Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on the Legal Industry

By Clayton Dodd, Law Office of Peter N. Brewer

One of the hottest technology trends is artificial intelligence (AI), where machines are programmed to crunch large sets of data and learn to adapt and react to the data. All industries have been impacted in some way by the rise of artificial intelligence. Automating processes and analyzing large data sets offers companies new opportunities for cutting inefficiencies. The legal industry is not immune to advances in artificial intelligence. On November 9, Patrick Fuller, Senior Director of Legal Intelligence at ALM Intelligence, gave a presentation to the Bay Area chapter of the Legal Marketing Association.

Artificial intelligence is growing more ubiquitous in our everyday lives, even though it may not be as obvious as it is portrayed in movies and science fiction novels. Many technologies and applications that we use in our everyday lives have components of artificial intelligence, such as optimizing navigations by using Waze, identifying potential tax deductions by using TurboTax, or getting song recommendations from Spotify. Artificial intelligence offers several functions, such as question answering, text analysis, translation, and image classification, by utilizing hardware technologies that aid in language, vision, speech, and algorithm processing. The effectiveness of an artificial intelligence application lies in structuring large sets of data into relational sets that can be processed.

By collecting data, knowing what to do with the data, and then running complex functions with the data to generate actionable outcomes, the possibilities of artificial intelligence are seemingly endless.
Over the past few years, artificial intelligence has permeated into the legal industry. Even now, there are many legal AI companies that perform or help with a variety of tasks, such as legal analytics, contract review, eDiscovery, legal research, and contract due diligence. These companies are helping law firms and legal service providers to create efficiency, improve accuracy, and streamline processes — all under the purview of improving legal services. And these technologies are working – many law firms have already implemented AI and automation technologies for the benefit of their clients and their bottom line. Some law firms have created self-service products that business clients can use to perform their own advisory searches – such as looking for statutes about data and privacy security or managing compliance with employment laws across state and international boundaries.

Many AI programs currently in use by law firms automate repetitive tasks or use predictive analysis to identify areas of risk. However, while many firms may have AI tools for their clients to use, very few have used AI technology to improve marketing and business development initiatives. Legal marketing is ripe with opportunities for using AI, including cross-selling, succession planning, recruiting, and client development. It is only a matter of time until AI is widely used to improve the prospect and client experience for law firms. According to Fuller, many other industries use AI for marketing purposes, including making pricing decisions, automating content, understanding and predicting the sentiments of potential new clients, and targeting the right prospects with the right information. Legal marketers and interested parties alike should continue learning about developments in AI, and start identifying areas where artificial intelligence can make a significant impact.

While artificial intelligence certainly won’t ever replace lawyers and law firms completely, these advancements still are making a huge impact on the legal industry, and clients are increasingly demanding services and efficiencies from their providers. If you don’t think law firms have a tremendous opportunity in adapting to the evolving technology landscape, consider this: the IBM Watson platform could pass a multistate bar exam without a second thought (according to Robert Weber, General Counsel at IBM). If a robot could pass the bar exam, what role will lawyers have in the future?

About the author
Clayton Dodds is the director of marketing at the Law Offices of Peter N. Brewer, a Silicon Valley boutique real estate law firm, and the communications chair for the Legal Marketing Association – West Region. He writes & speaks on topics of online marketing, law firm operations, analytics, and technology, and can be reached at