Lawyers were listed as an endangered professional species more than a decade ago, with their livelihoods threatened by advances in artificial intelligence.
But the Doomsayer was ahead of him. While clever software has taken over some of the grunt work of legal work — searching, reviewing and digging through mountains of legal documents for useful information — employment in the legal industry is growing faster than the overall U.S. workforce.
With a new AI threat looming today, lawyers may experience some déjà vu. There are warnings that ChatGPT-style software, with its human-like fluency, could take over much of the legal work. The new AI has its flaws, notably its tendency to make things up, including bogus legal citations. But proponents insist these are just the nascent flaws of an emerging technology — and ones that can be fixed.
Will the pessimists be right in the end?
Because lawyers are essentially merchants of words, law is seen as a lucrative profession perhaps most vulnerable to recent advances in artificial intelligence. The new technology can recognize and analyze words and generate text in an instant. It appears to be ready and able to perform the day-to-day work of a lawyer.
“It’s really, really powerful,” said Robert Plotkin, an intellectual property attorney in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “My work and my career have been primarily about writing texts.”
But unless the past is not a guide, the impact of new technology is more likely to be a steady rising wave than a sudden one. New artificial intelligence technology will transform legal practice and eliminate some jobs, but it also promises to increase the productivity of lawyers and paralegals and create new roles. This is what happened after the introduction of other work-changing technologies such as the personal computer and the Internet.
a new studyby researchers from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University, concluded that the industry most vulnerable to new artificial intelligence is “legal services.” another research report, Goldman Sachs economists estimate that 44% of legal jobs could be automated. Only 46 percent of office and administrative support jobs are higher.
Lawyers are just one profession along the path of AI progress. a study About 80 percent of U.S. workers perform at least 10 percent of their tasks affected by the latest AI software, researchers from ChatGPT creator OpenAI and the University of Pennsylvania have found.
In the past, the legal industry has been identified as a ripe target for AI automation. In 2011, an article in The New York Times’ longer series on advances in artificial intelligence (titled “Smarter Than You Think”) focused on the possible impact on legal work. Its title: “Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software.”
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But advances in AI in the legal field have proven more cautious. AI mainly identifies, sorts and classifies words in documents. The tech’s tools are more assistants than replacements — and that may be true this time as well.
In 2017, Baker McKenzie, a major international law firm, formed a committee to track emerging technologies and develop strategies. Since then, AI software has made steady inroads.
“The reality is AI is not disrupting the legal industry,” said Ben Allgrove, partner and chief innovation officer at the firm.
Mr Allgrove said the rapid development of large language models, ChatGPT’s technical engine, was a major advance. Reading, analyzing and summarizing are basic legal skills, he said. “At its best, the technology seems like a very smart paralegal, and it’s going to improve,” he said.
Mr Allgrove said the impact would force everyone in the industry, from paralegals to $1,000-an-hour partners, to move up the skills ladder to stay on top of technology. Human jobs will increasingly focus on developing industry expertise, making judgments in complex legal matters, providing strategic guidance and building trusted relationships with clients, he said.
Technology has eliminated a lot of jobs in recent years, and it’s not just robots taking over factories. PCs, productivity software, and the Internet have made office work more efficient, displacing many workers.
Office and administrative support occupations, including secretaries, clerks, bill collectors and office assistants, employ 1.3 million fewer workers than in 1990, according to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Labor Department Forecast further declineby 2031, these occupations will lose 880,000 jobs.
“Technology is a driver and there are big changes, but they tend to emerge gradually over a decade or more,” said Michael Wolf, director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Forecasting Division.
The bureau’s current outlook is lawyer and paralegal will continue to grow faster than the overall labor market. Mr Wolf is watching the arrival of new artificial intelligence software closely, but says it is too early to assess the long-term impact of the technology.
Lawyers are mostly testing the technology. Issues of data protection and client confidentiality are of paramount importance in legal work. The legal profession rejects the use of e-mail until rules on information handling are established.
In an industry that relies on the discovery and weighing of facts, the tendency of software models to confidently make things up is worrisome — and prompts malpractice lawsuits.
To help with these issues, law firms often use software that runs on top of something like ChatGPT and is fine-tuned for legal work.Tailor-made software is developed by legal tech startups such as case text and Harvey.
For example, load a case file and ask the software to draft deposition questions, and within minutes it spits out a series of related questions, the lawyer said.
“For the things it can do well, it does very well,” said partner and chief data scientist Bennett Borden. Piper PiperA large corporate law firm.
Mr Borden said successful use of AI required large amounts of relevant data and detailed, specific questions.More open questions, such as what is the most important evidence, or who is the most credible witness, remain difficult problems for AI
Lawyers at large firms have seen significant time-savers for certain jobs and see the technology as a tool to improve the productivity of their teams of attorneys and paralegals. Individual practitioners see technology more as a partner in practice.
Valdemar L. Washington, a lawyer in Flint, Mich., was selected last fall to test software from Casetext called CoCounsel, which uses the latest ChatGPT technology.
Mr. Washington used the software in a lawsuit against the city of Flint, alleging that residents were overcharged in water and sewer rates and service charges. He loaded more than 400 pages of documents, which the software quickly reviewed and wrote a summary that pointed to an important hole in the defense case.
He says the program does in minutes what would take him hours to do.
“It’s a real game changer,” Mr Washington said.
But how much the legal industry will change, and how often, is uncertain.
The new artificial intelligence is a challenge to the status quo. More productivity means fewer billable hours, yet hourly billing remains the dominant business model in legal work. AI should increase pressure from corporate clients to pay law firms for work done rather than time spent. But the top corporate counsel — the clients — are often ex-partners and associates of large law firms, in the same tradition.
“There are huge opportunities for artificial intelligence in legal services, but the professional culture is very conservative,” said Raj Goyle, an advisor to legal tech companies and a Harvard Law graduate. “The future is coming, but not as soon as some predict.”