Artificial Intelligence = The “Doom” of Lawyers?

Google “Will AI replace lawyers?” and you will find scores of articles written in 2015 about how artificial intelligence ("AI") will supplant lawyers. I’d wager that 2015 was a turning point in the conversation about legal automation. IBM released its APIs for Watson a year ago, and in 2015 Ross Intelligence released a legal-research app harnessing Watson’s power.

In e-discovery we see predictive coding and other “AI” outperforming human review. Search capabilities driven by powerful technologies like Hadoop and ElasticSearch make pulling up data fast and easy. As a culture, we’re getting used to Siri. Why wouldn’t AI replace lawyers?

On some level it makes sense. Lawyers’ successful representation of their clients relies on massive volumes of data. A contract has to be iron tight with zero omissions or errors. A lawsuit is based on total control of the underlying facts. Motions will succeed because of the relevant legal precedents cited. The stakes are enormous. The stakes require a complete review of all underlying data. Wouldn’t a computer do it better? Won’t lawyers – particularly associates or junior lawyers – be replaced by smart computers? Well, yes…if AI continues on its current trajectory.

But this conclusion misses the important role that experienced lawyers play as “counsel” or “advisor.” Law is a profession in which the practitioners become more valuable the longer they practice.

Why?

There is the underlying data and then there is the story built from that data. An experienced corporate lawyer knows what contract terms will cause issues and what will provide the most protection. An experienced litigator knows what works with witnesses, juries, clients and opposing counsel. Experienced litigators know the court procedures, the judges and court personnel. When you pay a higher price for an experienced lawyer it’s because they comprehend – in a human way – every aspect of the legal matter in a way you do not. Or a law student does not. And certainly not a computer. Even a very smart computer. Negotiations are based on experience and nuance. Something skilled and experienced lawyers are particularly good at.

Nearly 100% of FactBox customers are experienced lawyers with decades of practice. They know it's not just the facts or the legal research that will win the case. It's the provocative stories put in place from the facts. One version of the story for the deposition of a fact witness. One version of the story for the brief. One for the court hearing. Every storyline building during the life of the case. Even though the underlying data is important, it's the skill of the lawyer as storyteller that will ultimately win the case.

That skill won't be replaced by AI any time soon.

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Founder and CEO, 20 yrs domain expertise – professional services & software. #1 fan of FactBox.