For generations, ambitious students have doggedly pursued a career in law. Despite what some say, lawyers command respect, are paid well, and make a positive impact on society.
This dream may be fading, though. In recent decades, the internet has made it harder for law firms to turn a profit. For instance, DoNotPay, an AI legal bot, overturned 160,000 parking fines worth $1.4 million in 2016.
At first glance, this doesn’t appear to pose a threat. After all, who would hire a lawyer to contest a parking ticket? However, tech tools can quickly analyze other legal codes. In a few decades, firms that harness these tech advances could force their competitors out of business.
The Rise of the Bots
In many ways, the legal profession had remained unchanged for centuries. Sure, law offices have now adopted computers, but most procedures have remained intact over time.
That is until a Stanford student crashed the party. In 2016, Joshua Browder unleashed DoNotPay. With months, it had overturned traffic tickets in 64% of the cases it took on. In all, this algorithm saved users over $1.4 million.
Just four years ago, this story made for some interesting water-cooler discussions. Surely, similar programs wouldn’t take over other aspects of the profession – right?
Wrong. As we speak, developers have unleashed scores of lawyer bots. These automated programs do everything from crafting NDAs to analyzing reams of data. Some tools promise to enhance the functioning of law firms (BillyBot), while others could take away chunks of its market share (Robot Lawyer Lisa).
One thing’s for sure – lawyer bots are here to stay. If you’re paying attention, you shouldn’t be laughing anymore.
Automated Document Creation Services is the Latest Trend
Legal documents are like computer programs – both require airtight logic to function correctly. So, after the success of DoNotPay, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that lawyer bots have taken on other aspects of the legal profession.
Lately, several automated solutions to expensive legal issues have emerged. Of them, Robot Lawyer LISA is the most prominent. Partnering with Neota Logic Ltd and Gunnercooke LLP, UK lawyer Chrissie Lightfoot founded this firm several years ago.
What exactly does Robot Lawyer LISA do? In short, it uses AI to auto-generate non-disclosure agreements and property contracts. Two parties enter their conditions into the program’s interface, and LISA does the rest. If everything goes well, both sides can walk away with a legally-binding document in as little as 15 minutes.
Compare that to the time & financial costs of dealing with a law firm. For instance, the creation of the most simplistic NDA can take a human lawyer 30 minutes. For more complicated agreements, that commitment can balloon to several hours.
That’s significant when you consider that few lawyers charge below $100/hour for their services. Before LISA, you’d spend around $150-$200 and a couple of hours to get a non-disclosure agreement drafted. Meanwhile, Robot Lawyer LISA is currently offering her services for free.
Online services are also targeting documents like final wills & testaments. Online services like Trust&Will allow customers to draft a will for as little as $89. Within 10-30 minutes, you can have a legal document that dictates how your executor is to disperse your assets.
Now, set aside your arguments against online will kits for a second. At present, going through a law firm can cost a client as much as $1,000. At most, online will creators charge $400 (for trust creation).
This development is bad news for law firms worldwide. Remember: we are only four years removed from the launch of DoNotPay. With lawyer bots tackling NDAs, property contracts, and now, final wills & testaments, old-school legal practices are quickly losing ground.
What Does the Future of Legal Tech Hold?
So, what else could happen in the years ahead? A lot – much of which AI will drive. For example, some believe the system will move towards predictive analysis. At present, large volumes of backlogged cases are clogging our legal system. By outsourcing them to an AI, courts could dispense justice in weeks, not months/years.
Need to research an upcoming case? Soon, you won’t have to rely on junior lawyers as much. Right now, you can search digital archives for specific queries. In a few years, these algorithms may be able to handle the minute details of legal research on their own.
This news is excellent for the owners of law firms, as well as established lawyers. However, it will likely spell doom for the paralegal profession, and thoroughly disrupt the current role junior lawyers play. According to Deloitte, a multinational professional services firm, automation will erase over 100,000 roles by 2036.
By then, the legal profession won’t resemble the system we know today. Lawyers will still attend to serious, complex matters like violent criminal cases and depositions. But, most cases have far less at stake. By unleashing legal algorithms on the system, there may be less overall need for legal representation.
Emerging Tech is a Net Benefit to the Legal Profession
It’s not looking good for paralegals. And, we still don’t know how entry-level lawyers will “pay their dues” in the decades ahead. However, rather than destroy the legal profession, it appears technology may lead to long-term growth.
Lawyers bill by the hour. Yet, this billing model is counterintuitive to what clients expect – speedy resolution of their legal issues. The emergence of AI will allow law firms to serve customers more efficiently. This outcome will accomplish two things – it will improve their reputation over time, and it will allow them to serve more clients.
On a systemic level, outcomes will also improve. Rather than have people wait months/years for justice, AI will help resolve most cases in weeks – perhaps, days. Some may not even have to step foot in a courtroom – much to the relief of judges everywhere.
Legal Tech: Risk or Opportunity?
As in other economic sectors, legal professionals worry about tech disruption. Paralegals are already feeling the pinch, so these concerns are understandable.
However, as AI and other technologies unclog the legal system’s broken & inefficient processes, we’re confident they will open the door to even greater opportunities for all.