As practice group leader of a large (70+-lawyer) e-discovery group, I am frequently asked whether artificial intelligence will replace human lawyers. My favorite answer is “No – but lawyers who use AI will be replacing those who don’t.”
Full disclosure – I did not come up with that answer. The first time I heard it was at a Cowen Café event, hosted by The Cowen Group, featuring thought leaders from in-house legal departments, outside law firms, and legal solution providers.
While it is a pithy answer, I think it is probably accurate. Some have been predicting the demise of the legal profession – starting with e-discovery lawyers – for more than a decade. Over that period, our e-discovery group at Reed Smith doubled in size – and then more than doubled in size again – despite our ongoing adoption of increasingly sophisticated technology to add efficiency and leverage human talent. Indeed, the market for e-discovery lawyers is as strong right now as I have ever seen it, despite more available technology than ever before. Why?
The proliferation of data. In these days of the Internet of Things (IoT), increased use of collaboration platforms, and other sources of electronically stored information, there is more data than ever before, so advancing technology is necessary just to keep up.
The need for “experts” to leverage the tools. AI tools like predictive coding, automated privilege identification, and other “supervised machine learning” require experts (attorneys) to train and manage. Indeed, the evolution of these tools has led to greater demand for higher levels of knowledge and experience – not just entry level/bottom dollar lawyers – since the AI tools leverage that knowledge and experience.
The increased focus on maximizing value for corporate clients. Firms that most effectively adopt and adapt, combining the latest technology with sufficient lawyer talent, find that demand for their services continues to grow.
So, if you are a lawyer who is adopting and adapting, rest easy. If not, it is time for you to get on the technology train, before it gets too far down the tracks!