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AI for Lawyers Guide: Is AI the Future of the Legal Industry?

Want to learn how AI is revolutionizing the legal industry? This guide will walk you through the basics of AI and its applications in law firms. Discover how AI can save time, streamline workflows, reduce costs, and improve the accuracy of legal research!

22 min


Mar 27, 2024
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The legal field is no stranger to change over the years. As new technologies emerge, lawyers must consider how their practice may be impacted. A recent survey by Thomson Reuters shows 70% of professionals believe artificial intelligence will have a significant influence on the legal industry in the future. 

Rather than replace human skills, AI for lawyers has the potential to streamline routine tasks and enhance services with fresh perspectives. This allows more time for complex cases and client care. In the recent Grow Law Firm podcast, host Sasha Berson discussed the topic with Douglas Lusk, the Founder of the National Society for Legal Tech. Their conversation provided useful insights into streamlining your legal practice with AI Technologies.

What Is AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.

AI research has successfully developed effective techniques for solving a wide range of problems, from playing games to medical diagnosis. Examples of AI today include virtual assistants like Alexa, self-driving cars, AI-generated art, and AI algorithms that recommend products on e-commerce sites.

The term "artificial intelligence" was coined in 1956 by John McCarthy, a computer scientist at Dartmouth College. McCarthy, along with other pioneers in computer science, believed that AI would eventually be able to solve problems that were beyond the capabilities of human beings.

There are many different types of AI, but the ones commonly used in the legal industry are: 

  • Machine learning: A core subset of AI that enables systems to learn from data and improve with experience. Without being explicitly programmed, algorithms can identify patterns in data and make decisions based on statistical analysis and probability. In the legal field, ML can be used for predictive analytics, case outcome prediction, and legal research.
  • Natural language processing: NLP is a subfield of AI that focuses on developing algorithms that can understand and generate human language. Lawyers use NLP algorithms to analyze large volumes of legal documents and identify relevant case laws, statutes, and regulations. 
  • Deep learning: A specific machine learning method that utilizes artificial neural networks modeled after the human brain. It enables systems to learn from data they see rather than just following explicitly programmed instructions. Examples include image and speech recognition algorithms.
  • Robotic process automation: RPA involves automating routine tasks using software robots. In the legal industry, RPA can be used to automate tasks such as data entry, document review, and contract management.
  • Computer Vision: Computer vision involves teaching machines to interpret and analyze visual information from the world around them. It can be used for image and video, surveillance, and forensic analysis of a particular case. 

Can Law Firms Use AI?

When applied to law, AI can revolutionize legal research, contract review, compliance, due diligence, and other areas by automating routine work and providing insights based on the analysis of massive amounts of data.

Law firms can use AI to improve their operations and provide better legal services to their clients. AI is already being used in various legal fields, including document review and analysis, legal research, predictive analytics, contract management, and more.

One of the primary advantages of using AI in the legal field is its ability to quickly and accurately analyze large volumes of data. This can be particularly useful in tasks such as document review and legal research, where human reviewers may be prone to errors or take much longer to complete the same task. AI-powered tools can quickly identify key information in legal documents, flag potential issues, and recommend next steps.

Another advantage of using AI in legal situations is its ability to learn and adapt over time. Machine learning algorithms can be trained on historical case data to predict future outcomes. This can help law firms make more informed decisions about which cases to take and how to approach them.

AI for lawyers can also automate routine tasks such as contract management and e-discovery. By automating these tasks, law firms can save time and reduce the risk of errors. This can free up lawyers' time to focus on more high-value tasks such as legal strategy and client counseling.

how lawyers can use ai

How Can AI Benefit Attorneys?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has empowered legal professionals to perform tasks efficiently and accurately. AI makes lawyers' work easier, enabling them to focus more on strategic thinking and providing enhanced value to their clients. The points below will discuss how AI can benefit lawyers in their day-to-day activities. 

1. Enhance Document Management

Artificial intelligence is making document management and review much more efficient for legal professionals. Imagine being able to import a client's data and have the AI identify documents that match specific requests. It can present you with the matching documents for request number one, request number two, and so on with perfect accuracy.

Many of the new AI tools even do the redaction for you. It will flag any social security numbers, bank account numbers, or other sensitive data that needs redacting. It generates the redactions and produces your document log automatically. As a solo practitioner or small firm, saving time on manual tasks like redaction is extremely valuable. You don't have financial resources to waste when operating on tight margins. AI tools help reduce costs and boost profitability by automating repetitive work so attorneys can focus on core legal and client-facing responsibilities.

2. Improve Your Legal Research

Thanks to AI-powered legal research platforms, cases that may have been passed up due to a lack of resources or too much risk can now be feasible. It also allows smaller firms to punch above their weight and take on larger adversaries.

Learning AI applications is a quick time investment that pays off exponentially in the long run through labor and cost savings. Digital transcription software is one example, providing huge savings versus traditional stenographers.

Advanced eDiscovery platforms implementing AI allow attorneys to interactively ask questions about document collections rather than tedious keyword searching. Historical examples like Enron can easily be explored by asking who the relevant attorneys were during a certain period. Discovery, which accounts for most litigation expenses, will soon be as streamlined as a deposition through conversational legal research platforms.

3. Streamline Contract Analysis and Review

Contract analysis and review is another time-consuming task that's prone to human error. AI-powered tools can automatically extract and summarize key contract terms, provisions, and obligations. This lets attorneys quickly identify specific clauses, potential risks, and inconsistencies, facilitating more efficient contract review. Moreover, AI can compare new contracts against existing templates or historical agreements, ensuring consistency and compliance.

Additionally, AI can assist in contract analysis by performing due diligence on counterparties. It can help identify risks and evaluate potential business partners' financial stability or legal history. AI can also assess the impact of external factors, such as regulation changes, and provide recommendations for necessary amendments or renegotiations.

4. Improve Client Relations with AI Chatbots

AI chatbot example
AI chatbot example

These intelligent chatbots can provide round-the-clock assistance by answering frequently asked questions, offering legal advice, and guiding clients through various legal processes. AI chatbots can also offer personalized legal assistance, analyzing client data to suggest tailored legal solutions. 

With natural language processing capabilities, these chatbots can engage in human-like conversations, understanding the nuances of client queries and providing appropriate responses.

Moreover, AI chatbots can collect and analyze data from client interactions, helping attorneys identify trends, patterns, and potential areas for improvement. Attorneys can leverage this valuable feedback to enhance their services, strengthen relationships, and ultimately provide a more satisfying client experience.

5. Due Diligence and eDiscovery

AI algorithms can quickly review and categorize documents based on predefined criteria, saving attorneys countless hours of manual review. Additionally, these algorithms can detect patterns within the data, flagging potential inconsistencies or anomalies that may otherwise go unnoticed. This helps attorneys identify relevant information more efficiently and focus on areas that require deeper analysis, reducing the risk of overlooking critical details.

eDiscovery, a process of identifying and producing electronically stored information for legal cases, is particularly well-suited for AI integration. AI algorithms can sift through mountains of electronically stored information, applying predictive coding and machine learning techniques to rank document relevance and assess privilege claims. This enables attorneys to identify relevant evidence more accurately, expediting the discovery process and improving overall case management.

6. Draft and Edit Legal Documents

With AI-powered document automation tools, attorneys can automate the creation of various legal documents, including contracts, agreements, and even complex legal briefs.

Through natural language processing, AI algorithms can analyze existing legal documents, extracting relevant provisions and suggesting appropriate language for new cases. This greatly speeds up the drafting process and ensures consistency across documents.

Moreover, AI algorithms can identify potential errors, inconsistencies, or missing information within documents, acting as an intelligent proofreading tool. This functionality enhances document accuracy and reduces the risk of errors slipping through traditional manual review processes.

Additionally, AI-powered research tools offer attorneys quick access to vast amounts of legal information and precedents, enabling them to build stronger arguments, validate their legal positions, and support their case strategies.

7. Improve Your Risk Assessment

With the help of AI-powered analytics tools, attorneys can analyze large amounts of data to identify potential risks and opportunities. It can review contracts, agreements, and legal precedents to identify potential pitfalls, ambiguities, or loopholes that may increase your client's exposure to risk. AI can also analyze past cases and court decisions to predict the likelihood of success in different legal scenarios.

Through AI-driven risk assessment, attorneys can become more proactive in their practice, providing better guidance and protection to their clients and helping avoid potential legal complications. 

8. Create Better Articles

AI-powered tools can quickly sift through copious amounts of legal literature, scholarly articles, and case law to extract relevant information and generate concise summaries. Additionally, AI can assist in formatting, proofreading, and editing legal content. It can identify potential grammatical errors, improve sentence structure, and suggest alternative wording to enhance readability and coherency.

AI algorithms can learn from and understand various legal writing styles through natural language processing and machine learning, allowing attorneys to produce high-quality articles that align with legal standards and norms.

Furthermore, AI can support attorneys in verifying the accuracy of cited sources and detecting potential plagiarism.

9. Improve Your Internal Processes

ai for automation

Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds immense potential to improve the internal processes of law firms, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. AI-powered technologies, such as natural language processing and machine learning, can automate time-consuming administrative tasks like document management, scheduling, and data entry.

For instance, AI can automate categorizing and organizing legal documents by analyzing their content and context. It can extract key information, such as case names, parties involved, and relevant dates, to create a well-structured database for easy retrieval and referencing. This streamlines legal research and ensures important information is readily accessible to attorneys, saving them significant time and effort.

Additionally, AI can enhance collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the firm. This facilitates the formation of cross-functional legal teams, fosters a collaborative environment, and improves the quality of legal advice provided to clients.

Moreover, AI-powered predictive analytics can assist in project management, helping attorneys allocate resources effectively, estimate case durations, and identify potential bottlenecks. This allows for better planning and more accurate budgeting.

10. Make Your Lawyers' Lives Less Stressful

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can potentially improve well-being and reduce stress among lawyers by alleviating the burden of mundane and repetitive tasks. This automation frees up valuable time for attorneys to focus on more intellectually challenging and strategic work, reducing stress and burnout.

Furthermore, AI-powered virtual assistants can handle routine client inquiries, manage schedules, and generate standard legal documents. These virtual assistants, accessible through voice commands or chat interfaces, minimize administrative distractions and enable lawyers to concentrate on critical matters.

Leveraging AI to Optimize Legal Services with Douglas Lusk, the Founder of NSLT

In this episode of the Grow Law Firm podcast, Douglas Lusk discusses how small law firms can benefit from training in AI and legal technology. Lusk explores how limited training resources and curriculum lead to attorneys being unprepared for practice. He argues that learning tools like those offered by the National Society for Legal Technology can help solos and small firms gain efficiency through ongoing, bite-sized lessons that integrate new skills into their workflows.

"Now, AI in the legal field is phenomenal stuff. And if you aren't using it, you're wasting time and money. And that's the problem with a lot of small firms: they just don't know what's out there."
— Douglas Lusk
Join Sasha Berson as he speaks with Douglas Lusk, the Founder of NSLT
Douglas Lusk

Douglas Lusk

Founder of the National Society for Legal Tech

Douglas Lusk, founder and CEO of the National Society for Legal Technology (NSLT), launched the organization as a student club in 2015. NSLT software quickly replaced outdated law school textbooks, earning Douglas national recognition as a legal technology education expert.

His work has been featured in USA Today, and the NSLT is now used in over 200 universities across the US and Canada. Douglas holds Adjunct Professor positions at multiple institutions.

Will AI Replace Lawyers?

AI can potentially change the legal profession, but it does not threaten lawyers' jobs. While AI has made significant advances in recent years, it is not advanced enough to replace human lawyers. The legal profession involves a high degree of complexity, nuance, and human judgment that machines just can't replicate. 

Computers can't replicate wisdom, empathy, and advice tailored to each client's unique circumstances and desired outcomes. Lawyers consider an issue's legal, business, and emotional aspects, evaluating options in light of a client's best interests and values. They navigate complex ambiguity, weigh competing interests, and build strategies adapted to human contexts. Alexa just doesn't have those skills.

AI is not yet sophisticated enough to handle these complexities. It struggles with nuance, analogy, common sense, and comprehending unstructured information. It can't reason by evaluating moral, ethical, or human factors like the impact on people's lives. Nor can it build the trust and human connections that are essential for lawyers to best serve their clients.

While AI may improve efficiency by automating some routine tasks, lawyers will continue to be needed for critical skill sets like advocacy, negotiation, counseling, and complex problem-solving. The human element of legal work — wisdom, good judgment, empathy, and compassion — will remain fundamentally important.

Top 5 AI Tools for Lawyers

For lawyers looking to stay ahead of the curve, it's important to understand what AI tools for lawyers are currently available and how they can be leveraged to improve efficiency, accuracy, and client service. From simple yet powerful options like grammar checkers to advanced machine learning systems, here are some of the key AI applications currently used by forward-thinking legal professionals.

— Casetext

Casetext is an AI-powered legal research platform that helps lawyers find relevant cases faster. It can also be used to generate summaries of cases, identify key facts and legal problems, and create legal memoranda. It uses natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to read and understand case law. 

Lawyers can upload their legal documents, and Casetext will find similar cases and suggest the most relevant ones. This saves lawyers significant time in legal research. The platform also offers a community of lawyers who can provide case insights. 

— CoCounsel

CoCounsel is an AI-powered legal assistant that can help lawyers with research, drafting documents, and preparing for court. It is powered by OpenAI's GPT-4 model, which has been trained on large datasets of legal documents reducing the chances of error. 

It reduces the chances of errors and ensures that contracts are comprehensive and legally sound. This allows law firms to handle contract reviews more efficiently, freeing time for other important tasks.

AI legal assistant
The screenshot is taken from CoCounsel

— Harvey AI

Harvey AI is an AI-powered legal research tool that uses natural language processing and machine learning to provide unprecedented legal AI. It is built on a version of Open.AI's GPT AI. It uses general legal data, such as case law and a law firm's work products and templates, to support legal work specifically. 

Harvey AI is still in beta, but it has the potential to assist firms with tasks like contract analysis, due diligence, litigation, and regulatory compliance. It can also generate data-based insights, recommendations, and predictions, making legal research and decision-making more accurate and efficient.

— ChatGPT

Everyone's new shiny toy! This popular AI can't be left off the list. ChatGPT is an AI-powered virtual assistant that can help lawyers and law firms with various tasks. It uses natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to understand and respond to client queries. 

The generative AI can also be used to draft legal documents, including contracts, wills, and other legal documents. ChatGPT can help law firms save time and reduce costs by automating routine tasks, allowing lawyers to focus on more complex legal issues, and providing clients with quick and efficient service. 

— IBM Watson AI

IBM Watson AI is an AI-powered platform that can help lawyers and law firms with various tasks, including legal research, contract analysis, and document review. It uses NLP and machine learning algorithms to analyze and understand natural language text. IBM Watson AI can assist lawyers in finding relevant cases, identifying key legal issues, and even predicting the outcomes of cases based on historical data.

Can AI Benefit Your Legal Clients?

The potential benefits of AI are not limited to lawyers and law firms alone, as legal clients can also reap the rewards of this technology. Let's break down some ways AI can benefit your clients. 

— Improved Communication Between Lawyers and Clients

AI-powered tools, such as chatbots and virtual assistants, can help legal clients get 24/7 access to legal advice and information. This can improve client satisfaction and trust in legal representation by providing quick and easy access to legal information. For example, AI-powered chatbots can be used to provide clients with information about their cases, answer their questions, and schedule appointments. AI can also be used to create personalized legal documents and contracts tailored to each client's specific needs.

— Increase Productivity by Automating Tasks

AI can help lawyers and law firms increase productivity by automating routine tasks such as legal research, document review, and contract analysis. Why does this matter for clients? It frees up time for lawyers to focus on more complex legal work that requires their expertise, resulting in faster and more efficient legal services for clients.

— Improve Access to Justice by Providing Affordable Legal Services

AI-powered legal tools can help improve access to justice by providing affordable and accessible legal services to underserved populations. For instance, chatbots and virtual assistants can provide legal information and advice to people who can't afford traditional legal services, helping bridge the justice gap.

— More Personalized and Client-Centered Experience

AI-powered tools can give clients a more personalized and client-centered experience by analyzing client data and providing customized legal advice and solutions based on their needs. This can help improve client satisfaction and loyalty, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

ai benefits for legal clients

De-Risking Law Firms with Heinan Landa at Optimal Networks, Inc., in the Podcast Series

Heinan Landa discusses his technology operational maturity model from "The Modern Law Firm." He highlights the importance of benchmarking in security, operations, innovation, and client interaction. Technology should be seen as an investment, not a cost, with security breaches costing firms $4.5 million on average. Leveraging technology can improve client experiences and boost business. Tracking data is crucial for informed decision-making. He also details Optimal Networks' two main services: managed services and strategic consulting.

"The average cost of a security breach for 10-50 lawyer firms is about $4.5 million."
— Heinan Landa
De-Risking Law Firms with Heinan Landa at Optimal Networks, Inc.
Heinan Landa

Heinan Landa

Founder and CEO of Optimal Networks, Inc.

Heinan Landa is the founder and CEO of Optimal Networks, Inc., a comprehensive IT services firm specializing in strategic technology solutions for businesses. With over three decades of experience, Heinan is renowned for his expertise in IT management and his commitment to helping organizations enhance productivity and achieve their goals through innovative technology strategies.

Legal Ethics of Using AI in Law

The use of AI in law has raised several ethical concerns related to the accountability of AI systems, the potential for bias, and the impact on the legal profession. Here are some of the key ethical considerations when using AI in law:

  1. Bias and discrimination: One of the significant ethical concerns surrounding AI in law is the potential for bias and discrimination. AI algorithms are trained on historical data, which may contain inherent biases. If not carefully addressed, AI systems could perpetuate or amplify existing biases in legal decision-making. It is crucial to regularly evaluate and test AI training data systems for bias and take corrective measures to mitigate it.
  2. Transparency and explainability: AI algorithms can be highly complex and difficult to understand. The lack of transparency and explainability raises ethical concerns, particularly when AI is used in legal decision-making. Lawyers must ensure that AI systems used in the legal field are transparent and explain their outputs clearly. This helps maintain trust, enables effective scrutiny, and allows individuals to understand the basis of legal decisions affecting them.
  3. Accountability and liability: The introduction of AI in law raises questions about accountability and liability. Who should be held responsible if an AI system makes an erroneous or biased decision? Legal professionals must consider accountability issues and ensure that human oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place to prevent unjust outcomes.
  4. Professional competence and supervision: Lawyers have to maintain professional competence and provide competent representation to their clients. The use of AI in law requires legal professionals to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to understand and effectively use AI tools. They should also supervise and assess the outputs of AI systems to ensure accuracy and reliability.
ai for lawyers guide

Other Considerations for Law Firms

In addition to the legal ethics surrounding the use of AI in law, there are several other important considerations that law firms must address. These considerations go beyond the ethical implications and touch upon specific areas that can significantly impact the successful integration of AI technology within a law firm's operations. This section will explore three key aspects: ABA Rules, data privacy, and training and education.

— ABA Rules

The American Bar Association (ABA) provides guidelines and rules that govern the professional conduct of lawyers in the United States. When incorporating AI into their practice, law firms must ensure compliance with these rules. The ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 483, which provides guidance on lawyers' obligations regarding the use of technology in maintaining the confidentiality of client information.

According to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6 requires lawyers to make reasonable efforts to prevent unauthorized access to or disclosure of client information. Rule 1.1 mandates that lawyers possess the necessary competence to provide competent representation to their clients, including understanding the risks and benefits of technology and AI.

Law firms should familiarize themselves with these rules and ensure that their use of AI technology aligns with the ABA's guidelines.

— Data Privacy

Data privacy is a critical concern when implementing AI systems in law firms. As AI relies heavily on data, law firms must establish robust data privacy measures to protect client information and ensure compliance with relevant privacy laws and regulations.

Law firms should develop comprehensive data protection policies that govern data collection, storage, and use within their AI systems. This includes implementing strong encryption protocols, access controls, and secure data storage practices.

Additionally, law firms should conduct thorough due diligence when selecting AI vendors or platforms, ensuring that these entities prioritize data security and have appropriate safeguards.

— Training and Education

The successful integration of AI in law firms requires ongoing and accessible training programs for legal professionals. As discussed in the podcast, training is often overlooked, especially by small firms with limited resources.

Platforms like the National Society for Legal Technology aim to address this need by providing cost-effective, bite-sized training modules that can be done in five-minute increments. This makes learning manageable and allows videos to be incorporated into daily workflows. Dividing lessons into small, digestible pieces is key to success.

Firms should encourage attorneys and staff to regularly learn how to use existing software through free online resources. Taking even 15 minutes a week to become proficient with paid tools can significantly boost efficiency. Ongoing self-education is also important as technology continually evolves. In summary, understanding new tech and features helps professionals stay on the cutting edge of legal innovation.

"Bringing in software that helps with that stage really moves the costs a lot in the time that it takes to do your cases."
— Douglas Lusk

How Can You Implement Artificial Intelligence for the Benefit of Your Law Firm?

In summary, implementing AI can greatly benefit law firms in multiple ways. Legal AI tools can automate repetitive tasks, quickly analyze large volumes of documents and data, provide insights through data analytics, and assist with legal research.

The key is strategically approaching AI—identifying where it can drive the most impact and efficiency gains. Start with pilot projects in focused areas before expanding more broadly. Be sure to get buy-in from lawyers and staff. Change management is critical to successful AI adoption.

To fully take advantage of everything AI has to offer your law firm, contact Grow Law Firm today. We are experts in providing full-service solutions, law firm SEO, and we know how to utilize AI lawyer tools where necessary for marketing strategies for firms. Don't let your law firm fall behind.

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