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Lawyers need to learn to work with AI, says law service founder

Big potential for automation in legal sector, but lawyers need to work with technology

Lawyers need to learn to work with AI, says law service founder
Lawyers need to understand how AI can support their work, says McMahon.

Lawyers and the legal profession need to learn to harness new technology including AI, or risk losing relevance, according to Lee McMahon, Principal of Support Legal.

Speaking at an industry briefing on legal automation, McMahon said that technologies which simulate human intelligence and decision-making are increasing the potential for automation in the the legal sector. This in turn means that lawyers will need to adapt quickly, and add coding skills to their legal expertise.

McMahon, who is also co-founder of Support Legal, a new legal services platform for entrepreneurs and emerging companies, said: "Technical know-how is fast becoming a critical component of law, but legal technology is only as good as experienced lawyers sitting with the developer helping them break down complex legal thought processes into automated workflows. As more and more elements of the legal profession turn to automation and AI, the role of the lawyer as we know it will look fundamentally different.

"Clients no longer want to pay for full manual labour under the billable hour, but they aren't inclined to trust the fate of their businesses with full automation either. There must be a marrying of lawyers with technology. Coding should become part of the law degree, or at the very least, lawyers need to hire developers as part of their legal team."

McMahon continued: "Traditionally, law has been an inherently inefficient industry as the billable hour ensured those who stayed in the office latest were often met with reward. But with document automation and the adoption of artificial intelligence allowing large volume document reviews, this time-saving can translate into cost savings for clients while affording lawyers the time to engage in the more satisfying, creative, strategic, human-specific work of legal representation."

Likening the disruption of AI in the legal industry to the introduction of Excel for accountancy, McMahon discussed the rate of technological adoption as a threat to some of the larger and less agile law firms. The ethics of automation were also discussed, with attendees questioning the disputing of AI decisions and accountability if or when a computer gets it wrong.

"While AI has the capability of solving a higher number of cases and removing the inherent biases of judges, the introduction of new and unchartered technology is not without its challenges. AI has great potential to focus on solving commodity based problems, but its rapid industry-wide adoption must be governed at a higher level by humans with the emotional, rational capacity to determine if the system has made a mistake," explained McMahon.

The Thomson Reuters Breakfast Briefing was attended by members of the profession, the session included a panel discussion with industry experts Mark Beer, Co-Chief Executive and Registrar General of DIFC Courts; Justine Reeves, Clyde & Co; Jack Hardman, Clifford Chance; and Foutoun Hajjar, Al Tamimi; and finished with McMahon's discussion with Thomson Reuter's Paresh Khushal.

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