Is your firm singing along to the tune of AI?
To those who grew up in the 80’s AI, currently resembles the lyrics of a Wet Wet Wet song; (hum along as you read this) just replace ‘love’ with the ubiquitous ‘AI’ and you’ve got … AI is all around us, it’s everywhere we go.
Without wanting to sound too glib it’s almost impossible to open a newspaper, journal, view an online source or listen to the radio without a story on AI being foisted on you. Trying to sift the wheat from the chaff or perhaps the code from the content on screen is becoming increasingly difficult, if only because the claims being made about AI’s omnipresent impact on the legal sector are getting bolder by the week. But let’s stand back for a moment - is this really the case?
Some say AI working alongside humans is 20 years away, something in the future, yet the truth is AI is already delivering operational and financial dividends for those firms with sufficient foresight and vision to be early adopters. A robot may not be sitting next you but AI in the shape of bots and the like could already being used to support compliance, manage data extraction and even carry out administrative role in your office. Just pick up your mobile and ask Siri to find you a fact or the nearest Starbucks, that’s AI in action. Let’s face it, today’s AI already performs repetitive tasks far more efficiently than humans and it’s certainly infiltrating the legal sector. Deloitte reports that 114,000 jobs will be automated by 2045, on top of the 31,000 roles in the sector that have already been lost to these emerging technologies. So, need we worry whether the lawyers of today are doomed to be replaced by the robots of tomorrow?
Whilst there is no denying change is happening quickly, there’s no need to panic just yet. Yes, AI is being used in routine areas of practice from delivering judgement in some overseas territories and closer to home, firms are already deploying chat bots to answer requests for conveyancing quotations and deal with straightforward enquiries 24/7 without the need for human intervention. However, the truth of the matter is AI is likely to only be of use for low level activity for the immediate future and the technology is unlikely to conquer the most expert legal minds any time soon.
Whilst the easier tangibles of cost and time reduction for routine administrative and research tasks primarily drive AI adoption, the firm which attaches its operations to the future frequently morphs into the service supplier of choice; it brings a positive reputational effect. Today’s clients expect to see technology deployed in your operation, it reassures them that their fees are being used to deliver innovative advisory consultancy and it attracts colleagues too.
In the fullness of time AI and its successor technologies will inevitably deliver tools we’ve yet to imagine but a flourishing law firm is always going to need the best minds too. By adopting AI early on, practices will be best placed not only to attract & retain the finest the best clients but market leading practitioners with them.
Now is the period where early adoptors are taking the lead and the majority of us should not just be sitting on the touchline but rather be prepared to engage in the opportunities which AI can bring. Staying out of the fray is simply not an option. A window of opportunity exists for the profession to guide the creation of AI technologies that we need. Over the next few years the brighter, more progressive firms will partner with technology providers, recognising that the profession is in unique position to play an active role in developing AI tools which will positively shape the sector’s future.
AI is neither something of which to be scared nor simply ignored; rather it’s something to embrace, something the industry should greet with open arms as we move towards the future of law.