Artificial intelligence putting junior lawyers’ jobs at risk

An Australian legal technology company has used Amazon’s Alexa to build a prototype virtual lawyer that it says creates legal documents instantly like a real human, threatening the jobs of junior lawyers.

Byron Connolly Jan 16th 2019 A-A+
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An Australian legal technology company has used Amazon’s Alexa to build a prototype virtual lawyer that it says can create legal documents instantly like a real human, threatening the jobs of junior lawyers.

Smarter Drafter’s Alexa Skill – driven by the company’s Real Human Reasoning AI engine – asks questions a lawyer would and then drafts a legal document that considers the context, facts, jurisdiction and best practice. It takes a few minutes for the interview to take place and the legal document to appear by email.

Adam Long, CEO of Smarter Drafter says the virtual lawyer tests whether human lawyers are at risk of being replaced by robots.

“We mapped the decision making process of expert lawyers in excruciating detail to create a tool that would perform at the level of a human lawyer. Lawyers already delegate legal drafting to other experts – now they can give those same instructions to software and have the job done in moments without any human errors. Here we’re testing whether we can put the same power in the hands of the document’s end user,” Long said.

Smarter Drafter is already used in more than 150 law firms across Australia but is currently only accessible to lawyers. No date has been set for the first working Alexa integration but Long said the company is only months away from releasing a voice assistant for businesses and homes that will create any legal document that is needed.

Long adds that while the tool has not yet passed the Turing Test, he can see a near future where lawyers are working with AI staff members. These virtual staff will support the lawyer, work closely with them and even make calls for the lawyer. The client might not know whether they are talking to a computer or a human, he says.

For junior lawyers, this technology is a real threat, he adds.

“Many junior lawyers cut their teeth in law firms doing voluminous, process-driven work. These tasks, like document discovery and legal drafting, are ideal candidates for automation. So the question is: What will the junior lawyers of the future do? Surprisingly, some will actually advance to a senior level running their own practice faster than past generation as they leverage technology and AI in lieu of a team of humans to learn from,” Long says.

Meanwhile, it’s an opportunity and threat for senior lawyers.

“In the future, those that work with the robots are the ones that will thrive as they find efficiencies and better ways to serve their clients. For them, there’s an opportunity in spending more time with clients and demonstrating empathy, a skill that computers are a long way from having, instead of spending their time hacking away in Microsoft Word,” Long says.

The legal industry is no stranger to AI innovations that solve real problems.

Last June, Tom Dreyfus, Columbia Law School LLM candidate and son of shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus; and RMIT graduate and AI expert Kirill Kliavin created Josef, a platform that allows Community Legal Centres, legal firms and enterprises to create chatbots to assist clients with their legal problems.