A distinction must be made between looking at AI through the lens of work activities as opposed to jobs.
I was always encouraged to get a law degree. Aside from being a profession that is challenging and rewarding, it would provide a stable career; after all, there would always be work for lawyers.
Then I saw the results of a LawGeex study. LawGeex, an AI company specializing in contract review, pitted its artificial intelligence platform against 20 lawyers to review five non-disclosure agreements. The outcome? The AI platform achieved a 94-per-cent accuracy rate at identifying risks in the NDAs. The lawyers averaged an 85-per-cent accuracy rate. The kicker? It took an average of 92 minutes for the lawyers to review the NDAs. It took the AI platform 26 seconds!
The emergence of AI and automation has become a subject of much discussion for in-house lawyers. Undoubtedly, big changes are coming to the provision of legal services. A New York Times article published last year cited a McKinsey study that looked at the global economy’s automation potential. Applying the study findings, the article estimated that 23 per cent of a lawyer’s job could be automated.
Many questions are being asked regarding how AI will affect the job market for in-house lawyers; but are we asking the right questions? The question should not be, “Will AI take my job?” In-house lawyers should be asking, “What opportunities will AI provide?” “How will AI empower me to do my job better?” Change always presents opportunity.
A Microsoft publication, The Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Society, notes that the one constant over generations of technological change is its impact on jobs — the creation of new jobs, the elimination of existing jobs and the evolution of existing jobs. For existing jobs, new technology requires evolving existing skills by leveraging technological advancements. Although AI may fundamentally change the provision of legal services, the market itself isn’t going anywhere. A Deloitte study surveying in-house legal services purchasers found that both demand and spend for legal services are actually growing.
So what new opportunities will AI bring? The Future Computed cites the example of the “privacy lawyer.” In the late 1990s, it was difficult to find a full-time “privacy lawyer.” Now, many corporations (especially those in financial services) have dedicated privacy lawyers. Today, the International Association of Privacy Professionals has more than 20,000 global members. Technology created a market for in-house privacy lawyers. AI will provide similar opportunities to broaden skills and services. Questions about regulatory oversight, corporate responsibility and ethics around the adoption of AI are certain to come across the desks of in-house lawyers.
AI augments the services currently provided to business clients and enhances the value of astute in-house counsel. Commentators note that today AI isn’t capable of replacing a majority of human skills. It certainly is not capable of replacing human judgment. Sound judgment is what clients look to us for. A Harvard Business Review article suggested that the adoption of AI will substantially raise the value of human judgment; those who display good judgment will become more valuable, not less. Advances in AI, the authors argue, lead to “a drop in the cost of prediction.” This is significant because prediction improves decision-making. However, prediction is only one component of decision-making; the other key component is judgment.
A distinction must be made between looking at AI through the lens of work activities as opposed to jobs. AI may output comprehensive legal research at dizzying speeds to assist in litigation, but advocacy and formulating an effective litigation strategy remains a very human virtue. AI will put enhanced and intelligent data at our fingertips, but it cannot replace instinct in negotiating transactions or the ability to navigate the corporate environment to ensure information is being presented in a meaningful way to the right corporate decision-makers. Data is vital, but judgment, relationships and creativity are paramount.
Al will lead to a redeployment of legal resources and empower in-house lawyers to spend more time focusing on essential work. AI may change a lawyer’s activities, but the job remains the same. Those who adapt to and embrace AI to provide the best advice, to enable the best service rooted in sound judgment and ingenuity will be the successful in-house lawyers of the future.
Jonathan Leibtag is corporate counsel with Microsoft Canada.