There is increasing coverage of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) in the press. So how long before the traditional lawyer is replaced by a robot which has been programmed to perform the same role? Keystone's Lyndsay Gough looks at the new technology trend.
The legal industry has seen huge technological advances in recent years. First a pager, then a fax, mobile phone, email and the Internet have revolutionised the average working day. How will new developments in AI change the legal industry further? An online search for 'Artificial Intelligence and Law' created over 8 million hits.
What is AI? There are various interpretations, some of which conjure images of Star Trek or The Terminator. An oft-used term is 'cognitive computing' - teaching computers how to learn, reason and communicate and ultimately to make decisions. It is a method by which computers learn how to perform tasks traditionally carried out by humans.
Man and machine have customarily interacted in the learning procedure, using computer queries to create searches based on keywords. Smart machines, however, go further: identifying patterns in data, creating new patterns, testing hypotheses and finding solutions not familiar to the human programmer.
But what next? Will machine learning render the traditional lawyer redundant? Research on the potential for automation within legal services by McKinsey & Co suggested that 23% of time for lawyers could be automated (interestingly, surgeons shared the same percentage estimate for potential automation). The McKinsey study assessed the 'automatability' of certain legal tasks. Information retrieval, a cognitive capability, was regarded as far easier to automate than a social capability. Other studies have suggested, perhaps understandably, that the more structured and repetitive the task and the more predictable and manageable the work, the more successful the degree of automation will be.
AI organises huge amounts of data faster, better and cheaper, empowering humans to make better decisions and generate new ideas. AI is already working hard in the law, with more accessible legal research and some document automation reducing my time spent on essential tasks. Administrative support is given by a natural language processing assistant, 'Siri'. E-discovery technology solutions already exist to manage the production of huge volumes of electronically stored data during the process of litigation. The AI management of vast amounts...