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AI and Law Hits the Mainstream

On March 19, 2017, the New York Times published an article which is sure to be widely noticed in the legal community. Entitled, "A.I. Is Doing Legal Work. But It Won’t Replace Lawyers, Yet.", the article makes the case that concerns about artificial intelligence eliminating large numbers of attorney jobs is probably overblown. The Times highlights the findings of Dana Remus of the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Frank Levy of MIT in their study, "Can Robots Be Lawyers? Computers, Lawyers, and the Practice of Law". The paper claims that even a uniform implementation of legal technology would only reduce lawyer's billable hours by 13 per cent. Remus and Levy's research indicates that lawyers currently spend only 4 per cent of their time on document review.

The Times contrasts these findings with a McKinsey study that concluded 23 per cent of attorney tasks can be automated. Also discussed are the efforts of Alexander Hudek of Kira Systems to automate contract review. He's apparently been successfully at reducing the time required to review contracts by 20-60%. Ross Intelligence has software that can quickly find cases similar to the one an attorney is working on. Ross can also generate legal memoranda which an attorney interviewed by the Times claims are indistinguishable from those drafted by attorneys, but that is only because human input is involved.

An attorney from Palo Alto, is quoted as claiming that a patent case in 1999 that would require three partners, five associates and four paralegals, will now only necessitate one partner, two associates, and one paralegal.

What comes up in a Times article is likely to get repeated either first hand or second hand in the legal community, so it's a good idea to be familiar with the more salient facts in it.

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