If AI solutions become pervasive, law firms may cut staff.
A Deloitte Insight report released in 2016 said that "profound reforms" will occur in the legal sector over the next decade, estimating that nearly 40 percent of jobs in the legal sector could end up being automated in the long term.
A 2013 Oxford University paper, titled "The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?" suggests that lower-level employees at law firms are more likely to feel the effects of downsizing as a result of AI technology — at least in the near term.
"We find that paralegals and legal assistants .... [are] in the high risk category," the paper's authors wrote.
"At the same time, lawyers, which rely on labor input from legal assistants, are in the low risk category," the authors wrote.
Bechor from LawGeex agrees.
"There's a romantic notion of AI being able to replace all lawyers," he said. "I don't see that as something that will happen in the next couple of years."
Arruda of ROSS Intelligence is even more optimistic, believing that AI will increase the total number of jobs in the legal profession.
"I think we will see a rise of more jobs in the legal market" as a result of AI," Arruda said. "At the firms where ROSS is at, we see more work being done, more clients being able to be served, and therefore not a decrease in staff, but an increase in productivity and output."
He also saw another benefit.
"At present," Arruda said, "the majority of individuals who need a lawyer cannot afford one. Yet on the other hand, [many] law graduates are saddled in debt and cannot find work."
Leib and Arruda also dismissed concerns that the expansion of AI in the legal sector would make it more difficult for young lawyers to acquire necessary experience through brute-force gruntwork.
"Theoretically, attorneys can be more efficient from day one because of the technology," Leib said.
Arruda said, "This question gets asked a lot when new technology comes out. Think of the calculator, for example."
"But I think it's the wrong question, really," Arruda said. "The activities that AI excels at are not [the ones people] typically excel at — think data retrieval."
Perhaps the best take came from Sofia Lingos, a lawyer and board member of the Legal Technology Resource Center of the American Bar Association. Last year at a roundtable discussion hosted by the American Bar Association, the moderator asked if lawyers should be afraid or encouraged by artificial intelligence.
"Both," Lingos answered.
"It is wise to embrace it now so that it can be a tool as opposed to an impediment. No one wants to be competing against Watson," Lingos said, referring to IBM's cognitive computer system.
"But if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"
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