AI hype preventing lawyers from seeing benefits

By Lara Bullock|22 September 2016

Lawyers must get over the hype around artificial intelligence and learn to embrace the benefits it can bring to their practices, according to a boutique firm director.

Speaking at the ALPMA Summit earlier this month, ConnectLaw director Fabian Horton said that when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) lawyers fall into two categories: 'utopians', who see AI as a beneficial tool to make their jobs easier, and 'dystopians', who see AI as taking over their jobs.

“I’m an AI utopian and I really do think that there is a lot that we can gain from using this type of technology, and we have more to be encouraged by it that we do to be discouraged,” Mr Horton said.

The hardest and most important thing, according to Mr Horton, is for lawyers to get over the hype surrounding AI.


“If we don’t get over the hype, we get sucked in by the media, whether it’s good or bad, and then we can't see the future as what it really is. We can't determine how we're going to use this technology to our advantage.”

Mr Horton pointed to research conducted by Oxford University that revealed it is highly unlikely that lawyers' jobs will be replaced by AI.

“They say that lawyers are actually pretty safe. 3.5 per cent of what you do will be automated,” he said.

Mr Horton said that this is because clients like having a relationship with a human lawyer, and that will never change.

The news isn’t quite so positive for judges, however, with Oxford revealing there is a 40.1 per cent chance of their roles being automated.


“We already know that a lot of these decisions that we are looking to make are actually pretty formulaic, and we know that dispute resolution centres in the world are booming,” he said.

“Ebay, Facebook, they all have internal dispute resolution processes that are being done by AI.”

Worst off in the legal industry are the paralegals, with a 94.5 per cent chance of their jobs being automated. However, Mr Horton said that this isn’t necessarily bad news either.

“If we have a look at these questions they asked, my opinion is that these are questions about the current jobs that paralegals do,” he said.

“We all know that as technology comes, our roles change, and if it was true that technology was going to be replacing us it would've happened by now.”

Instead, lawyers are looking to fill the time saved by AI, which results in jobs and positions changing.

“What we see is even though the technology is coming through, it’s actually not giving us less to do, it’s giving us different things to do,” Mr Horton said.

“That’s the thing that we can look at with paralegals as well. A lot of the NewLaw firms that said ‘We're not hiring paralegals, we're not hiring undergrads, we're not hiring early-career lawyers’ have now gone, ‘Actually, we need them and we need them to do different stuff’.”

This year Lawyers Weekly will host its inaugural Future Forum, kicking off in Sydney on 9 November and Melbourne on 11 November.

The Future Forum is an event designed for lawyers who want to stay at the cutting edge of technological change and business innovation.

To learn more about the event or to register, click here.

AI hype preventing lawyers from seeing benefits
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