Technology Law

Artificial Intelligence And The Future Of Law Practice

ABSTRACT

The recent occurrences have shown that our law practice is very much aware of the global change to be greeted by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and that should make us prepare for it. Interestingly, Nigerian law practice now makes use of Law Pavillion which is an (AI) legal Assistant designed to assist attorneys and lawyers with legal research and electronic law reporting.  Similarly, the introduction of virtual hearing by practice direction of most federal and state courts of the federation is also a way to show that (AI) has come to complement our law practice and not to disrupt it. Every Profession in order to meet up with the new global reality has embraced (AI) in its operation. Law as a mother of all professions followed suit and welcome the use of (AI) in its world of practice. It’s a fact that 48% of cases in Nigerian courts are lost on the ground of procedure rather than substantive law. To mitigate this anomaly, there is a need for a Legal Assistant that is fully conversant with the Nigerian procedural laws and can give a lawyer proper guidance on the right course of action to follow, so that his action can stand on a strong legal background.  

INTRODUCTION

According to Ziyad Saleh of the British University in Egypt Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the intelligence demonstrated by machine in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. Globally, law firms have started preparing themselves for the future of law. In this regard, they utilize (AI) software such as Ross Intelligence, Tar Tools, Leverton to automate some of their previously manual tasks. This includes predictive data modeling, transaction mapping, automated matter management, and expertise finding. Despite this rising global acceptance of (AI) by legal practitioners, the opposite is obtainable in Nigeria due to economic challenges and conservatism. Basking in the heritage of the tradition handed over to us by Great Britain, the Nigerian legal industry has proven to be an unapologetic ambassador of her former colonial master’s legacy. The Nigerian legal sector exhibits a certain level of nonchalant towards accepting technological innovation. The threat that innovation poses to the noble profession is the primary reason behind the Unenthusiastic stance of many lawyers.

Nigerian Law firms, Lawyers, and Law teachers exhibit insouciance towards novelties that upset the statuesque. They prefer to maintain the traditional brick-and-mortar method to support their billing model. However, the emergence of (AI) into the legal profession will threaten this system which they need for survival. Thus, the incursion of (AI) into the legal profession is an impetus for the legal gig economy which will make legal services more competitive than it is already today. The legacy of conservatism in the Nigerian legal sector explains why legal education has not evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. Despite its importance and benefit, the technology and business aspects of the legal profession are often ignored. Thousands of law students still cram outdated laws and cases to the detriment of technological skills and innovation!

Another reason which account for the conservative nature of the legal profession is the mindset of many lawyers. Lawyers are known to have a fixed mindset rather than a growth one. Trained in a system that discourages risk-taking while sticking to tradition and precedent, an average lawyer grows to have a fear of failure. Hence, he is reluctant to go outside his safe zone.  The handwriting is on the wall; it’s either evolved or dies for Nigerian lawyers and law firms. For top-tier law firms, there is a need for the re-evaluation of their business model if they must survive the imminent (AI) disruption. With the introduction of virtual law firms such as infusion lawyers many leading conservative law firms will have to change their traditional organization model to a rocket structure, it seems the death of conservatism in the legal profession draws closer than predicted.

IS AI THE END OF LEGAL PRACTICE?

When the legal start-up Law Geex held a competition between (AI) powered algorithms and lawyers from reputable law firms such as Goldman Sacks and Alston & Bird, the (AI) matched the best performing lawyers for accuracy. In terms of speed, the (AI) outmatched the lawyers completely; this outstanding advancement among other innovations has led lawyers to view (AI) as an apocalypse advancement coming to send lawyers to extinction. Indeed (AI) does threaten certain aspects of the legal profession but (AI) doesn’t signify the end of the entire profession.  There are two reasons why (AI) doesn’t mean the demise of the legal profession.

  • The first reason is the BLACK BOX problem of the (AI). Despite the ability of (AI) to learn and improve services through data processing, no one including programmers can ascertain how (AI) arrives at a particular output. Although the input and output of (AI) have known variables, the process remains a mystery. Therefore, (AI) needs supervision. In terms of legal practice lawyers who understand and appreciate data bias, analysis, and processing issues would have to review any data before (AI) program works on it to avoid confusion. Since the BLACK BOX problem is fundamental to the inductive machine learning software process. For this reason, lawyers will remain relevant in the age of (AI) disruption. The work of lawyers especially junior Associates will involve identifying and understanding data ready for processing, reviewing the results, and making necessary changes. As a result, there will be a higher premium on understanding clients’ intentions and frameworks than the current emphasis on drafting techniques.
  • (AI) is a tool while technology is adept at reaching a destination; it’s mediocre at determining the direction of such a destination. Similarly, (AI) can help a client with a specific task but only lawyers can match client objectives to the desired outcome. Even if (AI) application provides solutions to serve as an alternative to consulting lawyers, clients will eventually need the services of lawyers in understanding legal jargon and how automated legal work affects their goal. To this end, clients will not only need lawyers to analyze the automated work but lawyers will act as the ultimate guide in helping them achieve their stated goals because the legal practice is multifaceted there are several levels of complexities involved in it. From transactional to litigation, the legal practice requires a certain level of creativity, reasoning, and complex input which seemed beyond the reach of computing techniques in the machine.   

CAN AI CREATE A SUSTAINABLE LAW PRACTICE?

  • According to some Schools of thought, they are of the view that law as a sacred profession is dynamic in nature and not static. To engage in our law practice there is a need for the person name to be enrolled in Nigeria in line with the LEGAL PRACTITIONERS’ ACT of 1962. The legal effect of this is that with this law in force it’s difficult for (AI) to play a role in sustaining our law practice.
  • Another School of thought is of the view that (AI) is a welcome development as Agunbiade strongly recommended that lawyers should not join the debate about whether (AI) will destroy or benefits humanity. They should be more concerned about how they leverage this new development to their benefit. By their training an average lawyer is a constant learner and as such learning how to wield such technology should not be a challenge once they adopt an open mind towards it. He further supported this by what is obtainable in the USA and ISREAL where the former through the use of Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanction (COMPAS) help the state of Virginia decrease the rate of prison population growth from 31% annually to 5% while the latter has introduced (AI) in the decision-making process with respect to traffic cases.  Some writers are less optimistic about the threat (AI) poses. One of such scholars is JAMIE J. BAKER, in his opinion legal research is not routine and mechanistic and as such cannot be easily automated as it requires a level of thinking that only the sophisticated human brain can currently provide. Baker believes that the most advanced computers today are only capable of natural language processing, not natural language understanding. These (AI) tools do not understand language the way an average human would. He compares them to a parrot who can learn how to repeat words without reading the import of the words!
  • Pasquale and Cashwell also foresee the possibility that nothing will change. In other words, things will remain largely the same. All the discussions about the potential of technology will not come to fruition. The prediction about what (AI) can achieve will end as a needless hype. This prediction makes more sense in the context of the African environment; it may be easier in Europe and other parts of the western world to adapt to advanced technology because of their higher level of infrastructural development and exposure to technology. But this is not the case in African countries like Nigeria that still struggle with electricity and telecommunication and other infrastructure will most likely stay unchanged.

The majority of (AI) high-end solutions remain quite far-reaching for the average Nigerian lawyer and law firm. For instance, a reputable online platform FIND LAW reports that the cost for small law firms to install software robots for handling legal tasks is $30,000 when converted to naira which is about N10, 950,000. Except for top-tier law firms not many law firms in Nigeria can afford it, the majority of which are sole-proprietorship. Also, the lack higher speed internet connection is a stumbling block to the expediency of a tech-disrupted legal practice. The majority of Nigerians access the internet through the four telecommunications companies (MTN, 9MOBILE, AIRTEL, GLO) although these telecommunications have increased their internet access in the country notwithstanding, most of their services is slow and wholly unreliable. Consequently, many internet users are forced to use other alternatives such as Spectranet. Those who cannot afford such alternatives desist from performing specific tasks that require swift-speed internet. The internet services provided by these telecommunication companies are limited by location while it works perfectly in some areas the reverse is the case for others.

Lastly, the attitude of many lawyers towards technology also might slow down the likelihood of the new technology. Some Nigerian lawyers still have reservations about technology. Many of them are unwilling to adapt to the changing narrative as they choose to remain in the paper world. Except for young lawyers and law students many lawyers do not trust technology. Conservatism and other Misinformation contribute to this mistrust. Even in the community of computer-literate lawyers not many are updated about new technology like AI (Artificial Intelligence), Blockchain, Robotics, and Nanotechnology.   

RECOMMENDATION

Rather than start crying wolf about the impediments hindering an innovative legal practice, the Nigerian lawyers must start preparing for the future now. Although legal sector disruption is often an era not happening soon. Yet, Nigerian lawyers should realize that the future is now. Hence, a lawyer who is intentional about surviving the innovation age must start building hard and soft skills that would make him immune to extinction. The required skills include but are not limited to the following.

  1. Information Technology Skill
  2. Legal Design Thinking
  3. Project Management
  4. Negotiation and Dispute Resolution
  5. Problem Solving
  6. Creativity.

CONCLUSION

In a fast world and technology age clients now wants faster, cheaper, and quality legal services. Law School and Lawyers focus on oratory skills and writing. Hence, most lawyers lack the skill to collaborate in a technology-driven practice such as (AI). Lawyers must learn to collaborate with other professionals such as Computer Scientist and Technologist. Contrary to the purveyors of gloom and doom about the future existence of the legal profession, lawyers will definitely have a vital role to perform which (AI) cannot provide and will not be able to provide. These are judgment, empathy, creativity, and adaptability. Lawyers will provide the last mile of the solution delivery and the application of those human functions to the output of the (AI) tools. For example, suppose a predictive analytics tool tells the user that in a particular case before an identified judge the likelihood of a successful outcome is 68%, but that prediction those not actually tells the client what the client should actually do, it will take a lawyer using judgment to advice the client using lawyers understanding of clients’ needs what path to choose.

REFERENCES

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