Artificial Intelligence, Lawyers and What The Future Might Hold

The following post is related to the upcoming Vanderbilt Law School’s conference on artificial intelligence, April 13-14 in Nashville. More information and registration can be found on the event website.

Our robot overlords are actually much nicer than we anticipated. Helpful, even. And we’re excited to be part of a great event at Vanderbilt University Law School on April 13-14 talking about our digital friends. More on that in a moment.

Technology has rapidly become one of the biggest verticals within the legal profession, and in recent years we’ve all read the stories about how robots are going to take jobs from attorneys. Whether under the moniker of early case assessment tool, technology-assisted review (TAR) platform, or now artificial intelligence (AI), for several years we have seen dramatic increases in technological capabilities and how these tools and algorithms can handle some of the more laborious duties of our work. So yes, in a sense, technology has taken some work off the plates of attorneys.

But here is a fact: Counsel On Call – being one of the most robust users of leading technologies for efficiency, cost reduction and quality improvement initiatives – actually has more attorneys working now that in 2010 when this tech boom really took off. Significantly more.

That just reinforces what we tell our clients: that technology, when utilized properly and by attorneys familiar with the subject matter and the tools, is one of the main pillars of a high-functioning legal department. Yes, technology helps by allowing one attorney to do what used to take five or ten attorneys to do, especially in areas like discovery, compliance and diligence and on the front end of projects. But when looking at areas such as e-discovery, we ultimately use the same number of attorneys for the review portion, but they just spend less time and get results faster. They can handle more matters for a client because they’re more efficient. Their legal knowledge is still needed, their ability to manage and train these technology platforms is more important than ever, and their ability to track and report using detailed metrics to make better business decisions is essential.

So why do we bring this up? After all, we’ve been talking about these benefits for years. Well, we are pleased to announce that Counsel On Call will be part of the upcoming Vanderbilt Law School AI conference. As part of a panel with Catalyst CEO John Tredennick and Baker Donelson visionary Clinton Sanko, our Richard Stout will look at where technology stands today versus what is being reported and where we’re going in the near future. The panel is part of an excellent program that features Richard Susskind (new book “The Future of the Professions”), Andy Daws (Riverview Law), Andrew Arruda (ROSS AI platform) and Dan Katz (attorney/scientist/technologist), among others, and will discuss in detail how AI functions and where it’s taking us. It’s a unique program and one we should all be interested in.

That being said, whether it’s called TAR, CAL, AI or something else, it all comes down to an algorithm. We’re already using that algorithm extensively to create massive cost savings and quality improvements in the legal profession, and lawyers are the innovators leading the charge and training these tools in many cases. We’re optimistic about where AI will take us and how it will create opportunities for different types of attorneys.

So yes, we welcome our robot overlords and how they can help us do our jobs … and ultimately get better results for our clients.

Susskind: Why Law Firms Have To Change

Richard Susskind has been one of the more outspoken voices on the economies of the legal profession in recent years, authoring two books on the subject. Today, he has a post on the ABA’s Legal Rebels site that’s an interesting read.

He hits several nails directly on their respective heads, as he has similarly in the past, reiterating that “new methods, systems, and processes will emerge to reduce the cost of undertaking routine legal work” and “new ways of sourcing will emerge … and these will often be combined in the conduct of individual pieces of legal work.”

I don’t disagree with anything that he writes -- and we’ve written about these issues for some time -- but I do think his timeline for these changes to occur is on the ambitious side. Lawyers are typically slow adopters; I’m not sure the types of collaborative communities he outlines have enough time to form and truly share new and best practices that have been vetted and tested, especially on complex matters… even though there’s more communication than ever before among in-house colleagues on well-established communities like Legal OnRamp (and other various organic online connectors of in-house counsel). But his point is that the time is now, not down the road, to understand and address these issues.

Regardless, there’s little doubt the legal world is no longer considered flat and the new frontier is upon us. We know that there are some great ways everyone can work together to contain costs and generate the best possible results. Susskind’s post is a good read if you have a few spare moments today.