“The legal function has a significant role to play in this process. It should lead, not lag”
Mark A. Cohen, a CEO of Legal Mosaic
Imagine you are a writer tasked with producing a story about a world that does not exist. You have the characters and the plot mapped out, but you are struggling to come up with the descriptive details that will make the story come alive. Technologies such as Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help you create vivid, realistic descriptions that transport your readers to the imaginary world of your story. Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can create new content, such as images, videos, and even texts, by learning from patterns in existing data. While search engines such as Google merely generate a list of sources, Generative AI curates, integrates, synthesizes, and produces a well-written, grammatically-correct, and cross-disciplinary work product in a matter of seconds. In light of the digital revolution Generative AI is predicted to bring about, human adaptation to these changes remains a key issue in various professions. And the legal industry is no exception.
The legal sector is known for its dependence on traditional methods. With the rise of Generative AI and other advanced innovations such as ChatGPT, the inherent conservatism of the industry is continuously challenged. “I think it is the beginning of a paradigm shift,” says David Wakeling - head of London-based law firm Allen & Overy's markets innovation group. “I think this technology is very suitable for the legal industry.”
Law has always been a data-driven profession, where lawyers, judges, legalOps and other legal professionals need to analyze and understand vast amounts of information to make informed decisions. The traditional methods of legal research and document drafting are time-consuming and costly. With the rise of generative AI and other advanced tools, the legal industry has the opportunity to automate these processes, thereby improving accuracy and increasing efficiency. Generative AI could be used to draft legal documents, review contracts, and conduct legal research. According to statistics gathered from leading consulting firms, AI-powered tools can automate up to 60% of the tasks performed by lawyers and paralegals. In the next decade, it can save the legal industry more than 8 billion USD and reduce document review time by 75-90%.
Such technological trends instill a legitimate fear in many individuals regarding their job displacement. Deloitte has projected that by 2036, approximately 100,000 legal positions will be automated. However, automation is not threatening every position in the field. According to Daniel Sereduick, a data protection lawyer based in Paris, AI will continue to be utilized for routine tasks that have until now been carried out by paralegals and entry-level lawyers. However, there will continue to be a need for higher-skilled legal professionals capable of interacting with clients, making strategic decisions and employing critical thinking.
While it cannot be questioned that AI tools have the potential to revolutionize the legal industry, they also raise a number of legal and ethical questions. For example, who is liable if a generative AI system creates a document that contains errors or inaccuracies? How can the legal industry ensure that these tools are used ethically and fairly, without infringing provisions on personal data protection? And how can the legal industry prevent these tools from perpetuating bias and discrimination? In Europe, these concerns are especially significant. The use of AI may violate the principles outlined in the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which imposes limitations on the collection and processing of individuals' data by companies. In this regard, Italy's Data Protection Agency recently intervened to prevent Replika, a generative AI chatbot, from using its users' personal data.
That being the case, the future of the legal industry will undoubtedly be shaped by the rise of Generative AI. Through strategic planning and meticulous oversight, the legal sector can harness the power of this technology to relieve lawyers of time-consuming and repetitive tasks, thereby enhancing efficiency, effectiveness and value of their work. However, the transformational potential of Generative AI does not come without challenges. It is incumbent upon legal professionals to navigate these challenges and ensure that the evolution of the industry serves the interests of all stakeholders.