At the 2017 Firm seminar, Weathering a Changing Climate, we discussed the opportunity, myths and reality of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) in the legal profession. We concluded that, far from being a threat to the replacement of lawyers with robots, AI presents a unique opportunity for legal professionals to not only improve the quality of their legal advice but also to boost overall efficiency to the benefit of both clients and professionals alike.

In a nutshell, AI can be appropriately viewed as advanced computing, merely leveraged as a tool that can enable lawyers to find the right answers even more quickly and apply those answers as necessary. For over 50 years, standard computing has always been focused on accuracy and calculation. However, AI improves upon this by adding cognitive machine learning to language and text, thereby answering even the toughest questions before they are asked.

Where does the Legal Professional fit in all of this?

The lawyer, law student and law firm can all benefit from this technology in the same way we have benefited from other technological advancements like the use of email, increased cyber security and video conferencing. The key to taking advantage of new and emerging technology is to be aware of its existence and its benefits.

How can AI be used today practically?

AI has already been in use for some time in the business of law. Law firms that have taken a proactive step toward cyber security have already used AI to predict and prevent computer virus patterns by using advanced AI algorithms in antivirus software. AI has also been used to prevent threats among computer networks between offices that communicate together. We expect that in The Bahamas AI will take a more central role in the operational side of law by answering search queries about case law and court decisions in a minute rather than through hours or days of manual searching.

What does this mean for billing?

Central to the discussion of AI is the issue of client billing and whether the hourly rate would increase due to the machine learning advantage of the legal task or whatever the overall cost would decrease due to less me being used by humans to find the correct answer. All of this has yet to be determined as the variables involved with billing and attorney client work are considerable and extend beyond the mere answering of questions.

Will the future eventually move toward machine lawyers?

The truth is that technology has always proved challenging to any industry. In some cases, it has replaced human work force, for instance, in auto and product manufacturing. However, the Legal Profession as an industry is unique and built by and for – people – real individuals who need to use empathy, compassion, love, drive, commitment and measured generosity – qualities that machines despite their processing speed, cannot replace. No one can predict the future for sure, but we can state for certain that the only way that technology has ever helped humanity is when we commit to learning and growing with it. AI as a technological advancement is like a wave – we cannot stop, it so we must first observe it, then resign to ride it toward the shores of our passions and goals.