eDiscovery, legal research and legal memo creation - ready to be sent to your counterparty? Get it done in a heartbeat with AI. (Get started for free)
The legal industry is undergoing a technology-driven transformation. Legal technology, or LegalTech, refers to the use of software, platforms, and AI to automate, streamline, and enhance legal services. Law firms and corporate legal departments are adopting LegalTech at an accelerating pace. Spending on legal tech surged 64% from 2017 to 2021. By 2024, some estimate the global LegalTech market will reach $37 billion.
What's driving this LegalTech boom? For one, clients are demanding improved efficiency to reduce legal costs. Tasks like discovery and document review are prime areas for software automation. LegalTech can cut hours off contract review, litigation support, and other time-intensive work. Corporate legal teams are using self-service legal tech for better access without hourly billing. Many law firms now provide LegalTech applications to meet client expectations.
LegalTech is also addressing the access to justice gap by making legal help more affordable. Online legal services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer provide DIY document templates for common needs like wills, trademarks, and incorporation. These can be created for a fraction of the cost of a lawyer. Consumer-focused apps are emergent too. DoNotPay helps users sue corporations and fight parking tickets through chatbots.
For lawyers, LegalTech takes over tedious tasks so they can focus on high-value work like litigation strategy and client counseling. Younger lawyers especially embrace LegalTech as a productivity tool. In one survey, 98% of Generation Z legal professionals were open to technology improving their work. AI review tools lead to faster document analysis. Analytics help predict case outcomes and optimize arguments. Automation handles routine contracts, allowing lawyers to review and finalize.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming how legal work gets done. Tasks that once took hours or days of attorney time can now be automated and accelerated by smart software. This is allowing lawyers to be more efficient, reducing costs for clients and legal departments. It's also changing the role of human lawyers as more repetitive work is handed off to algorithms.
Contract review and analysis is one area seeing heavy automation. Law firms used to put first-year associates on document review during litigation or due diligence. Now AI tools can plow through thousands of contracts in hours, flagging key terms, risks, and anomalies for attorney review. Kira Systems, LawGeex, and others provide contract review automation. According to one report, using AI to analyze contracts saves law firms between 20-70% on time and costs. Corporate legal teams also utilize contract AI for self-service efficiency without the hourly billing.
eDiscovery document review is another prime legal automation target. Instead of having rows of associates manually sift through evidence, predictive coding and search algorithms can filter the relevant documents using keywords and patterns. This also helps find hard-to-locate data that human eyes might miss. Luminance and Logikcull offer such eDiscovery automation. While an associate might review 50 documents an hour, the AI can plow through hundreds or thousands. This allows faster case preparation at lower cost.
Legal research is getting an upgrade too through natural language processing and trained legal models. Tools like Casetext CARA and ROSS Intelligence let lawyers input a query in plain English then automatically find the most relevant case law. This reduces the drudgery of combing through pages of references. The AI grasps the context and legal principles to retrieve the most pertinent cases. Some firms are testing these tools as associates or paralegals to augment their research.
Automation is also coming to memo and brief drafting. Companies like Casepoint, Lex Machina, and Westlaw Edge apply AI writing assistants and analytics to improve legal document creation. The AI can synthesize case law, evidence, and arguments into a memo draft for attorney review. Briefs can be structured faster by using data to emphasize the strongest arguments. While not yet fully automated, legal writing AI handles much of the busy work so lawyers can focus on high-level editing.
The rise of artificial intelligence in the legal field has sparked both excitement about improved efficiency and anxiety that robots will replace human jobs. While AI takes over certain legal tasks, experts believe a complete replacement of lawyers is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The roles that will remain for human attorneys center on qualities like judgment, creativity, empathy, and relationship building.
Algorithms excel at consuming massive data, finding patterns, and predicting outcomes through probability. This allows automation of legal discovery, document review, contract analysis, and research. But AI falters at more subjective skills like forming legal strategy, applying law to diverse facts, drafting uniquely creative arguments, and interacting delicately with clients. Humans still surpass machines at handling ambiguity, exceptions, and qualitative factors. AI makes lawyers more productive, but cannot wholly substitute for human insight and discretion.
That was the conclusion of a detailed study by Dana Remus at UNC and Frank Levy at MIT. They found certain legal tasks are susceptible to automation while others depend intrinsically on human judgment and discretion. For example, AI can analyze loan documents for compliance but cannot truly replace human attorneys negotiating complex business deals. Lawyers approach each client uniquely based on the circumstances and relationship. An algorithmic chatbot cannot replicate that empathetic, tailored guidance.
While AI systems like ROSS Intelligence excel at speeding up legal research, human creativity is still needed to craft novel legal arguments and strategies. Top litigators draw on career experiences and emotional intelligence when deciding which arguments to deploy. Machines can enhance human creativity through analytics, but not drive strategy alone. AI will continue displacing entry-level legal roles, but Remus and Levy predict experienced lawyers will continue handling complex cases with assistance, not replacement, by technology.
While artificial intelligence is automating some legal work, it is also creating new roles within law firms to integrate these emerging technologies. Law firms are hiring tech-savvy lawyers, engineers, and project managers specifically to oversee the implementation of AI. These professionals blend legal expertise with the technical skills required to effectively utilize legal technology.
One such role is the legal knowledge engineer, which has emerged as critical for firms adopting document automation. These specialists work at the intersection of law and computer science to program legal knowledge and workflows into document assembly software. Using their legal training, knowledge engineers capture the logic and language behind legal documents like contracts and briefs. This allows the software to dynamically generate customized documents based on inputs. According to contract AI provider LawGeex, the legal knowledge engineer "requires an uncommon blend of legal, technical, and process skills." Top firms are hiring dedicated engineers to maximize their investment in automation.
Law firms are also hiring legal project managers and legal technologists focused on practice technology and operations. These roles oversee integrating AI and defining best practices for utilization across the firm. Legal project managers are vital for adoption of e-discovery tools, analytics, and research algorithms. They analyze workflows, implement new technologies, train lawyers on usage, and measure performance gains. Their tech skills and operations perspective help drive productive AI integration. Meanwhile, forward-thinking firms like Orrick and Littler Mendelson now have fulltime legal technologists devoted to identifying emerging technologies for law practice. They function as bridges between tech developers and practicing attorneys.
Within law firms, a new "attorney-grammarian" role is emerging according to law professor Dana Remus. These are lawyers focused on calibrating machine learning algorithms and "translating" data for AI systems. Since AI is only as smart as its data, attorney-grammarians ensure models have quality datasets that encompass the complexity of law. They oversee continual retraining as laws and language evolve. For technologies like predictive analytics and automated writing, close human supervision is critical to instill legal nuance.
Expertise in legal AI itself is also becoming an in-demand skill. Some attorneys are differentiating themselves by gaining deep knowledge in applying AI to different practice areas. These legal AI specialists leverage their domain experience to evaluate technologies like predictive coding for specific litigation needs or contract review algorithms for due diligence. In a survey by Thomson Reuters, over 60% of lawyers said understanding AI will become an important skill for attorneys. Law schools are even offering legal technology courses to prepare students.
As artificial intelligence transforms the legal landscape, practicing lawyers face the challenge of retraining to adapt their skills. Legal technology is automating routine tasks like discovery and research while creating demand for specialized roles in areas like data science and process improvement. This requires attorneys to upgrade their capabilities, or risk obsolescence. Law firms and law schools are responding with retraining programs tailored to the AI era.
Many firms are running continuing education initiatives to equip lawyers with legal tech expertise. UnitedLex offers an AI Foundations course teaching machine learning concepts and applications like predictive coding. This allows litigators to better utilize AI tools in practice. Allen & Overy trained over 500 lawyers on technologies including document review automation and data analytics. Their program focused on each lawyer understanding how AI changes their practice, not just learning tech for its own sake. Other firms are retraining specialists like knowledge engineers and legal project managers to oversee AI integration.
Leading universities are also revamping curricula to ready students. Stanford Law School launched a new course teaching UC Berkeley"s computational thinking framework. This develops the ability to translate legal problems into concepts machines can process. The school aims to provide students core skills to utilize legal AI. Georgetown Law Center offers an experiential course focused on domains like predictive analytics, blockchain, and machine learning interpretability. Harvard Law's Case Studies in Legal Innovation explores legal AI needs through real firm case studies. Programs like these avoid abstract theory by exposing students to actual legal technologies and applications.
Some lawyers are taking training into their own hands to avoid falling behind. One litigation partner paid out-of-pocket for a coding bootcamp after realizing AI proficiency was becoming imperative. Others report pursuing data science certificates or courses at local universities' computer science programs. Savvy lawyers recognize that hands-on technical skills - not just conceptual knowledge - will be required to fully leverage legal AI. Self-motivated learning also allows customization to one's practice area needs.
Experts advise that effective retraining must focus on integrating human skills with technology. Pure tech training misses opportunities to apply AI to improve legal work. Programs should include modules on process analysis, data evaluation, and strategy development. For instance, Duke Law's curriculum teaches students to identify labor-intensive tasks ripe for automation. This mindset shift is vital; lawyers will need to proactively re-engineer workflows around emerging tools.
As artificial intelligence takes on a greater role in legal work, attorneys face a key challenge: adapting their skills and mindsets to integrate AI collaboratively rather than viewing it as a threat. This requires developing a complementary partnership between human expertise and machine capabilities.
Many lawyers initially see legal AI as competing for their jobs, but experts emphasize framing it instead as an enhancement. Like other professionals from bankers to doctors, lawyers must evolve to leverage technology as a tool rather than resistance. This starts with recognizing one"s strengths versus those of AI. Machines surpass humans at tasks like consuming volumes of data, finding patterns, predicting outcomes, and generating documents quickly. But lawyers maintain advantages in qualitative skills like strategic thinking, empathy, creativity, and contextual judgment.
"The objective is to create a relationship of symbiosis between humans and machines," says MIT scholar Frank Levy. Lawyers should focus on the human work machines cannot replicate, while allowing AI to take over repetitive tasks. For instance, contract review AI rapidly identifies deal terms and risks, freeing attorneys to concentrate on high-level issues and negotiations. Litigators can spend less time reviewing documents, and more time crafting case strategy or preparing witnesses.
To work symbiotically with legal AI, lawyers must upgrade skills like data literacy and process orientation. "Attorneys will need to communicate what they want from AI systems and work with engineers to improve the technology," explains law professor Dana Remus. A UCLA Law course teaches students to evaluate data bias, transparency, and metrics in AI systems. This allows appropriate scrutiny. Programs like Northwestern Law"s Masters in Compliance teach reviewing automation"s impacts on ethics and client service.
Adapting also requires a growth mindset. Says UnitedLex CIO Dan Reed, "Lawyers must commit to continuously modernizing their skills as AI evolves legal delivery." Firms are providing continuing education in areas like machine learning, knowledge engineering, and legal project management. Lawyers should proactively seek training in new skills that complement AI strengths while capitalizing on uniquely human abilities.
The future of law firms will be defined by how nimbly they adopt legal technologies like artificial intelligence while retaining their human strengths. Law firms that leverage AI to augment legal work, rather than crudely replace lawyers, will lead the pack.
Experts see law firms evolving to integrate technologist and legal operations roles more deeply rather than keeping them siloed or outsourced. UnitedLex CIO Dan Reed explains, "Future firms will recognize technologists and legal ops professionals are integral to delivering legal services with efficiency." Law firms that treat technology as peripheral will lag behind. Leaders like Littler Mendelson now have dedicated tech specialists that identify applications from document automation to data analytics to improve practice groups.
Forward-looking firms are training lawyers to employ legal tech fluently. Reed notes, "It"s insufficient to teach lawyers tech concepts only. Training must include applying automation and analytics to the everyday workflows of corporate, litigation, and specialty practices." Allens created "Legal Expertise and Delivery" training that uses behavioral science and design thinking to address mindset barriers like tech anxiety. This holistic approach equips lawyers to integrate AI seamlessly.
Industry experts emphasize that while AI assumes routine legal tasks, future firms must remain distinctly human. "Outstanding lawyers realize legal practice is a human service profession, not just a business," says Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana University. "Firms that focus exclusively on efficiency at the expense of human judgment and client relationships will flounder." Successful firms will capitalize on AI while cultivating lawyers" qualitative skills in areas like empathy, creativity, and communication that make legal work relationship-driven.
According to Henderson, "The law firm of the future will blend technologists, legal professionals, project managers, and business services in integrated teams that provide clients customized solutions." Dentons" Nextlaw Labs and Davis Wright Tremaine"s De Novo unit exemplify practices that combine legal, technical, and design experts. Custom teams are assembled around client needs instead of rigid service lines. This reflects the multidisciplinary collaboration that AI demands of successful firms.
Law firms must also get comfortable with technology vendors and alternative providers as partners rather than rivals. Says Reed, "Future firms will embrace the sharing economy for legal services, partnering flexibly with legal staffing firms, online service companies, and law companies." KPMG"s AI-powered Third Party Insights platform was developed with UnitedLex and leverages both organizations" strengths. Such symbiotic relationships between law firms and legal tech providers will become the norm.
Law schools face pressure to overhaul traditional curricula and prepare students for technology-driven legal practice. Experts argue today"s graduates lack the skills needed to utilize legal AI, work cross-functionally, and adapt as the field evolves. How law schools respond will shape the readiness of future generations of lawyers.
"Law schools are notoriously slow to embrace changes in the legal market and profession," says Bill Henderson, professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. "This has bred a widening skills gap as technology advances." Schools historically focused on doctrinal instruction and theoretical Socratic debate. But graduates now enter a landscape of legal analytics, robotic process automation, and tech-savvy clients.
A 2020 survey found just 18% of lawyers felt law school prepared them to leverage technology in practice. "Schools must move beyond teaching legal reasoning alone to providing technology fluency," says Mark Cohen, founder of Legal Mosaic consulting. "Few mandates are more compelling than law schools preparing students for legal delivery in the digital age."
Some law schools are creating courses specifically focused on legal technology, including artificial intelligence, e-discovery, and computational law. Georgia State University College of Law now offers an upper-level Artificial Intelligence course exploring legal applications. UC Berkeley School of Law teaches a Hands-On Course on Legal Technology covering tools like document automation, outcome prediction, and e-discovery. Other programs like Duke, Stanford, and Northwestern have added legal project management classes teaching process analysis and improvement.
However, experts caution that standalone courses are insufficient. Daniel Martin Katz, professor and co-founder of the Computational Legal Studies program at Illinois Tech Chicago-Kent College of Law, argues that proficiency in legal technology should be woven throughout core curricula. "We must fundamentally re-engineer legal education, not just append a class on legal tech," he asserts. Core classes should apply technology to teach subjects like evidence, contracts, and legal writing. Clinics allow experiential learning with real systems and data. This integration mirrors how technology permeates modern practice.
Schools are also forming partnerships with legal AI providers for applied learning. Thomson Reuters sponsors an alliance amongst seven law schools to collaborate on preparing data-savvy, technology-enabled graduates. Students access Westlaw Edge, Drafting Assistant Plus, and other tools to hone skills. Stanford Law School partnered with pioneering research company Ravel Law to create a Legal Analytics Lab for students to utilize AI applications.
Programs are beginning to emphasize technology"s impacts on ethics and access to justice as well. University of Arizona's Law and Economics of Artificial Intelligence course examines issues like inherent bias. Hastings College of Law explores how AI affects rules of professional conduct around competence and supervisory duties. Academics argue technology must enhance, not undermine, the profession"s commitments to equity and accountability.