Forget the firms, we should be asking what legal AI means for clients

The main social benefit of legal AI will not be in making lawyers more efficient but in empowering people who are not lawyers to handle their legal affairs. AI may crack access to justice issues by making AI systems available to people directly so they can understand and enforce their legal entitlements.

For large law firms, AI will doubtless increase productivity in the short term. But further ahead, AI will equip clients to undertake much of the work currently given to traditional firms. Here is the prominent disruption. The market will show no loyalty to conventional legal and court services if AI delivers the outcomes that clients want but quicker and at a lower cost.

In the long term, the significance of AI in law will not lie in replacing tasks currently taken on by human lawyers. To suppose this is to imagine, by analogy, that the future of surgery is entirely about robots replacing the work of human surgeons. Instead, the key to future health care is in non-invasive therapies and preventative medicine. 

So, too, in law. The future of law is not robotic lawyering. It will use AI to deliver the legal outcomes that citizens and organisations need, but in entirely new ways — for instance, through online dispute resolution rather than physical courts. 

More fundamentally, the considerable promise of legal AI systems lies in enabling a shift from dispute resolution to dispute avoidance.

Source: The Times



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