The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) last month published a report which gives an interesting overview of how technology can help modernise and drive innovation in legal services.
The report seeks to educate law firms on opportunities and risks from technological possibilities such as Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In 2019, the legal industry faces challenges such as the unavoidable Brexit, cybersecurity, new competition (Alternative Business Structures) and technology in the workplace.
The Annual Law Firms’ Survey 2018 found that 100% of the top ten law firms and 63% of overall respondents view technology as a key challenge facing the legal sector over the next two years.
Individuals and businesses who require legal services need better access to affordable services. This barrier puts pressure on the sector to find ways of reducing costs for people to seek professional advice without breaking the bank.
New technologies in the market seek to remedy this by helping law firms meet the needs of the consumer by reducing cost and assisting people who require information.
Large global law firms are under much more pressure to provide their services for less and an ever increasing expectation to use technology as it is believed it will make legal work quicker and more efficient.
More and more legal firms are using technology to give a better service to their clients to keep up with demand. New technological advances will affect how employees in law firms will carry out work by reducing the time lawyers spend on some tasks.
The SRA advises that Artificial Intelligence is already being used in law firms to improve and enhance services but not to replace the work of the human lawyers.
One huge difference between AI and archaic technologies is that AI can learn and develop, meaning when law firms train, educate, supervise their staff, they should do the same with AI – SRA’s report discusses how it can help those they regulate to take advantage of AI.
What is AI?
AI refers to software systems which can read data which would normally require human involvement. AI makes it possible for machines to learn from experience and improve its capabilities and is able to perform human-like tasks – allowing the system to process information much quicker and accurately than a human would. AI systems can be trained like humans to accomplish specific tasks to assist and enhance performance.
The SRA has reported that using AI technology has a potential to increase business efficiency and has confirmed it has the possibility to add £630bn to the economy by 2035 and predicted to create 14.9m new jobs by 2027.
However, the use of AI in law is still in its early stages but late last year The University of Oxford had been given £1.2million to research the benefits of AI in the legal sector.
Even though there was much reluctance and scepticism regarding the use of AI technology in law and potential increase of cyber threats, investment in technology is becoming more of a priority in the legal sector.
Uses of AI in the Legal Sector
With a lot of legal work law firms are required to produce and verify vast amounts of documentation accurately. Of course, this can be extremely time consuming and in turn makes it expensive. Furthermore, it requires a trained and skilled lawyer to carry out these tasks which takes them away from other important work. AI has great potential and can be trained to do many legal tasks once the system has been trained appropriately.
AI can also support evidence-based decision-making such as commercial conveyancing whereby it has the ability to read and understand several leases about one client and pull out and risk assess important terms – enabling lawyers to spend time with their clients which require human skills instead.
SRA reported around 40 of the 100 biggest UK firms are already using AI systems on active files which has quadrupled in numbers doing this two years ago. Also, approximately 30 further top firms are currently piloting systems.
AI can review documents in seconds when it could take a lawyer hours to complete and make due diligence and other compliance tasks more efficient – by halving the time taken on due diligence work.
Ethical use of AI
Using AI in professional legal firms while meeting ethical standards has brought about a lot of debate and issues.
The European Commission has set up an AI Alliance, in partnership with the experts on its High Level Group on Artificial Intelligence, to create a draft guidance on the ethical use of AI – the guidance is likely to be produced by the beginning of 2019.
When a firm is training an AI system, in much the same way as a solicitor must protect the confidentiality of client data and avoid conflicts by complying to the The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018, the same applies to AI.
It is very important that law firms are transparent with their clients and advising them on how they are using technology within their services. With regards to GDPR, firms must be able to tell consumers how their data is used.
As it is vital for law firms to have the resources to deliver legal services in an efficient and profitable way, there is no doubt that technology is going to play a big part in the future of the legal market – but the industry needs clarification to establish how to best use the technology going forward.
To read SRA’s full report on Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Services click here.