Winter 2019 Gavel Gavel Winter 2019 - Page 8

• Several of the largest law firms in the country, including BakerHostetler, K&L Gates, and Latham & Watkins just to name a few, have licensed ROSS Intelligence, an AI-based legal research tool that can read a shocking million pages of case law per second.4 ROSS allows attorneys to ask questions in plain language, provides citations for its responses, tracks updates in the law, and “learns” from its users – that is, the more attorneys use it, the more accurate its responses become.5 • JPMorgan Chase uses COIN – which stands for “contract intelligence”– software that reviews commercial loan agreements. The software reportedly saves hundreds of thousands of lawyer and loan officer hours per year.6 Can a Computer Be a Lawyer? By Tammy Pettinato Oltz “Lawyers could be the next profession to be replaced by computers.” 1 “AI [Artificial Intelligence] beats human lawyers at their own game.” 2 “Will lawyers become extinct in the age of automation?”3 These are just a few of the many headlines from the past few years warning of the demise of the legal profession at the hands of new technologies. At the forefront of these warnings is artificial intelligence, a kind of technology that, loosely defined, involves the ability of computers to perform tasks that ordinarily require human intelligence and, in its most impressive iterations, to steadily improve at these tasks by learning from user input. But can computers really replace lawyers? The answer is the same one with which law professors regularly frustrate their students – “it depends.” To be sure, there are already a multitude of signs that artificial intelligence is transforming the legal profession, if it hasn’t already. Here are just a few examples of how law firms and corporations have been using artificial intelligence technologies to save their clients time and money: Tammy R. P. Oltz is an assistant professor and director of the Law Library at the University of North Dakota School of Law. She has a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an M.S.I. from the University of Michigan. 8 THE GAVEL • International law firm Gowling WLG uses Kira AI for due diligence and contract analysis. Kira is able to convert a wide variety of documents into readable text and then search for, identify, and extract relevant clauses for review. 7 As these examples show, artificial intelligence clearly has the potential to save massive amounts of both time and money by automating some of the more routine tasks of attorneys. Yet, for all of the positives of AI, where there is automation, there is often job loss. In fact, according to one report, up to 40 percent of jobs in the legal sector could be automated in the next decade.8 This could spell trouble for the legal profession. Still, some activities lend themselves more to automation than others. Legal research, contract analysis, drafting, and due diligence have all been identified as areas where artificial intelligence technologies have the potential to drastically reduce the time and money – and, perhaps, employees – necessary to complete legal work. But certain types of legal work are virtually impossible to automate. In spite of futuristic speculation about “robot lawyers,” we are still light-years away from machines that are capable of replicating some of the most important legal skills – for example, the ability to think creatively, provide empathy, and offer strategic advice. Artificial intelligence is unlikely to ever produce machines capable of developing innovative legal approaches, delivering oral arguments, or performing other important, non-routine tasks. Furthermore, even where artificial intelligence can replace some of the work of lawyers, lawyers still have a significant role to play in “supervising” the technology. That is, law firms, corporations, and others must be able ensure the legal work for which they are using technology is being done correctly. Indeed, in 2012, the ABA voted to amend Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 1.1 to include, as part of the duty of competence, being aware of changes in legal practice “including the benefits and risks of relevant technology.” 9 Under this version of the rule, which was adopted by North Dakota in 2016, lawyers may face disciplinary action if they misunderstand or misuse technology.