Although the legal world is slow to adopt change, change is coming. More and more lawyers are embracing technologies that aid their profession into their practice. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is among the technology that is becoming hard to ignore.
Programs based on algorithms have been created to calculate the outcome of certain situations, such as how a divorce case will proceed. These findings help lawyers choose services and direct the path for the case for their clients. In other legal arenas, AI has become more controversial.
AI has been programmed to remove human biases that stem from our own personal experiences, which inform decisions subconsciously. It prevents decisions being made on an empty stomach or while in a bad mood. On the other hand, these AI programs are learning on their own through cryptic software coding. The proprietary nature of the algorithms have kept them from receiving much, if any, auditing or validity testing. On the outside, we don’t know how they are learning and what they are learning from.
In some cases, AI is used to give the probability of anything from whether a person will commit another crime, to if they will show up to their trial. The information helps determine if someone is guilty or innocent, their parole sentence or probation requirements. Without knowing how these systems are coming to one conclusion or another makes many people distrustful of using them in law. Some opponents have called for greater transparency in the algorithms.
In one Wisconsin case, a man was “sent to prison by a software,” which some claimed was “controversial judicial decision-making.” The AI pronounced the man as “high-risk” by a proprietary risk-assessment software called Compas. The man’s lawyers appealed the case, arguing that they should be able to review the algorithm and challenge its validity. This is likely just one of many cases of this nature to come.
Whether you are for or against these methods, they are coming and likely are not going anywhere. Be prepared for AI systems to show up in trials and perhaps even the firms you end up working in. Whether AI assists in your day-to-day tasks such as fact-finding or ends up being used against your client in a trial, you must know what you are working with.
The future of law will look much different than the past. Many skills will be needed moving forward- being flexible and seeking agile or project-based work, providing judgment, counsel, leadership and risk assessment. Practice your human skills in learning what clients want and need in a way that technology cannot. Building relationships is still very human.
Many classrooms aren’t yet teaching students how to become lawyers of the future. To learn more, network with those in technological roles from other industries. Learn from others who already understand the coming changes. Embrace the technology at hand and seek out programs that teach on AI law or law and technology. You may even find yourself looking for a new position where the technology is ahead of the curve (or at least keeping up) to grow your skillset. Need additional help with your career? Contact one of our legal recruiters today to find your next position or even for advice on how to advance your skills.