Book Review: AI For Lawyers

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about “robot lawyers.” Will robots replace lawyers? Can robots replace lawyers? Is it even appropriate or accurate to equate artificial intelligence (AI) tools designed for lawyers with “robots”? And even if what we’re really talking about is AI software and not “robots” per se, will lawyers be significantly impacted by the effects of AI tools?

As is often the case with questions like these, it depends on who you ask. The answers may vary, but one thing is for sure: AI software is already changing the way that lawyers and law firms operate. Whether it’s being used for legal research, eDiscovery, contract review, or litigation analytics, AI software tools abound, and the options available to lawyers continue to increase each year.

That’s why it’s so important for legal professionals to learn about both the how and why of AI software. Because unless you understand the basics, you won’t be able to make educated decisions about whether to use this type of technology in your law firm.

Of course, this raises the question: how’s a lawyer to learn about AI? If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in  luck. There’s a new book available that is just what you need: “AI For Lawyers: How Artificial Intelligence Is Adding Value, Amplifying Expertise, And Transforming Careers,” authored by Noah Waisburg and Dr. Alexander Hudek.

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes, and it’s a good option to consider if you don’t know much about AI but want to learn how and why it matters for legal professionals.

That being said, understand that it’s co-authored by the co-founders of Kira Systems, a company that provides legal AI software. There are also many chapters and essays in the book written by others with a vested interest in the success of legal AI software. In other words, many of the people who contributed to this book have some skin in the legal AI game.

Even so, the book provides really useful background information about AI software, how it can be used by legal professionals, and why you should consider using it in your law practice.

As explained it the introduction, the book covers:

  • Why AI is now so vital in the legal workspace and how you can expand your opportunities through AI and technology.
  • How to amplify legal knowledge through the use of AI.
  • The various types of AI tools available including eDiscovery, legal research, contract analysis software, expert systems, and litigation analytics.
  • How to incorporate AI into large, midsize, and small practices.

At the outset, the authors address the concern always raised when it comes to AI: Will it replace lawyers? They respond with a resounding “no,” explaining that instead “(i)t is opening up possibilities never before imagined and allowing lawyers to spend more time on law and less time on repetitive activities. AI is partnering with lawyers, rather than replacing them.”

Importantly, they clarify that AI is useful for lawyers at all levels of an organization, and that more seasoned lawyers would be remiss in their assumption that AI only automates the work of younger lawyers:

AI isn’t just about automating junior lawyer work. More experienced lawyers need to pay close attention, too. Ultimately the most valuable attribute of most senior lawyers is their judgment. AI can help senior lawyers make better decisions in less time (sometimes through assisting their juniors to do more, higher-quality work). Senior lawyers who don’t take advantage of this change put themselves at a real competitive disadvantage.

The authors explain that AI is already being used by legal professionals to automate tasks including “contracting drafting, negotiation, and review; litigation document review and analysis; predicting case outcomes; suggesting course of action; organizing legal research; (and) time keeping[.]”

But they predict that “much more is coming” and that “if you’re trying to determine if work you do will be automated in the future, a good general rule is that if it feels like something that can be automated, it likely will be.”

If that rule of thumb is too vague for your liking, then good news! The authors provide a short list of factors that indicate which legal tasks will probably be automated by AI tools in the near future:

  • High volume/high cost. The more time and money spent on a task, the more reward there is to automating it.
  • Status quo limitations. Some areas of law […] are done in a suboptimal way because of the limitations of the people doing the work. AI can have more impact […] when it helps create a new standard of what’s possible[.] Many (technology assisted reviews) don’t happen […] because human review takes too long. AI is changing that, resetting the status quo.
  • Highly repetitive. Repetitive tasks […] can be worth the effort to automate them. Software is fantastic at processing large amounts of information with high accuracy when information has systemic characteristics. This makes it potentially much better than people at many tasks currently done by lawyers.
  • Fit with existing technology. The more similar a task is to an already automated task, the cheaper and easier it is to build software to automate it.

In other words, there’s a lot of wide open space when it comes to automation potential in our profession. And AI software is perfectly suited to tackle it and remove it from the plates of legal professionals.

Still not convinced? Then you’ll have to buy the book and decide for yourself whether the practice of law is ripe for automation using AI software. I tend to agree with the book’s authors, but then again, my official title is “Legal Technology Evangelist,” so you’re probably better off making that assessment for yourself!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business and Community Relations at MyCase, web-based law practice management software. She’s been blogging since 2005, has written a weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007, is the author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York. She’s easily distracted by the potential of bright and shiny tech gadgets, along with good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack and she can be reached at [email protected].