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How will artificial intelligence affect the legal industry?


doggoford
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doggoford
  • Applicant

Hello all

for the past few days, I have been spending a lot of my time on chatgpt mesmerized by its competence and how far artificial intelligence has come.

However, as a law school applicant, I cannot help but to worry a little about the potential implications this technology will have on the legal industry.

How do you think artificial intelligence will affect the legal industry? Will it make the work easier for lawyers or will it replace them?

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Dood
  • Articling Student

Lawyers will be fine. Just instead of commuting to downtown offices, they will be in a quasi-conscious state floating in liquid filled pods controlled by an equally evil and benevolent algorithm.

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we are testing an AI software right now. after it spits everything out, i have to go through and check that everything is correct. AI will make our jobs easier but never replace us. 

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Vizslaw
  • Lawyer

I would honestly be thrilled if AI could pour through hundreds of pages of court transcripts to help make it easier to craft cross-examinations and suggest some zingers to throw out.

I can see AI doing some simple tasks like drafting basic documents, but it's not going to write a factum on Charter violations or written submissions on whether some accidental contact between a physio and their patient was for a clinical versus sexual purpose... is it?

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Rusty Iron Ring
  • Lawyer

If it saves us work, then by definition there is less work for us to do. Hopefully it just gets rid of the really awful work. I would hate for it to replace us on the fun stuff, and leave me just writing reports and bickering over motion dates. 

46 minutes ago, Vizslaw said:

I would honestly be thrilled if AI could pour through hundreds of pages of court transcripts to help make it easier to craft cross-examinations and suggest some zingers to throw out.

I can see AI doing some simple tasks like drafting basic documents, but it's not going to write a factum on Charter violations or written submissions on whether some accidental contact between a physio and their patient was for a clinical versus sexual purpose... is it?

Have you asked ChatGPT to draft a factum for you? I haven't, but a friend of mine did and said it was shocking.  It was definitely not the worst factum he had seen on the subject. 

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CleanHands
  • Lawyer

There are far more legal problems out there to solve than the legal field currently has the capacity to take on. We're not going out of work any time soon.

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Vizslaw
  • Lawyer
26 minutes ago, Rusty Iron Ring said:

If it saves us work, then by definition there is less work for us to do. Hopefully it just gets rid of the really awful work. I would hate for it to replace us on the fun stuff, and leave me just writing reports and bickering over motion dates. 

Have you asked ChatGPT to draft a factum for you? I haven't, but a friend of mine did and said it was shocking.  It was definitely not the worst factum he had seen on the subject. 

I haven't tried. I got lazy and didn't want to create an account.

@CleanHands I'm not worried about going out of work unless AI starts conducting trials for us, which honestly would be interesting to watch as a test case. We've been exploring AI and automated processes to deal with intake/payments and it's been incredibly effective so I'm all for it! Although I think we're using more automation than actual AI since we create the forms/template and the software does its thing. It's not a situation where we tell the software that we need task X done and don't program how to do it... at least not yet. 

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realpseudonym
  • Lawyer

I mean, it took a global, society halting pandemic to get courts and tribunals to adopt e-filing. I still need a fax number!

So I am pretty confident that justice system participants will be protected from sweeping technological displacement by sweet, sweet systemic complacency. 

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lawGPT
  • Lawyer
On 12/8/2022 at 7:57 PM, realpseudonym said:

I mean, it took a global, society halting pandemic to get courts and tribunals to adopt e-filing. I still need a fax number!

So I am pretty confident that justice system participants will be protected from sweeping technological displacement by sweet, sweet systemic complacency. 

No disagreement on these points, but I'd suggest that our systemic complacency will actually compound the negative impact some (not all) lawyers will feel from the march of AI technology into the legal space. It's ultimately less about the replacement of us, the work we do, and the environments we do it in than in the bypass of that status quo, the outsourcing to lower-cost resources of the work that many of our colleagues bill for, and the re-defining what we formerly considered legal work into some other category. Ignore the AI part for a moment and just think about how if many of the inefficiencies in justice systems were simplified, plenty of lawyers whose sole value add was expertise in navigating the system and getting paid to follow a process would be lost, and possibly out of work. Given the chance, plenty of others would happily take their newly found free time and apply it to higher-end work (practicing "at the top of the license" as some call it). 

To OP's original question, I'd say this: the next few years are going to be extremely interesting. Big chunks of the legal community are shifting the conversation from if and when AI will impact the legal industry to writing out their wish lists for how it will and how it should impact the industry, and plenty of others outside our bubble who have been looking for the angle to come in and take more business (the KPMGs and Deloitte's of the world, but also just about any legal-adjacent industry like real estate, finance, etc...) without falling within the regulatory definitions of "practicing law" are seeing AI technology as the wedge that makes that increasingly possible. 

Final thought: I joined this forum in hopes of finding deeper discussions on what AI and tech might mean to the changing profession and in hopes of seeing strong interest in this topic from the current and future law students that will have to practice under marketplace pressures that will be quite different than the ones they anticipated when writing thinking about a life in law. I'll keep looking for the topic in the forum and I'll probably post some interesting bits here and there in the off-topic or general channels, but I really do think the mods or long-standing forum members might consider creating a channel specific on the topic of what AI will mean for the legal profession.

Cheers.

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Diplock
  • Lawyer
On 12/8/2022 at 10:29 AM, AllanC said:

I've been answering predictions for well over ten years now that in only a few more years AI is going to massively disrupt the legal sector. I'm quite certain I'll be answering the same prediction for the remainder of my career without changing my answer significantly.

Of course the legal sector has been automated in some senses along with the rest of the world, and will continue to experience changes along those lines. That's hardly new. Prior to the advent of copying machines there was quite a lot of legal work involved in literally just hand-writing out copies of documents - which was obviously laborious work considering they needed to be exact duplicates. Everything from that example forward to word processing has eliminated some amount of busy work, sure. Today, we have programs that can automate citations, relieve a lot of the work involved in scanning bodies of precedent thanks to better search functions, and more besides. Does it make the job easier in some sense? Sure. Does it eliminate some work? Of course it does, just as relieving junior lawyers from hand-copying documents eliminated some work. Is it AI? Hell no. Does it replace human beings doing actual analysis? Of course not.

There are literally only two groups of people who even parrot the line that computers are going to be doing real legal work (distinct from relieving busy work that's incidental to law) any time soon. Those groups are (a) would-be students, current students, and sometimes very junior lawyers who don't know enough to appreciate what replacing real legal work would even require, and (b) people who are trying to sell a product. I suppose I should add (c) enthusiasts who just want to believe. But I know of no working lawyers with any significant experience who are thinking "man, any day now computers are going to replace what I do all day."

I can get behind the potential of true AI as an abstract idea. I don't know when it's coming or what'll happen when we get there - maybe it really will usher in the end of humanity. But what I know for sure is that the work legal professionals do, in the meanwhile, will be among the last creative work that's ever replaced by creative, thinking computers. Before the legal profession is somehow made obsolete, we'll no longer have architects, engineers, pilots, programmers, chemists, etc. etc. etc. So the idea that the legal profession is under imminent threat any earlier than massive social revolution due to AI basically overtaking everything people do aside from art and service jobs is just, quite frankly, very stupid.

At times in the past, when I've responded to this as I do, students dreaming of the day when their computer skills will allow them to supplant lawyers with decades more experience than they have generally suggest I'm responding defensively. So let me repeat. I'm quite sure I'll be long-retired before any program does what I do for a living. What motivates my strong response is the disrespect implied for what lawyers do. And not even because I think lawyers deserve that respect personally. It's the complexity of legal work that demands respect - and it's needed most not from members of the public but from anyone who hopes to enter the profession themselves. To imagine legal work is some kind of elaborate find-and-insert exercise is just unhealthy for anyone hoping to be a lawyer. 

Anyway, that's it.

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lawGPT
  • Lawyer

@Diplock, what if we narrow the frame? Agreed that discussions of AI replacing the legal profession are a mix of nonsense and snake oil. But “affecting” the profession is something quite different. Let me give you an example. 
 

A couple months ago, a company called Rally introduced a contract drafting tool called Spellbook incorporating GPT-3 technology into Word that allows a user to automatically carry out a significant range of intelligent actions to interpret, summarize, and rewrite parts or the whole of the document. (I have no affiliation with the company beyond following the founders on Twitter. See spellbook.legal). 

Last week, it was reported that Microsoft (a major shareholder of OpenAI) will soon incorporate these technologies in Word much in the same way the Word Editor can currently offer writing suggestions and do plagiarism checks to assist the author. Whether through startups like Rally or behemoths like Microsoft, it’s inevitable that everyone from law students to junior lawyers to judges are going to increasingly lean into the AI-powered writing suggestions. In doing so, the expected standards of professional skill and judgement applied in this context will shift and our ability to differentiate the work of a lawyer and that of a lay person will also shift. 
 

A huge part of what allows a lawyer to develop professional skill and judgement comes from drawing their understanding from authoritative sources and senior resources. When the drafting tool itself offers a compelling enough short cut, it’s to be expected that many lawyers will turn less often to the authoritative sources.
 

To my mind, this application of AI will significantly affect the profession as we allow the gap between our claimed expertise and that achievable by the public with the same tool to narrow. 

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Diplock
  • Lawyer

@lawGPT If you conflate the ability to write a coherent, or even compelling, paragraph with the ability to understand and apply the legal principles contained in that paragraph, then what you just wrote would seem to make a lot of sense. But in order to agree with your ideas about AI, I would have to agree with utter garbage about what the practice of law really is. Which was exactly my original point.

Again, you're confusing a tool to relieve drudgery or avoid basic errors and correction with the real work of legal analysis and argument. If we buy into that confusion, then even spellcheck has "affected" the legal profession in the same way you want to claim. You know how many people cannot, in fact, write properly at all or even spell without assistance? Along comes a tool that ensures you don't make spelling errors anymore. Voila! Suddenly this tool is, exactly as you claiming, narrowing "the gap between our claimed expertise and that achievable by the public." Now anyone can spell properly just like a trained lawyer! So what?

This is exactly where all this crap about AI comes from. It's exactly this slippage. You take a basic tool that's making life easier for lawyers, and relieving some of the work that is incidental to real lawyering, and you claim that in only a few short steps from A to B it will be doing the lawyering on its own. Except those "few short steps" are in fact a massive gulf, and by the time any AI crosses it - as I've noted above - the transformation of society will be so radical we won't be talking about lawyering anymore. We'll be in With Folded Hands territory, wondering what's left to do that gives human life purpose anymore.

I do get worked up on this topic, because it isn't your enthusiasm for AI that bothers me. It's your complete disregard for the difference between being able to draft a paragraph and being able to interpret, apply, and argue the law. You identify as a lawyer. If you really do no original analysis as a function of your job, I feel bad for you. Maybe your entire job (as is true of some junior positions) really does consist primarily of busy work that could be eliminated with the right tools. Like I said, junior lawyers used to sit around hand-copying documents too. But that doesn't mean the profession is in danger, any more than eliminating the junior position copying by hand threatened the profession as a whole.

 

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CleanHands
  • Lawyer

image.thumb.png.203f33fcd48c18e288dc9709a884ca7e.png

I'm sure this will pose no professional ethics issue whatsoever...

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lawGPT
  • Lawyer

@Diplock Unsure if I'm not making my point as well as I'd like to, if you're not understanding it, or if you're simply avoiding it. Let me try again.

2 hours ago, lawGPT said:

A huge part of what allows a lawyer to develop professional skill and judgement comes from drawing their understanding from authoritative sources and senior resources. When the drafting tool itself offers a compelling enough short cut, it’s to be expected that many lawyers will turn less often to the authoritative sources.

1 hour ago, Diplock said:

I do get worked up on this topic, because it isn't your enthusiasm for AI that bothers me. It's your complete disregard for the difference between being able to draft a paragraph and being able to interpret, apply, and argue the law.

My point is language-based technology has advanced rapidly and the pace of improvement is accelerating. This tech is used and will increasingly be used to assist with contract drafting. On one level there is no difference between the contract built on firm precedent and clause banks, and one built on text generated by an AI language model, as in both cases the lawyer is still expected to interpret and apply the law. The difference here is that unlike tech that merely removes tedium, this is an example (of many, but I thought I'd keep it narrowed to one) of tech that grants the legal expert and novice alike a sense that "the machine" understands their objective and can help them reach it. This, in short, is a big deal.

@doggoford asked two questions:

On 12/7/2022 at 11:16 PM, doggoford said:

How do you think artificial intelligence will affect the legal industry? Will it make the work easier for lawyers or will it replace them?

I've answered the first. Your comments and your assumptions about mine seem entirely focused on the last bit of the second.

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer
26 minutes ago, lawGPT said:

@Diplock Unsure if I'm not making my point as well as I'd like to, if you're not understanding it, or if you're simply avoiding it. Let me try again.

My point is language-based technology has advanced rapidly and the pace of improvement is accelerating. This tech is used and will increasingly be used to assist with contract drafting. On one level there is no difference between the contract built on firm precedent and clause banks, and one built on text generated by an AI language model, as in both cases the lawyer is still expected to interpret and apply the law. The difference here is that unlike tech that merely removes tedium, this is an example (of many, but I thought I'd keep it narrowed to one) of tech that grants the legal expert and novice alike a sense that "the machine" understands their objective and can help them reach it. This, in short, is a big deal.

These two thoughts are incoherent. So what if an AI generates a paragraph instead of stealing it from a precedent? There's no differences there as you note. Your "the difference here" statement is meaningless. Who cares if people think the machine understands their objective? It doesn't, and so it's just another tool for a lawyer to utilize to get their work done. It is not any bigger a deal than being able to go into PracticalLaw or whatever people use to take clauses from various precedents.

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lawGPT
  • Lawyer
7 minutes ago, Rashabon said:

Who cares if people think the machine understands their objective? It doesn't, and so it's just another tool for a lawyer to utilize to get their work done. It is not any bigger a deal than being able to go into PracticalLaw or whatever people use to take clauses from various precedents.

A lawyer’s expectations of PracticalLaw and that and similar products’ ability to deliver are static. They are what they are and that’s all they’ll be. A lawyer’s expectations of generative AI and that technology’s ability to deliver will expand. The lawyer will increasingly demand more from their AI tools and the people building on the technology will work to make that happen. Big difference. Especially over time. 
 

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easttowest
  • Lawyer

We already use AI in diligence and doc review. It’s great. 

In the contract example, if the AI is actually able to create language that does what the lawyer wants it to do, what’s wrong with that? The lawyer is evaluating it and accepting it, a layperson has no idea if it works, other than recognizing that it sounds like legal language.

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Diplock
  • Lawyer

These conversations inevitably become about hype rather than substance. At this point, what I'm hearing is that AI is the future because it's exciting that AI is the future and lawyers (and others) who can be convinced that AI is the future are going to will that future into being through their demands and expectations. All of which may be an interesting statement of philosophy wrapped in a thesis about how change is driven in society. But it isn't an assessment of the actual tools as they exist and as they relate to the real work that lawyers perform. It's really just a circular argument that suggests this is all very exciting and that everyone should be excited about it because that excitement is going to usher in the future.

Like I've said before. I'll be long retired, and likely long dead, before I'm face to face with anyone who might ever be in a position to say "I told you so" on this one. And the students who are hoping that their technical savvy is going to jumpstart them into lawyering (really, that's what all of this is about) and allow them to supplant lawyers with decades more experience than they have...honestly, the best advise I have for them is to learn how to do the damn job rather than hoping some skill from outside the job is going to circumvent it for you. Maybe it will, some distant day in the future. But by the time that day comes, you'll be the old lawyer getting shoved aside, if you see that day at all. You won't be the kid just out of law school doing the shoving.

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realpseudonym
  • Lawyer
On 12/8/2022 at 12:17 PM, CleanHands said:

There are far more legal problems out there to solve than the legal field currently has the capacity to take on. We're not going out of work any time soon.

If anything, I'm pretty confident that in the near-term, AI will create more to fight about. IRCC has started using AI to screen applications and it should generate years of litigation on procedural fairness grounds.

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, lawGPT said:

A lawyer’s expectations of PracticalLaw and that and similar products’ ability to deliver are static. They are what they are and that’s all they’ll be. A lawyer’s expectations of generative AI and that technology’s ability to deliver will expand. The lawyer will increasingly demand more from their AI tools and the people building on the technology will work to make that happen. Big difference. Especially over time. 
 

This is nonsense. A lawyer's expectations of those products are to continually deliver and update their product offerings. You don't think these product services are continually asked to update their content and they build on it to deliver?

I think AI could has the potential to be very helpful. But I think it is definitely along the lines of tools for lawyer's to use and nothing more. It's not going to replace lawyers, just help us do our jobs more efficiently, which isn't such a sea change. We've seen this from spell check, blacklining software, defined term checking software, products like Contract Companion and Definely, the AI used in doc review and diligence, etc. A layperson isn't going to use this technology to replace a lawyer anymore than said layperson can go download a separation or prenuptial agreement online.

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I recall a comic going around recently that is a six panel step by step:

1. Humans invent AI

2. Humans perfect AI

3. AI perfects Itself

4. AI enslaves Humans

5. Solar Flare disables AI

6. Humans worship Sun God.

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Lawstudents20202020
  • Lawyer

If we were in situation where the supply of lawyers 

25 minutes ago, Dood said:

Just saw this on Twitter lol:

 

 

 

AI companies making posts like these are why I'm fairly confident I won't be replaced by AI

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AllWellAndGood
  • Lawyer
47 minutes ago, Lawstudents20202020 said:

If we were in situation where the supply of lawyers 

AI companies making posts like these are why I'm fairly confident I won't be replaced by AI

Why is it so hard for new companies that to want to innovate in old, slow to change industries to flourish without having CEOs that rely on "No, U" and other snarky, room temperature IQ responses on Twitter?... or am I just getting old and grouchy...

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