This browser is not actively supported anymore. For the best passle experience, we strongly recommend you upgrade your browser.
| 1 minute read

How AI Will Change the Practice of Law

25 years ago this August, I started my law career. During this time my firm has made many changes, including adopting new technologies. When I was a summer associate, my assigned assistant needed help understanding that the computer mouse was not like a sewing pedal to be placed on the floor. She had been at the firm for more than 30 years and was far more comfortable with a typewriter. The firm ran a DOS version of WordPerfect at the time and I thought I had taken a step into the technological past. Law firms still seem to be in the caboose of the technology train.

Over time, many of the tools at the law firm have changed. Computerized research has changed. Law libraries have disappeared. Dictation is gone. Technology has shrunk the number of legal assistants. When I started, every partner had a secretary that he (or she) shared with two associates. Associates over time used assistants less and less, mainly because (unlike previous associates) they had comparable typing skills and knew how to use computer programs better than the assistants. Now, most legal assistants are assigned to 5, 6, or even 7 attorneys. It is not unlikely that in a few years legal assistants will be a thing of the past.

Much of the mundane document review once foisted on junior corporate or litigation associates is now computerized. Instead of recent law grads sitting in windowless rooms combing through boxes of documents, computer programs sort the documents, tag important items to review, and provide fast and fulsome reports. Junior associates can now focus on analysis, strategy, and argument that was often done only by mid-level or senior associates. Many argue that fewer associates will be needed in the future because the menial tasks will go away. More likely, though, is that the associates of the future will generate more work than the document reviewing associates of the past.

Just like clients expected lawyers of the past to use computers, the internet, and other productivity technologies, clients will expect lawyers of the future to use AI to increase efficiency, response time, availability, and capability. However, clients will not want AI to replace lawyers. Complaining to a robot lawyer is not nearly as comforting as complaining to a human lawyer.

New A.I. technology will change the practice of law, and some jobs will be eliminated, but it also promises to make lawyers and paralegals more productive, and to create new roles. That is what happened after the introduction of other work-altering technologies like the personal computer and the internet.


artificial intelligence, innovative technology