When will artificial intelligence replace lawyers?

Broadly, Lawyers can be classified into 2 categories based on their functions.

  1. Litigating Lawyers
  2. Transactions/corporate advisory Lawyers.

Litigating lawyers would be impossible to be replaced by artificial intelligence at least in the near future. Litigation is a dynamic field and I cannot forsee a robot arguing in the court. The back end research which I believe is a crucial aspect for every litigating lawyer is also very tough to automate because its dynamic and no set patterns can be envisioned. AI and machine learning can provide tools in the hands of a lawyer through which he can retrieve exact cases pertaining to a point of law but the lawyer himself has to apply it to the set of facts of the particular case and analyse its relevancy. Litigating lawyers also drafts Plaints, Written Statements etc which again is dependent on facts pertaining to the particular case and would be nigh impossible to automate. Although some drafting is structured and lawyers have long used templates for such drafts such as in deeds, contracts, wills and trusts which in the short term would get automated.

The next category of lawyers are called transactions lawyers and they are not required to argue or visit courts and tribunals. They are mainly involved in the following tasks namely but not limited to document management,case administration and management, document review, due diligence, legal drafting, negotiation, litigation support etcetera. These lawyers are more prone to be the victims of automation and artificial intelligence because the work is more or less structured with less dynamism. Tasks such as contract review are being done using AI with greater accuracy and speed compared to a human lawyer . AI technologies such as IBM Watson & COIN are already creating disruptions in the banking sector's legal teams replacing hundreds of attorneys. Check out the link.

JP Morgan Software Does in Seconds What Took Lawyers 360,000 Hours

So, the fundamental point is that tasks which are repetitive and structured in nature would be the first to get automated.Similarly, lawyers would be needed to work on the upper rungs of the legal task ladder such as negotiation, strategy making, arguing in courts and the low level jobs would either get automated or would be performed by non-lawyers.

Please have a look at the following research paper citing empirical data on the effects of legal technologies on employment.


My company is building a Legal AI that assists a human attorney, like so:

Justine Falcon, the AI Attorney Assistant. Skilled in downloading reading, understanding, and cataloging thousands of legal documents, with fast query, search, grouping, and sorting.

Superpower: Can research EVERY past case file from the opposing attorney before your case against them starts and analyze not only all the statistics about them but also instantly recall any facts from any document about them when given a query request.

She can can also model their tactics and patterns from all previous cases, and predict with 86% accuracy what their top 5 next moves in your case will be, so you can counter them or even preempt them from happening.

Here is the link to the full tech description. Justice Falcon

Even after we prove that these Legal AIs can really make a measurable difference to the performance of an attorney in litigation, they will not take over the attorney's job. However, once two attorneys face off with AI used on both sides, we now have an arms race. Each attorney will want a better trained, more capable AI, and be willing to pay more. The AI's will rapidly become not only more capable, but faster, to the point that a human can no longer be in the loop and stay competitive.

We may soon not even have human judges, replaced by a much more powerful AI we call Justice Falcon:

If left in virtual training for legal battles for too long, the AI attorneys might start getting more and more abstract and detached from reality and start exploiting flaws in the digital system. This could make them less useful in real courtrooms, and lead to a runaway AI legal system where hyper-trained AIs fight in very abstract virtual legal battles with a superhuman Justice Falcon presiding, none of it comprehensible to humans. Is this the inevitable outcome of starting down the path to AI attorneys - an arms race with superhuman AIs litigating so fast and so abstractly we cannot even understand what they are doing, and humans attorneys and judges become just bystanders. Possible, yes, but desirable?

Brent Oster (www.orbai.ai)

Not sure if the word "replace" is relevant here but computers are already more powerful than human minds in terms of raw speed and computational capabilities. But the human mind has a more complicated form of intelligence.
 The current crop of computers and consequentially, AI systems developed, are digital. That means they think in terms of 1s and 2s, true or false statements and essentially follow logical statements. The human mind, on the other hand, follows a logarithmic nature of thought. If you are familiar with mathematics, this can be put this way - computers are based on digits while the human mind is based on functions.
 Upcoming projects have seen teams experimenting with analog computers, as opposed to digital computers. These analog computers trace back to the age of the first computers. The technology then showed digital computers to be far more practical when compared to analog computers. But the current technology allows for effective analog computers. This means, they can think based on logarithmic processes of thought too.
 Simply put, they will have the nature of the human mind and a hardware that far exceeds it. Yes, they will be way smarter than you and I. But they cannot replace human minds. Why? Because they do not have emotional intelligence.
 They can only follow mathematical models of thought. And the concepts like ambition, greed and even love are thrown out of the door along with survival instincts unless we are smart enough to find a way to put them in the AI systems and are dumb enough to actually put them. Without emotional intelligence, there is no will to try and take over.
 The conclusion? They cannot replace human brains unless we are naïve enough to giving the AI systems instructions that allow them to take over. I'm not saying they'll even want to. But even if that were possible with the analog systems, the control will only get away from our hands if we make a blunder so massive that words fail to describe it.
 So no, the computers or AI will not take over or replace the human intelligence, so to speak. Science fiction will remain fiction for quite a long time in this domain. Hope this helps. Cheers.

As a lawyer i rarely get scared when the news report on how much more accurate and speedy an AI algorithm is at advising on the law than an experienced human attorney for one reason :-

Unless the client has a background in law or law enforcement they usually will not be able to assess their own problem and ask the relevant question in the first place.

The sociological and cultural backgrounds of a client are important in assessing their case :- A machine can be programmed with law journals and statute but will not have " street level" understanding of colloquial terms and cultural realities and trends. Without an understanding of a client's cultural context and background legal advice will be divorced from the realities of the client's life.

Law will always be a field where the human touch is paramount.

Distilling the facts of a client's case into cogent legal questions is something that only the creativity of a human mind can do . Only a human mind is equipped with both knowledge and empathy .

On the issue of empathy: In cases that require sensitivity ie. Family Law, Domestic Violence, Sex crime you often have to act on instinct to ask your client about what you believe is going on , and painfully pull facts from them like a surgeon excising a tumor.

I see AI as more of an additional tool in an attorney's arsenal than a threat to the profession at large. A skilled attorney will be able to produce a complicated legal opinion in hours instead of days using AI algorithms .

AI may overall increase the speed and efficiency of justice systems around the world ,and make some aspects of paralegal work obsolete but until an AI can approach or surpass human intelligence there will always be a need for human lawyers in my opinion.

There was a time when Conveyancing was only done by lawyers, but now it can be done by anyone using available search methods

The same for Will making, where now you can purchase basic Will forms, and even record your wishes on camera

Many contracts come in a standard form such as those issued by Publishers to Authors. These can be checked out by lawyers but more likely to be done by agents representing the Author

Areas of Intellectual property and copyright, such as Artworks, Music, literature, and inventions etc. are commonly covered by standard forms and agreements that do not always require a lawyer now, whereas they did in the past

To that extent, any legal work that can be standardized to the point where it is essentially ticking boxes, will be taken over by AI

But there are other areas that are growing
We already have self-driving cars that seem safe enough to put on the roads, but we don't have the laws that allow them to. Lawyers will be needed for that

The same goes for Drones, and many medical advances that must be tested both medically and legally. In fact we are moving into a Technocratic era where many changes in the law are required (The UK Brexit situation is almost entirely related to interpretation of the law, and will take several years)

One area where lawyers could be greatly affected by AI is in the Courts of Law if Lie Detectors are allowed to be used
Though Lie Detectors have been used in a limited way in courts, it has been argued that they are unreliable in criminal cases, and that they create hostility between the parties in Family law cases

It might be argued that there are vested interests that prefer ‘Lie Detectors' not be be used in courts

In the case of Family courts, and particularly in Child custody cases, almost all the evidence is hearsay of the ‘He/She said this and did that', and therefore the children should not see Him/Her'

Bearing in mind that in Western countries fewer people get married, there is over a 60% chance that those who get married will get divorced.
That 8 out of 10 divorces are brought by women
That single-parent homes are increasing, with around 1 in 4 children having only one parent

That children from single-parent homes are more likely to become truants, runaways, drop-outs, drug/alcohol/chemical abusers, suffer from above average mental and physical illnesses, more likely to become offenders and criminals, and ultimately to become single-parents themselves

Apart from that, single-parents are probably the largest group on State welfare benefits, so there is a good reason for this problem to be resolved from the Governments viewpoint
but not from the Family lawyers viewpoint

Once a child custody case goes to court a Family court lawyer knows they probably have a case for years, as almost every case get appealed due to the fact that court orders are normally ignored

They are ignored because though the parent ignoring the law is in Contempt of court, and the offending parent can be fined or jailed, the Defending lawyer will argue that ‘It is in the best interests of the children that the custodial parent is not punished', and the court will normally accept this viewpoint, and will repeatedly do so (I personally know of one case that was appealed 107 times, and the court only relented when the child became a serial runaway from the custodial parent)

So, will AI replace lawyers in the Family courts? Probably not
Could lawyers be replaced in the Family courts?
Quite easily
There are around 30 different ways of testing a persons response to questioning
None of these ways, in isolation will be 100% correct, but taken together, it is highly likely that a person lying would be found out
Why are courts not using lie detectors?

In answer to the question of whether AI will replace lawyers, then it certainly will in the areas where the law is basically box-ticking, or standard forms
But there will be increasing need for lawyers to deal with cyber crime, crypt-currencies, and emerging technologies that disrupt our lifestyle
It is also highly likely that AI will be an essential part of a lawyers training in the future

Like most professional jobs, AI is unlikely to completely replace lawyers in the next couple of decades. However, it could have a massive impact on the industry in the next short number of years. For example, there is a young startup out of the Harvard innovation lab called Klarity (http://klaritylaw.com) that uses AI to automate the process of contract review.

It turns out that in some firms, a large percentage of the associate legal staff time is spent on relatively straightforward contract review. In the very near future, these AI systems will be able to outperform the accuracy of human legal associates on certain contract types, while improving processing time by several orders of magnitude.

These changes will require law firms to rethink their business models. Today, many firms use these more simple tasks to train new associates while generating significant profits from the billable hours generated from contract review tasks.

It's not unrealistic in the next several years for AI to automate a meaningful percentage of the work that is currently performed by attorneys. Complete replacement is not realistic soon, but it is quite likely that the industry will be turned on its head.

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