Will Artificial Intelligence Kill All the Lawyers?

Charles Knight

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A recent article in the New York Times reminded me that more than ten years ago, lawyers were considered an endangered occupational species as our livelihoods were the most at risk from advances in artificial intelligence (AI).

Has AI been reading Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2 and trying to kill us?

Maybe.  But I confidently predict that many of us will survive.

Recent developments in generative AI[1], which utilize large language models and machine learning to produce data that was used to create them, are making increasingly significant impacts on our profession. And although AI has not disrupted the legal industry yet. . . it appears that disruption is now happening.

When I asked Chat GPT if generative AI has the potential to significantly impact lawyers and their clients in the future, here are the ways I was told that could happen:

  1. Document drafting: Generative AI can help lawyers draft legal documents quickly and accurately. This could save lawyers and their clients time and money, as well as reduce errors[2].
  2. Legal research: AI can be used to search through vast amounts of legal information quickly and accurately, making it easier for lawyers to find relevant cases and statutes. This could save lawyers and their clients time and money, as well as provide better outcomes.
  3. Predictive analytics: AI can be used to analyze data and predict outcomes, such as the likelihood of winning a case or the value of a settlement. This could help lawyers and their clients make more informed decisions about how to proceed with a case.
  4. Contract analysis: AI can be used to review contracts and identify potential issues or areas of concern. This could help lawyers and their clients identify potential risks before signing a contract.
  5. Dispute resolution: AI can be used to help resolve disputes more efficiently and effectively, such as through online mediation or arbitration. This could save lawyers and their clients time and money, as well as reduce the burden on the court system.

These are great reasons why AI helps clients. But what about our jobs as lawyers?  Will they be eliminated?

No, AI will not eliminate lawyers. The legal profession involves complex and nuanced issues that require human expertise and experience. Lawyers provide legal advice, advocate for their clients, and navigate the legal system on their behalf. These tasks require human skills and experience, such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication skills.

Furthermore, the use of AI in the legal profession is still in its early stages and there are limitations to the technology. AI algorithms can be biased, and there are concerns about privacy and security. Therefore, while AI will continue to be integrated into the legal profession, lawyers will remain an essential part of the legal system for the foreseeable future.

So, even though the latest version of ChatGPT-4 passed the Bar Exam last year with a score in the 90th percentile, there may be hope for our profession. AI tools will displace legal tasks, but not necessarily legal jobs. This technology will likely displace the predominate legal services model, which uses “time and materials as the basis for measuring productivity” since higher productivity means fewer billable hours.  So legal work will have to be “value-driven”, provide significant value to clients based on successful outcomes, and adopt new pricing models that align legal fees with our clients’ longer-term business objectives.

And AI will never be able to replace the experience, judgment, advocacy, and communication skills that lawyers develop over time in this profession. Perhaps most importantly, moral and ethical reasoning can never be replicated by AI. Our duty to uphold ethical and professional standards is a core value of our profession.  Even ChatGPT knows that “AI does not have inherent ethical standards, as it is simply a tool that is designed and programmed by humans.”  

In conclusion, artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize the legal industry by streamlining certain tasks and processes, improving accuracy and efficiency, and providing valuable insights and analysis. However, it is important to recognize that AI is not a replacement for human lawyers and cannot replace the unique skills and expertise that lawyers bring to the legal profession. As the use of AI in the legal industry continues to grow, it is essential for lawyers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to work together to ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that aligns with ethical and moral principles and advances the interests of justice and fairness. By doing so, we can harness the power of AI to improve the legal system and enhance access to justice for all.

Like any species, survival of the fittest means that lawyers who adapt and embrace these new technology solutions will survive and thrive, automating much of our legal research, drafting and contract analysis and focusing on improving processes and delivering value to our clients. Many of us are looking forward to that future.

[1] Content creation technologies capable of producing text, code, and visual media by identifying patterns in large quantities of training data, and then creating original material that has similar characteristics. (Griffith, Erin; Metz, Cade (2023-01-27). “Anthropic Said to Be Closing In on $300 Million in New A.I. Funding”The New York Times).

[2] Sections in italics, were written by ChatGPT



Charles joined Milgrom & Daskam in June 2020 and focuses on serving entrepreneurs, nonprofits and growth companies from ideation and formation to early and later stage capitalization and through mergers and acquisitions. His expertise includes companies focused on technology, renewable energy, and real estate, including affordable housing and new market tax credit development and financing.

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