to consider as lawyers adapt and navigate these changes. AI is increasingly affecting their work.

AI is all around us

AI is pervasive. You may not have noticed yet. Google’s natural language search is powered by AI. It uses facial recognition to identify a friend when you’re asked to tag them in a photo on social media sites like Meta’s Facebook. AI suggests products that you might be interested in purchasing on Amazon. Apple’s Siri uses voice recognition to answer questions on your smartphone. Tesla’s self driving car features rely on neural networks for navigation. Microsoft Office 365 suggests documents that might be relevant for meetings. Microsoft Teams can also automatically transcribe a recording.

We may not even notice the gradual changes AI makes in our lives.

AI applications should be viewed as productivity tools by lawyers

Since decades, technology has improved the efficiency of legal work. Let me give you an example. Anyone remember partners writing documents on paper by hand? What about typing groups? What about taking bankers boxes of paper discovery documents to home to review and read? What if you had to do your research in a physical library, because there are no computer-assisted services for legal research?

Legal workflow has been automated, making lawyers more efficient. What is really valued is the cerebral work. More automation through GenAI — and freeing up more resources for cerebral work — may be critical to overcoming some of the most significant challenge facing legal professionals today. There is a talent crisis and concerns about future recruitment. In the 2023 Future Ready Lawyer Survey ReportThe overwhelming majority (81%) of respondents said that the ability recruit and retain talent would have a significant effect on their operations. Bandwidth is also a challenge as volume and complexity of information continue to increase — who has ever heard that a lack of work is a problem in law departments or firms?

It is essential to embrace technology. Focus should be on mastering new technologies. GenAI is a hot topic, and lawyers must understand how to use it, as well as what errors (e.g., hallucinations) may arise. How many times has GenAI caused a judge to reprimand a lawyer for submitting an argument with a case they did not read?

In the review process, human thought and legal criticism become even more crucial. Lawyer mistakes around GenAI will likely highlight shortcuts that need to addressed in review processes.

If you think about it, “spell check” in word processing software made draft versions of a document better by fixing the easy mistakes — typographical errors. Spell check can also introduce errors by autocorrecting the wrong word. It didn’t solve problems relating to underlying facts or legal arguments.

To ensure quality, lawyers will need to adapt their processes and continue to use tools. This will include a greater focus on the “legal” aspect, as well as adapting methods to correct any possible errors that the next “tool”, may introduce.

Demand for Legal Services will Increase

The need for legal services will continue to grow, just as the employment rate has steadily increased with innovation. The world becomes more complex each day. General counsel must now be more aware of geopolitical issues and provide advice to their businesses. Regulations become more expansive, and new issues arise. The European Union passed the The world’s very first regulation AI.

Growing businesses expand into new jurisdictions. They also take on additional functions, which creates new compliance requirements. Every day, there are new business deals to be negotiated as well as more contractual obligations. GenAI could also be used in this area to reduce repetitive tasks and speed certain processes. While it’s hard to predict how the practice and future of law will change, we can be sure that GenAI offers advantages to practitioners who know how to use it.

In conclusion, lawyers shouldn’t worry as much about AI or GenAI. Productivity and automation must be encouraged. AI is everywhere. Change isn’t always pleasant, but it’s inevitable. Even though it may feel otherwise, most changes are gradual and evolutionary. If we can learn from the past, then innovation will follow. If the past is a guide to the future, then innovation will have an economic impact that will last for a long time. The world will be more complex — and the world will need more lawyers.


Ken Crutchfield HeadshotKen Crutchfield is Vice President and General Manager of Legal Markets at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., a leading provider of information, business intelligence, regulatory and legal workflow solutions. Ken has over three decades of experience in the information and software industry. He can be reached by email at ken.crutchfield@wolterskluwer.com.


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