One way or another, in the very near future, artificial intelligence will no doubt affect at least one aspect of your firm’s day-to-day practice.
By Nicole Black, Lawyer and Legal Technology Expert
There’s been a lot of hype – both negative and positive – about artificial intelligence (AI) over the past year. Some articles predict dire consequences resulting from “robot lawyers” replacing most legal work, while others tout the multitude of benefits to be had when AI software takes over mundane legal tasks, allowing lawyers to focus on more interesting, high-level work.
There’s a reason for all the press: it’s because AI has the potential to save time and money for firms big and small. Of course, a key element that is necessary in order for lawyers to flock to AI software en masse is trust. Unless lawyers trust the results provided by the software, they’re unlikely to welcome it with open arms. And the reality is that trust will only come with the passage of time.
Start Automating Your Practice Now
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need AI software to get started with automating your solo or small firm family law practice right now. Reliable technology designed to automate your law firm is already available and can help you streamline your law firm’s processes today.
First, there’s document assembly. Document assembly tools have been around for years now. Using document templates, you’re able to automatically create frequently used legal documents and forms. So if your firm often uses the same format for a client intake letter, a legal document such as a will or contract, or a pleading in a litigation matter, document automation will save countless hours of repetitive work.
You can also automate your law firm’s billing and invoicing processes. Automate time-tracking by using your computer or mobile device to easily enter billable time contemporaneously with your work. This will ensure that you always enter your billable hours as they occur. If you use law practice management software like MyCase, Clio, or Rocket Matter, once your billable time is entered it is automatically associated with the appropriate matter and the invoice is auto-populated with that data. With the click of a button, you can send the invoice to your client for payment – and your client can then instantaneously pay your firm’s bill using a debit or credit card.
Task management can be automated as well. Instead of using old-school paper tickler systems, some law practice management software includes features that allow you to create workflows at the start of a case – including assigning tasks to your assistants and tracking their progress. That way you’re able to stay on top of assignments and ascertain which ones are completed and which ones are still in progress. You can also create workflows to help you track court and statutory deadlines for each case. For example, with automated workflows, you can streamline your client intake process or create templates for important dates that relate to specific types of cases or trials.
Artificial Intelligence Tools
There are other ways to automate your day-to-day law practice by using recently released artificial intelligence tools. Key areas where AI software is having a noticeable impact include data analytics, legal research, and contract review.
Litigation attorneys can use AI tools such as Lex Machina, Ravel Law, or Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics to reveal insights about judges, lawyers, and parties. The data provided from the analysis of past actions in cases similar to the one at issue assists lawyers in determining how to best proceed in a case.
Legal research is another area where AI is having an impact. All of the major legal research companies – including Westlaw and LexisNexis – are now incorporating machine learning into their platforms. These companies are using AI to change natural language processing so that it focuses not only on the words entered into the search box, but also on the past behavior of the user and other users who’ve made similar inquiries. This method drastically reduces the amount of time lawyers spend conducting research by providing increasingly relevant results.
AI can also be used for contract review. Software programs like LawGeex compare contracts submitted by users to a multitude of similar documents contained in their databases. Next, the software provides a report that suggests contractual revisions based on its analy-sis of similar contracts in its database.
The Inescapable Effects of AI
The bottom line is that one way or another, in the very near future, AI will no doubt affect at least one aspect of your firm’s day-to-day practice. Whether it’s document assembly, time tracking and billing, task management, contract review, legal research, or data analytics in litigation, the effects of AI will be inescapable.
Fortunately, there’s a good chance that AI’s impact will be a positive one. After all, AI is designed to reduce the need for lawyers to perform rote, tedious tasks and low-level analysis, allowing them to focus on the more interesting aspects of practicing law. Certainly most lawyers would agree that this will be a welcome change, but for some, the jury is still out. AI is undoubtedly the future, but whether the legal profession will welcome it with open arms remains to be seen.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase legal practice management software. She is the nationally-recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers (ABA, 2012) and co-authored Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier (ABA, 2010). www.mycase.com
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