October 19, 2021

Artificial Intelligence and Law

‘It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used.’

– Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Law touches every topic of the world. Today, the legal services market is one of the largest globally but extremely under-digitized. The field is based on traditional concepts, thus, slow to adapt new technologies and methods.

In this essay, the prime focus is on the expected development in practice of law through artificial intelligence.

In nearly all of the social sciences, law may come closest to a system of formal logic. We focus on rulings which set forward the principles deriving from precedents. These precedents are, then, applied on different facts at hand to reach a conclusion accordingly. This logic-oriented methodology is exactly the type of activity to which machine intelligence can fruitfully be applied. Till now, MS Word and mails were the most commonly used tools in legal work while there seems to be a whole opportunity to make this process completely automatic.

What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence [AI] is a computer system able to perform tasks which normally require human intelligence. These systems are mainly powered by machine learning, some by deep learning and rules. This comes with learning which involves garnering the rules and information for using the data. It has become very popular and necessary due to data-based service industries like telecommunication, insurance, banking, etc. including law.

Today’s AI systems are not intelligent thinking machines in any meaningful sense though they produce useful and intelligent results without using intelligence. These systems do this by detecting patterns in different data and using knowledge, rules, and information specifically encoded in forms able to be processed by computers. Through these computational methods, AI systems produce commendable results on complex tasks that, if done by humans, require cognition. However, the systems do it with the help of computational methods which are not at all in accordance with the human mind.

Types

AI applications today are of two forms i.e. “narrow AI” or artificial specialized intelligence (ASI) and “general AI” or artificial general intelligence (AGI).

The “narrow AI” aims to solve specific problems or take actions within a limited set of parameters such as communicating with a device to book film tickets or pay a bill or listen to GPS directions, Using Google translate service. This type of AI appears to be smart but it lacks functions other than what is defined. To simplify, it has zero self-awareness. Artificial Intelligence can facilitate a machine for copying the cognitive functions which are naturally ingrained in human beings to associate with other beings such as problem-solving or grasping new data. 

The latest AI software is not too flexible to adapt in terms of switching unrelated activities, i.e. from one to another, unrelated activities. It would be a fault on our part to assume that just because AI knocks the human thought process in some tough game, it will necessarily lead to the automation of other difficult tasks like creative legal argumentation or problem solving. Simply put, contemporary AI tends to work best for activities where there are underlying patterns, rules, definitive right answers, and semi-formal or formal structures that make up the process and it works poorly in conceptual, abstract, value-laden, open-ended, policy or judgment-oriented activities. 

Why Linked to Law?

In recent times, AI has changed the working methods of multiple industries by being installed at a highly effective scale. The Indian legal sector has seen very little of this innovation as the legal practitioners still rely on the methods designed ages ago. The system is vast and constantly changing and with the use of Artificial Intelligence, lawyers can get unparalleled insight into the legal domain within seconds.

Currently we get all of our legal research done by a significant number of man-hours which eventually reduces the profit-making ability of a firm. However, with AI, the entire legal fraternity can balance the expenditure required for the research work by using a uniform method for the same.

In 2019, it was announced that students at University College London and the University of Sheffield had successfully developed artificial intelligence software that can predict the outcome of human rights cases by analysing previous court judgments. The story sounded like science fiction but the AI software showed an astonishing 79% accuracy. The role of technology in law is influenced by how a client wants the problem to be solved as he needs the legal advice of his lawyer. The practitioners of law perform various legal tasks, which involves client counseling, drafting contracts, petitions and other documents, practicing in court, and many more. AI is not magic, rather it produces results by looking out for different patterns or rules (heuristic proxies) to make decisions on its own. Neither is it good with understanding meanings or handling totally undeveloped or open-ended tasks. AI’s successful tasks involve highly structured data with some clear   answers and patterns to distinguish the suitable solution. Knowing AI’s flaws and pros help us to understand the impact it is going to have on different fields of law. 

There are certain startups initiated by human minds as they tried to move it beyond just MS Word and mails.  For instance, these programs use Q/A method to compile all the data given by the client to form a perfect contract according to their needs. 

How Does It Help? 

AI is said to have a great scope for Indian Legal fraternity as the amalgamation of two will lead to tremendous development of both in the near future. Currently, these fields are proved to be useful in law:

1.    Contract reviewing  – Lawyers manually review, edit and exchange red-lined documents and the process is lengthy, delays deals and impedes companies’ business objectives. Mistakes due to human error are common as the contracts can be thousands of pages long. To do all these tedious works with due diligence, AI is proving to be helpful and time effective.

2.  Legal Analytics – AI helps digging into numerous past case laws, judgments, precedents, rules, obiter dictums, etc. to analyse and use the same in present cases.

3.  Outcome Prediction – It also predicts the probable outcome of different pending cases based on previous judgments,facts and/or precedents. As these predictions become more accurate, they will have a major impact on the practice of law.

4.  Legal Research – The machine intelligence is making inroads in legal research effectively. Legal research was historically a manual process, but with the advent of software and personal computing, it has gone digital. Lawyers usually conduct research using websites like LexisNexis, SCC and Manupatra.

5.  Automation of Documentation – By just submitting the required documents which you wish to incorporate in your legal document get your documents ready within minutes.

6.  Intellectual Property – People can search for the uniqueness of their logos, trademarks, patents, copyrights, etc as well as check the registration status without stepping out of their homes. 

Replacement for Jobs Or A Support For Better Performance?

There is a burning question among the lawyers i.e. whether the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in the law and legal sector would replace the lawyers and analysts OR the AI-based solutions would lead to increased productivity for them? 

As already discussed above, the legal field has been introduced to various developments by AI leading to increased efficiency of legal practitioners by giving astonishing results in issues like trademark searches, contract analysis, etc. mainly focusing on legal research. When we see it, these remarkable technological developments do not appear to leave very much room for human lawyers to get involved. However, it is also being used to make lawyers’ lives easier and more flexible.

Technology gives legal professionals the opportunity to work from home. Some websites connect some experienced freelance lawyers bidding for a range of legal work. All these advances are not only allowing lawyers within law firms to work more efficiently, but also to change the ways lawyers interact with their clientele. This, therefore, helps them to move forward from what was a traditional method to a modern one for their firms.

Furthermore, these technological changes are very dubious to make these actual and tangible lawyers unessential any sooner.  While AI has been proven a great resource to us, there is a limit to what formulaic and logical programmes it can achieve.

To quote Leibniz, one of the grandfathers of AI and a lawyer: ‘It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used.’

In 1673, he presented the machine for four arithmetic operations in the UK. Leibniz says ‘The only way to correct our reasoning is to make them as tangible as the mathematicians’ so that we can find our error at a glance, and when there are disagreements between people, let’s calculate and see who is right!’

The legal profession basically works upon cognitive skills like analysing, decision making, and representation. These skills cannot be taken over by AI, hence, can never be automated. Moreover, clients value highly the social and public skills of their lawyers. Employers will indeed expect legal candidates to be well-experienced in modern technology but with the thought of proficient manual labour as well. A candidate will still be asked to interact with their patrons by using their experience in public dealing and knowledge of law for finding solutions to all legal problems.  

Conclusion 

It is likely that technological innovation will continue to reflect clients’ needs. AI is certainly set to change the way lawyers work and will hopefully make day-to-day tasks like drafting and legal research far more efficient and cost-effective. However, clients will ultimately still want an experienced legal adviser in their corner who can use new technology to their advantage while maintaining a unique inter-personal relationship. Concluding the same, I would like to focus on the points AI will prove itself helpful in:

  • The way clients are serviced and treated in the future. Firms would approach with ideas authentic and never known before 
  • Shifting the focus of Firms will shift from revenue to higher profits.
  • Making Technology the new trend i.e. It is a good time for start-ups to emerge.

Author- Bhoomika Sharma (Amity Law School, Delhi)

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