In computer technology, there’s a controversial observation known as Moore’s law. In 1975, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, predicted that the number of components per integrated circuit would double every two years. Essentially, he posited that the advancement of technology was exponential, not linear.
Computer theorists can argue about Moore’s law all day long, but at least as far as legal technology goes, it’s easy to see the validity. In the early 20th century, the widespread adoption of telephones made it possible for clients and attorneys to communicate outside the office or the courtroom. Decades later, In the 90s and 2000s, the computers and the Internet completely changed the relationship between law firms and clients. Now, twenty years later, AI will revolutionize the way law firms work.
Even though generative AI is in its infancy, it won’t be long before it’s changed the legal landscape. In this blog, we’ll present a vision of the future of attorneys: the AI lawyer.
The AI lawyer isn’t a machine-learning replacement for attorneys. Rather, when we say “AI lawyer”, we are describing a firm that is quick on the uptake with AI tools, and can position itself ahead of its competitors. Below, we’ll discuss how, now and in the future, AI will make it possible for lawyers to get an exponential amount of work done in fractions of the time it takes today.
Generative AI Is Already Changing Marketing Trends
Though the rest of this blog will be more focused on the future, marketing is already a possible application of generative AI as of the writing of this blog. Attorneys handling their own marketing will find that the natural language processing capabilities of generative AI will make their lives much easier.
Natural language processing is a term that will come up often in this blog. It’s the core technology behind the AI tools making headlines like ChatGPT, and essentially encompassess all of the methods used to teach computers to understand human language intuitively. It’s what allows ChatGPT to write social media posts, and makes it possible for GPT-4 to pass the bar exam.
As we mentioned before, you can already use available AI tools to assist in marketing your firm. ChatGPT is perfectly capable of, for example, writing LinkedIn posts if you don’t have time to manage all of your social media channels. It can respond to reviews, provide blog ideas, and even provide decent content for a law firm’s blog.
Perhaps in preparing for their own Bard AI, Google recently relaxed rules concerning SEO and AI content. Where before Google would algorithmically detect and disqualify AI content, now, as long as that content is still of an acceptable quality, Google will rank it. That means that with enough supervision, AI tools like ChatGPT can produce marketing content that will help your firm’s website stand out.
In the future, it will become even harder to discern human marketing from AI marketing. AI models like ChatGPT and Midjourney provide simulacra of human writing and art, but it’s still possible to detect the differences. An AI marketing program of the future, however, would be able to construct marketing wholesale, including advertising with art, and analyze the performance of that marketing to optimize future product.
AI Tools Will Make Research A Breeze
Every part of the legal world stands to be transformed by AI, from the start of a case to its end. For the AI lawyer, huge rows of legal tomes or extensive digital databases of caselaw will be a thing of the past. Legal research will be turned from an hours-long, time-consuming process into a few minutes of querying a database.
As it stands now, legal research is a necessary step for everyone but the most niche practitioners. No matter how well you know the law, it’s always worth the time to make sure you’re not missing anything. It can take anywhere from hours to days to conduct all the research to make sure you’re prepared to handle anything a case can throw at you. Of course, in larger firms, associates do all this work for the firm, but in small firms or in solo practices, this responsibility often falls on the attorney themselves.
AI tools with databases can search much faster than a person. Natural language processing allows those tools to understand the context of lawyer’s queries and the content of their databases. These tools will take the process of legal research out of the hands of associates, attorneys, and paralegals and into the hands of generative AI.
Some of these tools are already seeing use in law firms, and are seeing further development now. According to a survey by Thomson Reuters, 64 percent of firms using AI-enhanced tools use them for research. These programs don’t just do the same thing CTRL-F might do on a PDF; they understand both the query and the database better than analogous searching methods do. They’re already able to search caselaw for every state in the US, summarize the documents, and provide the documents for your perusal.
An AI-integrated law firm will be able to leverage this advantage across the lifetime of a case. AI tools will be able to extract information from client files in a CRM and use that information, along with the query, to bring up relevant research topics. Within seconds, they will be able to attach that information to a client’s file for easy access later, cutting review time and organization time down by hours.
Document Review And Generation Will Be Quick And Easy
Templating for standard legal documents already saves lawyers a ton of time. There are even tools for firms that do a lot of rote contract generation, like NDAs, that can pull from your CRM and fill templates automatically. But with AI document tagging, this process will become even more efficient.
The difficulty of building a tool to automatically generate documents is that everything the tool would be reading would have to be in a tagged database. Every state has different requirements, and every firm has different preferences. Building an individual database for every firm simply isn’t cost effective.
Natural language processing will make that database generation much easier. An AI tool will be able to scan a firm’s previous documents and tag them for relevant information. Then, when prompted, it will read those tags and generate things like contracts in seconds, filling them with client information from a CRM.
A preliminary version of this technology is already in use in many law firms. In the survey we cited above, 47 percent of firms using AI tools use them to perform due diligence. Natural language processing can already identify and extract key provisions, clauses, and other relevant information from contracts and other legal documents, and use that information to make sure no mistakes are made.
Document generation would pull all of these things together. An AI-integrated firm would be capable of taking information entered into a database like a CRM and begin drafting documents, all from just a few prompts. Tasks that would have taken hours will be done in minutes, subject to attorney review.
A Look Ahead At Law Firms Of The Future
In just a few years, all of these things will be a reality. Many of them already are, but disparately—AI-assisted due diligence and legal research tools already exist, as well as limited document generation. The firm that’s able to put all of these together in a pipeline will get a lot more done in a lot less time.
That ability will put a gap between firms that employ AI tools and those that don’t. In a survey conducted in March of 2023, Thomson Reuters found that while 82 percent of lawyers recognized that AI can be used in their firms, only 51 percent believed that it should be used. The gap between those two figures will be the gap between attorneys that get things like rote document generation, due diligence, and legal research done in minutes and those that get it done in hours.
Astute readers will notice that throughout this blog, we’ve been saying that AI will save lawyers time. But when most firms employ the traditional billable hour model, that time is literally money. The less time firms spend on a case, the less they’re able to bill. In the coming years, as AI takes the timeframe for certain tasks from hours to minutes, we may finally see a shift to a different billing model.
But there’s always going to be a human element. Lawyers will still be making the decisions; they’ll just be aided by AI tools. And, of course, you’ll still need people to answer the phone. With Answering Legal, you can integrate that phone answering into your law firm’s workflow alongside your AI tools. Our answering service integrates with your law firm software, allowing your phone lines to be easily accessible to you and your clients 24/7.
We can send the messages our virtual receptionists take via CRM, email, and text, and input the information from legal intake directly into your CRM for ease of perusal. AI tools that pull from your CRM will be linked to your phone lines, no data management required. If you’d like to read more about our integration features, click here.
Take your firm into the future with integrated phone systems. Click here or call 631-686-9700 to sign up for our free trial. For a limited time, we’re offering firms that sign up for our service their first 400 minutes free.