Future ‘lawyerbot’ will learn, make judgments

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The lawyers of the future will provide machine learning-enabled judgment, according to an innovation-focused lawyer.

“Being a good lawyer is no longer enough. Digitization and artificial intelligence (AI) are all very real and the legal industry is right in the middle of the changes they will bring,” says Andy Leck, a partner and innovation committee member at Baker McKenzie, who commented on the firm’s recent introduction of an AI product.

Andy Leck
Baker McKenzie

In August, Baker McKenzie announced that it selected eBrevia as its main AI tool to be used on M&A and other transactional work.

Leck said performing due diligence during M&A transactions was particularly time consuming and complex when one considered the global nature of the companies that Asia-Pacific lawyers worked with.

“The process of conducting a due diligence effort is often labour-intensive and repetitive, making it a perfect candidate to make use of AI to increase the accuracy and efficiency of the process,” he said.

After American law firm BakerHostetler engaged an AI tool called ROSS for legal work, in June 2016, many big law firms have followed suit. DLA Piper, for example, adopted an AI tool called Kira Systems for document review during the due diligence process for M&A transactions.

Leck said the eBrevia has been trained to identify and extract relevant clauses across a large set of documents needing review through the use of AI.

“This process greatly increases the efficiency and quality of the initial review, and our Asia-Pacific based attorneys will be able to leverage this efficiency when performing due diligence, he said. “Further, we are extending this capability by creating bespoke Machine Learning provisions that capture the Baker quality with each review.”

Will AI replace lawyers?

Whether AI will eventually replace lawyers in some sectors is still a matter for debate.

In Leck’s view, the developing technology will have an impact on, but not replace, legal expertise.

“A human will still be required for ‘judgment’ tasks, but clients need us to have the ability to harness new AI technology and invest in smarter ways of working to make the best of our people’s talents and time,” he said.

“The lawyer of the future will provide machine learning-enabled judgment. Legal advice will no longer be confined to lengthy documents, spreadsheets and slide decks.”

In February, the firm launched a global innovation committee and adopted a pioneering Design-Thinking approach, which is a strategy for innovation. In addition, the firm also developed a cloud-based legal compliance service called i-G360 to guide its multinational clients on information governance laws in more than 120 countries.