The evolution of legal AI

They say we fear what we don’t understand. “It’s a little hard to trust something you can’t look in the eyes” – said astronaut John Glenn in the movie “Hidden Figures”, as he was preparing to launch to space and become the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, but not before he directed NASA to “get the girl to check the numbers.” Hesitant about the accuracy of the landing trajectories calculated by room-size IBM 7090 computers, Glenn asked that a “human computer” assigned to NASA’s Flight Research Division, mathematician Katherine Johnson, first double check the trajectory calculated by her electronic counterpart.

This initial tendency to be cautious about technology is even more true of lawyers, who are trained to question everything and are natural skeptics. Not surprisingly, when artificial intelligence technology (AI) was first introduced into the legal industry several years ago, a wave of articles that robots were coming to take over lawyers’ jobs headlined many publications, advocating for a radical portray of AI technology as a rhinoceros that would trample its way through the legal profession leading to full replacement of lawyers by machines. “Burn the witch” would also have been a standard response to a lawyer who advocated spending real money on anything that could be described as artificial intelligence.

As with any novel phenomenon, the initial hype and apprehension around AI have worn down. Fortunately, we are no longer seeing these frightening headlines which create unnecessary misconceptions towards technology and contribute to its slow uptake by the legal industry. Thanks to an evolution of legal AI, we are finally at a stage when legal professionals can now focus on exploring the potential benefits AI can bring to the legal profession.

The current state of legal work

Naturally, some of the tasks currently conducted by lawyers are or will be automated, and some of them really should be. The majority of these tasks is repetitive, mundane technical work, such as document classification in discovery processes and routine contract review, which all lawyers should be excited about delegating to technology.

Instead, lawyers can enjoy more meaningful legal careers by focusing on the more substantial legal work, such as court appearances, legal advocacy, and negotiations, which constitute the core of the legal profession and were the reasons we went to law schools in the first place.   

In fact, 76% of general counsel surveyed as part of the 2021 EY Law Survey say they find it challenging to manage current workloads, and that one out of every five in-house counsel hours is currently spent on low-complexity, repetitive or routine tasks, with 87% confirming that their department spends too much time on these tasks. As a result, nearly half of respondents (47%) report that increasing volumes of low value work have adversely impacted employee morale. LawGeex’s own survey of in-house counsel conducted in spring 2021 similarly showed that 53% felt burdened by overwork and unable to succeed because of it.

This phenomenon has a direct impact on lawyers’ wellbeing, frequently leading to lawyer burnout and high turnover rates and often resulting in lawyers leaving the profession.

Retention has become a significant concern costing the legal industry roughly $9.1 billion annually for the turnover it produces in just the 400 largest firms in the United States.

Studies show that employee job satisfaction and engagement is linked to a host of organizational success factors, including lower turnover, high client satisfaction, and higher productivity and profitability. Lawyer wellbeing can contribute to overall organizational success – in legal departments, law firms, and government entities. 

Given the importance of talent retention, such figures should be a major cause of concern for the legal industry.

The impact of technology on employee satisfaction and lawyer retention

Fortunately, there are solutions to prevent burnout and control its effects. Leveraging technology to automate the routine and repetitive aspects of the legal practice can be the antidote to lawyer burnout and professional dissatisfaction. Empowering and augmenting lawyers with technology that saves time, streamlines processes, and makes work more impactful can contribute to a better work-life balance and help lawyers relieve the pressure of getting work done. 

Advanced technologies such as Contract Review Automation (CRA), which leverages artificial intelligence, can help lawyers review routine contracts in a faster, consistent, more cost-effective manner, without compromising quality.

As part of my role as a Legal Solution Architect at LawGeex, a leading AI-powered Contract Review Automation (CRA) platform, nothing makes my work more fulfilling than helping fellow lawyers do the work they really enjoy. 

What better way to illustrate this than the “Voice of the Customer” itself – during the virtual 2020 Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Annual Meeting, Todd Sulger, Deputy General Counsel and Chief Innovation Officer at HP Inc., shared his company’s legal technology journey of leveraging artificial intelligence to automate repeatable, lower risk work involved with the review of non-disclosure agreements:

  “After a month or so of using the tool, the attorneys were coming back to us saying, ‘If you take this away from me, I’m going to leave because this really freed me up to do the work that I really enjoy doing.’”

This quote by a LawGeex customer accurately reflects lawyers’ expectation to perform high quality legal work. Leveraging advanced technology such as Contract Review Automation can help attract and retain talented lawyers by improving the ability to focus on strategic high-level work.

Making AI accessible to lawyers

As a tireless advocate for the adoption of advanced technologies to enhance human capabilities, I believe that the future lies in the integration of humans and AI, so that together we can achieve more than each of us could attain separately.

In a world where the pace of change is so fast, leveraging technology should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a threat, and the legal industry should focus more on exploring the potential benefits of integrating advanced technology such as AI within the legal practice.

We are using AI in our personal life – when watching Netflix, listening to our favorite music on Spotify, navigating our way on the road with Waze, or using smart assistants like Siri and Alexa to help us through a multitude of our daily tasks. Why can’t we have widespread access to the same type of streamlined AI experience in our professional lives to help us have a more meaningful career?

Law is still behind in this respect, but it does not have to be. Lawyers should be able to enjoy the benefits of AI, helping them focus their attention on substantial legal work. 

For legal professionals to be able to truly experience these benefits firsthand, AI needs to be more accessible. This is why

LawGeex has created a free trial interface, where you can put LawGeex AI to work on your contracts today and experience the power of contract review automation on your own terms.

As pioneers of AI contract review and creators of the Contract Review Automation (CRA) category itself, LawGeex leverages a “Managed-AI” approach, combining the capabilities of both AI and human expertise to deliver best-in-class results that empower in-house legal teams and transform businesses.

It’s time to empower lawyers with accessible AI and let the combination of artificial and human intelligence navigate your path to a successful and fulfilling legal career!

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