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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the world as we know it.
Among the key drivers of this expeditious change is Artificial Intelligence (AI). With the enterprise adoption of deep learning and machine learning algorithms, AI disruption has affected several industries. Considering AI’s exponential growth, its disruption shall likely extend to every sector in the foreseeable future.
Nonetheless, AI disruption is more of an innovation than a threat – a new gold standard era, in the legal sector. The law touches every corner of the business world. Virtually everything that companies do—sales, purchases, partnerships, mergers, reorganizations—they do via legally enforceable contracts. Innovation would grind to a halt without a well-developed body of intellectual property law.
Day to day, whether we recognize it or not, each of us operates against the backdrop of our legal regime and the implicit possibility of litigation.
At close to $1 Trillion globally, the legal services market is one of the largest in the world. At the same time, it remains profoundly under digitized.
For better or worse, the field of law is tradition-bound and notoriously slow to adopt new technologies and tools.
In 2019, it was announced that students at University College London and the University of Sheffield had successfully developed artificial intelligence software that can predict the outcome of human rights cases by analyzing previous court judgements. This story certainly sounded like science fiction but the AI software came to verdicts with an astonishing 79% accuracy.
At the time it was made clear that this robot judge is not intended as a replacement for real-life judges and is far more likely to be confined to analyzing patterns in legal cases. However, it cannot be denied that AI and other forms of technology will only encroach further on the legal profession.
At first glance, these exciting technological developments do not appear to leave very much room for human lawyers to get involved. However, technology is also being used to make lawyers’ lives easier and more flexible.
Technology gives legal professionals the opportunity to work from home using Cloud software and remote desktop programs. Today, IT Companies are connecting law firms and barristers with freelance law students and paralegals which allows work to be outsourced quickly and easily without the need for a legal team to be in the same building.
More than any technology before it, artificial intelligence will transform the practice of law in dramatic ways. Indeed, this process is already underway.
These technological changes are unlikely to make flesh and blood lawyers redundant anytime soon. While AI and other automated programs are a great resource, there is a limit to what formulaic and logical programs can achieve.
Consequently, people skills are becoming more highly valued than ever since technology can only really take over if the clients are robots too. This is an important fact to bear in mind as a future lawyer.
Recruiters will certainly be expecting law candidates to be proficient in every-day technology such as Microsoft Word, but they will also be looking for open minded people who are willing to try out and learn about new technology.
In conclusion, consider the main functional areas in a typical business: marketing, sales, customer success, finance, accounting, human resources, talent, legal.
In nearly all of these functions, billion-dollar-plus enterprise software businesses have been built in the past two decades to enhance productivity and workflows. To give a few examples: HubSpot (marketing); Salesforce (sales); Zendesk (customer success); Workday (finance); NetSuite (accounting); Gusto (HR); LinkedIn (talent).
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the African legal industry. Nigeria, the Africa’s most populous nation seems unprepared for the impending transformation. Aside from its conservative nature which is a deterrent to innovation, the majority of Nigerian Legal Industry perceive AI as a doomsday, which will lead to job loss or possibly upset the status quo. When not feared, there is only much talk about AI and no action.
It is in this same vein that Legalpedia calls on leading law firms to rise up to the occasion and take a bold actions to prepare and embrace the futre.