Freshfields' Parker said since it began using Kira in the fall of 2016, it has seen efficiency gains of up to 70 percent. Though AI has its own knowledge gaps: If the software encounters a document set or provision it has never seen before, the efficiency gains can be significantly lower, Parker said.
But legal AI is advancing rapidly. In just the past year, the market for sophisticated law firms has moved from buying AI solutions for particular problems (Kira for due diligence, for example) to creating end-to-end solutions by integrating different kinds of legal technology – extraction, expert logic and document automation, for example.
Parker said Freshfields is developing an AI solution for a large mass claims case which involves processing over 6,000 international claims with up to 200 additional claims each week. Parker explained that the vision is to use Kira to extract the information about the claim and claimant; auto-populate a claims management database; then use document automation to draft the submission to the court (automatically pulling information from the database about the claim that has been extracted by Kira, then automatically populating a template pleading); and then use expert logic to determine whether that case can be settled (applying a decision tree type structure — simple legal reasoning with a number of different variables).
"When you have a very large document set, this kind of simple automation can drive real efficiency for the client," she said.
First-year law associates aren't panicking. "Its ridiculous to think associates should do this over and over to just generate money," Dolin said. "They hated doing that work in the first place."
The law firm executives agreed that first-year associates are more relieved than worried. "These are smart people. They get frustrated doing that work over and over again, and clients don't want to pay for it. We can't sustain a model where humans are doing this work."
"The history of this has been different for every industry and in some tech eclipses what people do, and in other industries it is just an assist or supplement," Kesner said. "I don't think it is clear what will happen in law, and I don't think law is just one silo of jobs." He said trust and estate lawyers are already using software for a much bigger part of their jobs than a decade ago. "The expectation is they will have expensive software, and most work is done by computer. It isn't that way for corporate lawyers yet."
But there are no guarantees. Kira's main use at Freshfields is in its Manchester-based legal services center, where tasks defined as "repetitive legal work" are handled by paralegals. "Their reaction so far has been positive, because the parts of work taken by Kira need a lot of training. You can't just stick it in a room and expect the result to come out," Parker said. "That's a new set of roles for people that they didn't have before. ... A hybrid role between lawyer and tech."
But Parker added, "It's very difficult to predict, and it would be naîve to say it won't change the shape of our traditional workforce."