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Artificial intelligence:
a threat to the legal sector?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been extensively integrated into the new economy. It influences decisions in the financial sector, directs traffic, selects matching clothing items according to previous purchases, learns our preferences, and helps correct our misspellings. Although these applications demonstrate how useful this technology can be, many professionals are taking a more critical stance toward its incorporation. Amy Webb—director of the Future Today Institute, speaker, and self-determined futurist—maintains in her latest book, The Big 9, that AI is the invisible hand the keeps the world turning. She dives into the idea that its future does not rely on decisions made by us.

And this grave perspective is not uncommon. Many people believe that new technologies—in particular, AI—will definitively change the world as we know it, beginning with the elimination of millions of jobs. What this reasoning leaves out, however, is that these technologies are part of a growing industry currently creating jobs and improving opportunities across a wide range of industries.

This is even true for traditionally low-tech fields such as the legal sector, where digitization and innovation are hindered by the need for precise language. Legal documentation requires specific terminology and structures to eliminate ambiguity and varying interpretations, making it a poor candidate for AI integration. This language would need to be modified to fully take advantage of AI applications. As a result, several large firms have taken up this challenge in recent years, driving the legal sector past the “Trough of Disillusionment” stage of Gartner’s hype cycle. And with this development, AI has gained ground in the field, helping to improve decision-making, strengthen client relationships, and reinvent business models.

This upward trend was confirmed in a recent Gartner study which promised continued integration throughout the field in the near future. The study shows that although investments in technology throughout the legal sector increased just 1.3% between 2017 and 2020 (from 2.6% to 3.9%), that number is expected to triple by 2025, ultimately growing to 12%. This boost in investment confirms the potential for a number of new technologies—including AI—throughout the field.

Discovering these new technologies and learning to apply them to legal processes is the goal of the Professional Certificate Program in Legal Tech in the Digital Era This 100% online program is a joint effort between MIT Professional Education (US) and Esade (Spain) and can be completed by participants in Spanish or English. This offering from the two prestigious institutions covers the six key areas that modern lawyers and firms should be familiar with: leadership and innovation, legal tech, digital transformation, legal marketing and business development, cloud and DevOps, and key account management.

The application of AI in the field offers an array of advantages, including improvements in routine task performance, document design, research, and big data processing tasks. AI also offers the possibility to create chatbots and virtual assistants. These resources can automate and streamline client inquiries by answering FAQs and providing virtual legal advice when distance or time constraints would otherwise delay client support. AI can also assist lawyers to streamline time-consuming tasks like looking for specific court decisions or searching through case-law and precedents via keyword.

In terms of digital transformation, the legal sector is often considered one of the most conservative. The laws exist as is, and the legal processes surrounding these laws are difficult to modify, with traditional professionals in the field insisting they be left unaltered. Digitization does, however, stand to offer more extensive benefits to certain areas of the field more than others. And digital revolution throughout the sector should be focused on these specific areas—including marketing, data management, and client relationships—to help boost efficiency.

Amid the tall tales of AI taking over the world and preparing to steal our jobs, it’s important to remember that AI—like other technologies—was developed as a means to provide a service. And above all, it was created by people. We are responsible for deciding how to use it. The discipline of law centers around solving problems and delivering justice, and AI is not a threat to this goal, but rather the means to achieve it.

To read the article published in Spanish on The Lawyer Magazine:

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