Artificial Intelligence: Disruption in the Legal Profession

Artificial intelligence (also known as AI) is a modern analytics-crunching technological innovation that amplifies innate operations of a human being mainly using machines and software programmes. From self-driven cars, robot judges (an artificial intelligence software installed on a robot to predict the outcome of human rights cases with a staggering 79% accuracy) to SIRI (an AI assistant to navigate apple devices), AI is undoubtedly ever progressing and literally influencing the day-to-day activities of our lives.

When it comes to Law, what is the Place of AI within the Legal Profession?

AI-powered software enables lawyers to work from virtually any location with the use of cloud computing programmes. This essentially implies that work can be outsourced to a legal team and executed effectively as if members were in the same room. The trickle-down effect of this development is that through AI, lawyers can increase their productivity when dealing with various client matters in several ways:

  • Due diligence: Lawyers across the globe are tasked with a professional responsibility of conducting due diligence when handling various client matters. This mainly involves uncovering background information, facts and figures for the purpose (s) of affording accurate legal counsel to the clients. In Kenya, AI powered digital platforms such as e-Citizen and iTax have greatly helped lawyers not only in conducting due diligence on legal documents but also on increasing efficiency based on the accuracy of the data received.
  • Contract review: The process of contract making is often dominated by back and forth negotiations between the parties before reaching a final binding agreement. This means that lawyers need to constantly review terms of a contract, make additions or delete unnecessary clauses to fit a client’s needs. AI comes in handy in helping analyse the contents of a contract, for instance, through flagging grammatical errors, aiding in proper formatting, providing readability statistics, suggesting appropriate phrasing and sentence structure and enhancing the overall appearance of a legal document. 
  • Legal research: Lawyers often depend on precedents and legal templates as key components in meeting and solving client needs. AI has made such research tools readily available at the click of a button. For instance, the Kenya Law Report through its digital website platform is one such entity that significantly helps lawyers access case law precedents for use as legal authorities. Globally, search engines such as LexisNexis have steered access to legal information hence fortifying the significance of AI. 
  • Judicial service delivery: AI has, by the same token, had a great impact within the judiciary and court corridors. 
  •  Locally, in recent times, Justice D.S. Majanja delivered a ruling online with consent of the parties under Misc. Civil Application No. E43 of 2020 defeating the golden rule that all judgements and ruling pronouncements should be made in open court. AI has also made it possible for video conference evidence to be admissible before courts especially in high risk criminal matters such as Livingstone Maina Ngare v R (2011).

It therefore appears that wherever you choose to look, the impact of AI is seemingly seamless.

Will AI replace Real Lawyers?

While it is apparent that AI is a great resource within the legal profession, flesh and blood lawyers are a far valuable resource that cannot be made redundant by AI anytime soon.

AI is a tool; however, this does not in itself imply that we are going to have less people doing an ever-increasing amount of work within the legal sector. As much as AI has proved to be beneficial in several ways, one cannot fully understand the ins and outs of legal practice by just depending on tools of AI.

Lawyers are creative analytical professionals who will often address a problem based on a set of facts and assumptions unlike AI that is set to execute specific commands as directed. Court pronouncements too require value thinking hence putting to rest the debate of having robot judges. Although it is not questionable that AI makes legal work more efficient and cost-effective, most clients (if not all) will feel more comfortable knowing that they have an experienced advocate working out their issues and at the same time maintaining an inter-personal relationship which goes a long way in creating mutual trust.

Roy Bosire

is a Legal Intern with the Firm.
He holds a Bachelor of Laws Degree from University of Nairobi and a Post Graduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law.

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