Lawyers discuss how AI is changing the legal sector at international conference

A recent international conference on Artificial Intelligence (AI) has seen digital leaders from the sector discuss how AI is transforming the profession.

At a panel in London, at which lawyers spoke of their experience of working with AI, examples were shared as to how some magic circle firms are already working with AI systems.

Sonia Cissé, managing associate at Linklaters in Paris, talked about her experience of how AI is helping lawyers to sift through unstructured data. Linklaters was one of the first magic circle firms to install an AI system. It has also developed its own tool – Nakhoda – which enables AI-backed data analysis and extraction.

The system is used on live matters, and Cissé discussed how it was recently used by the firm’s banking department to compare 200 loan agreements. Furthermore, according to Cissé, tests show that the AI system reduced the time taken per document by around 26%, with an average accuracy of 75%. Time savings that are reflected in the fees proposed to clients.

However, Cissé stressed that, despite concerns, AI and machine-learning are not replacing humans. Instead, in her opinion, AI is helping lawyers to focus on the more important strategic things. She also believes that AI improves morale among junior lawyers, as they are no longer expected to work such long hours.

Peter Stovall, a former solicitor at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer who is now enjoying a new career as an innovation consultant, also shared how his firm has deployed an AI system to assist with corporate due diligence.

However, Stovall also recognised that AI is still applied in “very narrow use cases”. He also highlighted that: “not many firms stick to one platform like the Big Four [accountants] do”. In his opinion, a more general AI system, capable of learning any new task, is still decades away.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has a case study on its website demonstrating how machine learning can be harnessed to reduce risk.

Despite these innovations, new entrants to the legal profession are not prepared for the growing reality of working alongside artificial intelligence (AI). That’s the opinion of Law Society president Christina Blacklaws.

She said: “At the moment we’re training lawyers for 20th-century practices, not even for current practice”. She also raised concerns that is a “mismatch with what they are doing in practice today, let alone what they will be doing in future.”