How Robolawyers May Affect Small Law Firms

Artificial intelligence (AI) has gotten powerful enough that it’s now capable of high-end professional work like law. Given the rise of robolawyers, small firms may worry about a potential new competitor.

However, new advancements could also be an opportunity for lawyers to raise their productivity to new heights. Here’s how AI could affect the industry today and far into the future.

How Do Robolawyers Make Legal Work More Efficient?

Robolawyers have been assisting the legal industry with research for years. Software can scan legal documents to highlight key terms and find applicable statutes to help lawyers build their cases more quickly, a task that used to be performed by paralegals and junior attorneys.

This technology continues to improve thanks to the support of resources like IBM’s Watson, which helped create a legal program called ROSS that works to understand the specifics of a case to find the strongest arguments.

Robolawyers are also able to use past trends to predict outcomes, such as how likely a case is to end favorably for a client or what kind of arguments opposing lawyers have been known to use. With more data and processing power, robolawyers can provide a growing number of tools for legal support.

How Can Lawyers Take Advantage of AI?

Developing a legal case isn’t cheap, and that’s doubly true if a law firm needs to hire extra staff for document review. But smaller firms can take advantage of artificial intelligence to handle extensive research at a fraction of the cost. Not only can this save money, but it could also help build better cases.

Robolawyers have gained the ability to identify more possible loopholes, exceptions and historical cases — something not every business has time for. With the latest advancements, smaller law firms are better able to match the capabilities of larger competitors.

Beyond historical data, artificial intelligence analytics even allows for the possibility of predicting the strategies opposing lawyers may use and producing effective counters. Robolawyer technology could also suggest arguments that have proven effective in different courts. By harnessing AI, lawyers can generate better outcomes for their clients and their practice.

How Could the Legal Industry Change Going Forward?

Artificial intelligence presents many possible developments. If technology can further automate parts of the legal industry, it can speed up how quickly cases are processed. It’s possible that robolawyers may start automating simpler cases altogether, such as landlord-tenant disagreements and parking ticket disputes.

Legal chat boxes that return an automatic decision after entering the terms of your case could create more affordable legal options for lower-income Americans who don’t currently have convenient access to an attorney. One potential downside of quick legal services is that if the artificial intelligence is too quick about filing lawsuits, people may be more likely to take legal action in the future.

Could AI Replace Lawyers?

Could artificial intelligence could ever replace in-person lawyers? Probably not.

Robolawyers do have the potential to take over some of a lawyer’s work, particularly research work like document review. If all new law technology became effective immediately, it could replace legal billing hours by an estimated 13%. In that case, though, the actual hours lawyers at small firms worked would likely be much more productive. Lawyers can potentially use this technology to lower their overhead and increase what they charge per hour, all while delivering even more effective outcomes for their clients. In the end, when people are dealing with a stressful legal situation, they want to speak with a trained professional and have their concerns heard. That’s just not possible with a robolawyer.

With technological progress come worries about whether it could displace jobs. Artificial intelligence is just the latest to raise the question. Though innovations in AI could bring some changes for legal professionals, ultimately it should benefit small business lawyers and many other industries.

Stay up to date on the latest health care regulations and trends for your small business: Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

COVID-19 Resources: Managing Your Business During a Crisis