AI in Law: Enhancing Old Ways, Not Replacing Them

Amid the intricate dance of tradition and innovation, AI tiptoes into the legal realm, enhancing age-old practices rather than replacing them.

 min. read
August 16, 2023
AI in Law: Enhancing Old Ways, Not Replacing Them

I'm new to the legal space but being married to an attorney I would call myself "legal adjacent". I'm also a nerd at heart and run my own home Linux server, can tell ridiculous details about the domain name service and founded an open source project that has been going strong for 20+ years to my name. However, when I see the current state of "legal tech" I often have to hold my tongue when talking to people who have to endure it.

Most legal tech is an impedence to getting work done for attorneys. Let me walk through two of the main arguments for adopting the latest/greatest in legal tech.

The first argument for advances in legal tech are around reducing the amount of billable hours. Efficiency! Wait, what? Most attorneys don't necessarily want this. The billable hour is their livelihood.

The second argument is in creating efficiencies around repetitive tasks. This argument goes like this; if you use our software we should be able to save you 50% of your time on repetitive tasks. The only caveat is that you have to completely change your entire workflow to do it. Oh, and then you're stuck at the whim of this software company that will continuously "upgrade" it, increase costs or not move quickly enough on painful bugs.

When ChatGPT came on the scene back in November 2022, everyone heralded how it would replace attorneys, etc. That isn't going to happen. But what IS going to happen is existing legal tech companies need to rethink really, really quickly about how they are building solutions because generative AI allows attorneys to keep doing what they have always done in their program of choice; a Microsoft Word document.

You might not think of a Word document as a piece of technology or even a "app". However, tell that to a paralegal. A paralegal may generate a summary in a Word document based on a template that is only used in their law firm. The other attorneys at that firm know how to read and edit that summary. Their upstream insurance adjusters know how to do the same. If you can take that template and apply it to a new case and have it automatically generate a new summary in the exact same format as the original Word document template, that is extremely powerful.

This is what AI is bringing to the table and it is why it is going to disrupt the legal industry. You can do EXACTLY what you have been doing before only a bit faster. You can even remove AI from the whole equation and not skip a beat (although things would slow back down).

Imagine applying this to medical chronologies, to demand packages or even class action lawsuits. We're still in the early days of this AI revolution in legal but it is going to be a wild ride.