Law firm managers and in-house counsel will increasingly rely on artificial intelligence (AI) for decisions on the best strategic course to take in the future, according to a Law Society study.
A firm’s head of IT might become commensurately more important within organisations, it predicted.
Alternatively, the role could diminish in significance as technology decisions became embedded across the organisation and sit within the remit of senior partners.
The ‘horizon scanning’ report, AI and the legal profession , aimed to bring solicitors up to speed with the state of the technology and raise questions that firms and legal businesses should ask themselves in preparation.
“Difficult ethical questions” included whether managers and individuals were ready to let machines and data generate insights and override the decisions of humans.
Law firms would change to accommodate the impact of AI on everything from the composition of the workforce, the nature of legal jobs, lower costs and changing fee structures, and strategic planning, it predicted.
AI would be used to assist with decision-making, including testing the validity of a wide range of business strategies, the report went on.
For instance, decision-makers could “use machine intelligence to enhance systemic thinking and to help build a complex picture of the ways in which seemingly distinct entities (eg economic, ecological, political systems) can interact to produce positive or negative implications for the business over the longer term”.
It identified changes already underway in areas including document analysis, contract intelligence, clinical negligence analysis, and case outcome prediction.
The report concluded: “Over the next few years there can be little doubt that AI will begin to have a noticeable impact on the legal profession.
“Law firms and in-house legal departments have opportunities to explore and challenges to address, but it is clear there will be change.
“There are also difficult ethical questions for society to decide, for which the Law Society may be in a unique position to lead debate.”
Last week, the Law Society launched a public policy commission  on the use of algorithms in the justice system.