Let’s look at a new opportunity for lawyers to stay ahead – we’re sure you’ve heard about it by now.
Nothing stands still in the legal world, and in the past year, we’ve seen a drop-off in demand for transactional work (which has hit large firms particularly hard), inflationary pressures driving up expenses, and a simultaneous 20-year low point in productivity. All these trends and more are explored in the Thomson Reuters State of the Legal Market Report 2023.
Another finding was that specialty firms performed particularly strongly, which suggests that clients, while very aware of costs, are willing to pay more for high-quality work produced in efficient and cost-effective ways.
This brings us to another trend that is dominating conversations in every sector, legal included: AI. AI is being touted as a mass-scale fast track to high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective work. And the opportunities for legal departments and law firms are enormous – not least in empowering legal departments to bring many legal tasks back in-house.
Can AI review legal documents?
First, let’s answer a question on the minds of many lawyers: can AI review legal documents? In short – yes. There is no shortage of AI-powered tools on the market today that can read documents and search for relevant information.
Rather than poring over page after page, hour after hour, AI can search thousands of files in seconds, precisely surfacing the data and language that are most relevant to the inquiry.
AI technology can go through and mark up hundreds of pages of documents much faster than doing it by hand, too. This can free up both lawyers and support staff for more interesting and profitable work, such as building caseloads. It can also allow less-experienced lawyers to begin delivering more value more quickly.
Put an end to repetitive tasks
Creating, reviewing, and sending various documents forms a large part of the daily tasks of many lawyers. While important, these are repetitive and manual processes – and humans are prone to making mistakes occasionally. AI tools can give you a competitive edge by improving accuracy and reducing the risk of error.
Many workflows can be automated with AI tools that analyze, classify, and store documents automatically. AI can also be trained to tag and label documents based on your specific needs.
With its capability to process huge amounts of information in a fraction of the time it would take a person, AI can make you superhuman at work.
Reading, summarizing, and sharing
One dimension of AI is natural language processing (NLP), which enables computers to read text or language quickly and provide a summary. This is very helpful to legal professionals poring through lengthy legal documents.
AI tools for legal documents can also easily be taught to generate certain standardized documentation from available information and to share these with relevant parties automatically.
Advising clients with more confidence
Using legal research tools that analyze the decisions and behaviors of judges and other lawyers can help inform your strategies and potentially increase your chances of success.
AI analysis can also be used to leverage historical data and relationships and identify flaws or opportunities within your work, which could quickly open up unexplored opportunities to improve client service.
Help retain talent
Using modern AI technology can also help you retain valuable assets – your people.
Research shows that a culture that values lawyers as skilled professionals (not just for their productivity) tends to have healthier and more loyal employees. AI tools can help deliver value faster – particularly for more junior professionals who are often given repetitive or research-based tasks.
By democratizing AI, productivity can increase across the board and become less of a measure of success – this can free up time for creative, critical legal thinking that only a trained and passionate human lawyer can do. And what lawyers really want to do.
AI is a catalyst for change
There is a great appetite for technology exploration in legal. The pandemic forced some major tech-driven changes across the working world and society as a whole, and this has translated into greater expectations of, for example, automation-driven efficiency, better user experience, and digital services.
To stay competitive and relevant, and keep clients happy, your firm or legal department needs to start exploring use cases for AI now. Research has shown that just 34% of law firms are considering whether to use generative AI for legal operations. That can give early adopters a huge advantage.
If you’re still unsure about what to expect from AI or hesitant about exploring it, pause to think about how technology has already transformed legal services and performance.
Smartphones were quickly adopted by lawyers, as it meant they could handle client relations from anywhere – not just from their desks – and via email and phone calls.
E-signatures reduce contract completion time by as much as 73% and are a standard tool in daily legal practice. Nobody – lawyers or clients – would prefer to return to signing documents in person, in ink.
Change in law is constant. And AI could be one of the biggest-ever changes for the better.