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Artificial Intelligence (AI) Cannot Automate All Legal Tasks



(p. B1) "There is this popular view that if you can automate one piece of the work, the rest of the job is toast," said Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "That's just not true, or only rarely the case."

An artificial intelligence technique called natural language processing has proved useful in scanning and predicting what documents will be relevant to a case, for example. Yet other lawyers' tasks, like advising clients, writing legal briefs, negotiating and appearing in court, seem beyond the reach of computerization, for a while.


. . .


(p. B3) Dana Remus, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Mr. Levy studied the automation threat to the work of lawyers at large law firms. Their paper concluded that putting all new legal technology in place immediately would result in an estimated 13 percent decline in lawyers' hours.

A more realistic adoption rate would cut hours worked by lawyers by 2.5 percent annually over five years, the paper said. The research also suggests that basic document review has already been outsourced or automated at large law firms, with only 4 percent of lawyers' time now spent on that task.

Their gradualist conclusion is echoed in broader research on jobs and technology. In January, the McKinsey Global Institute found that while nearly half of all tasks could be automated with current technology, only 5 percent of jobs could be entirely automated. Applying its definition of current technology -- widely available or at least being tested in a lab -- McKinsey estimates that 23 percent of a lawyer's job can be automated.



For the full story, see:

STEVE LOHR. "A.I. Is Doing Legal Work. But It Won't Replace Lawyers, Yet.." The New York Times (Mon., MARCH 20, 2017): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 19, 2017, and has the title "A.I. Is Doing Legal Work. But It Won't Replace Lawyers, Yet.")


The Remus and Levy article, mentioned above, is:

Remus, Dana, and Frank S. Levy. "Can Robots Be Lawyers? Computers, Lawyers, and the Practice of Law." Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics (forthcoming).






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