An overwhelming majority of law firm leaders believe technology will have the greatest impact on law firms over the next five years but are deeply concerned that cultural changes may prove to be a barrier in keeping up with new technology, according to a new report.
The global legal industry is at a tipping point, and there is an urgent need for law firms to consider the longer term impact of technological change on their strategic and competitive market position, suggests a report by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP. The report, entitled Law Firm Leaders Survey, polled the managing partners and senior partners of 50 international and United Kingdom law firms.
Algorithms, the set of instructions computers use to carry out a task, have become an integral part of everyday lives, and it is immersing itself in law. In the U.S. judges in some states can use algorithms as part of the sentencing process. Many law enforcement officials in the U.S. are using them to predict when and where crimes are likely to occur. They have been used for years in law firm recruitment. And with advancements in machine learning they are also being used to conduct legal research, predict legal outcomes, and to find out which lawyers win before which judges.
Most algorithms are created with good intentions but questions have surfaced over algorithmic bias at job hunting web sites, credit reporting bureaus, social media sites and even the criminal justice system where sentencing and parole decisions appear to be biased against African Americans.
The practice of law however has been largely shielded by technological developments over the past fifty years, suffering little more than glancing blows.
That may be on the cusp of changing. Fuelled by big data, increased computing power, and more effective algorithms (a routine process for solving a program or performing a task), AI has the potential to change the way that legal work is done, the way that law firms conduct business and the way that lawyers deal with clients.
But it remains that law firms are proving to be a hard sell. A recent survey reveals yet again that the vast majority of law firms are uncomfortable being early adopters.
On top of that, most lawyers view AI as a threat instead of seeing it as an opportunity to help deliver better outcomes for clients.