Artificial intelligence (AI) is the science and engineering of creating intelligent machines. Computers are being taught to execute tasks and solve problems that normally require human intelligence. The process of teaching machines to think and perform like humans is why AI is also referred to as machine learning or machine intelligence.

Hard v Soft Artificial Intelligence

There are two types of AI.

  1. Hard AI focuses on making machines think like humans; and
  2. Soft AI focuses on making machines perform work like humans.

The key difference being that soft AI does not necessarily involve machines thinking like humans, only carrying out tasks that traditionally only humans could do.

How Far We’ve Come

Some of the more well-known AI achievements include innovations such as driverless cars, speech-recognition engines and medical analysis systems. Even Google is a type of AI that has shown that it is possible to find information by using a computer algorithm. Now there are many technologies in our everyday lives that rely on machine learning. For example Netflix and LinkedIn provide us with movie suggestions and professional tips by learning from our past activity.

Despite these remarkable developments, machines are yet to become as intelligent as humans. In fact, we have only seen about 5% of the total capabilities of AI so far.

The Next Industrial Revolution?

AI typically evokes fear of job loss as many suggest that it will lead to the next significant labour displacement since the Industrial Revolution. Others think that the machine learning revolution will, in fact, be even more disruptive because it will never plateau – computers will keep learning and continue to get better at intellectual activities.

Despite preparation for a catastrophic change, others are more optimistic about the new jobs that will surface with AI. AI in the legal profession, for example, will introduce different legal work that previously wasn’t available. Even the very existence of AI spurs legal questions, such as the liability of Google’s driverless cars.

Rise of Smart Apps

Smart Apps give immediate and precise answers to specific questions. For example, ComplianceHR is a self-service Smart App platform, whereby Littler Mendelson, a leading US human resources law firm, has provided the subject matter for a significant amount of compliance obligations.

The University of Melbourne Law School is the first law school in Australia where students have created a web-based legal expert system that provides tailored legal advice to consumers. The AI program is founded on the belief that students are facing a rapidly changing work environment and therefore must be adaptive and innovative.

Menial Legal Processes Taken Over By AI

The cost of human labour to examine boxes and boxes of pre-litigation discovery documents is often excessive. E-discovery artificial intelligence, however, can streamline this process, allowing lawyers to focus their energies on higher-level tasks. In fact, many believe that the use of AI predictive coding will become mainstream in the next few years. The Chicago-based NexLP, for instance, which stands for next generation language processing, provides a service that sees computers evaluate patterns in data to find results.

Automated contract review and due diligence is another service that uses AI software developed by eBrevia’s and Ravn Systems. Document automation and review, such as e-discovery, is taking off and will influence a diversity of legal practices.

AI to Predict Legal Outcomes

NexLP was also influenced by the work of Professor Daniel Martin Katz, from the Michigan State University law school, who with his colleagues, created an algorithm to predict the outcome of US Supreme Court cases. NexLP seeks to develop this idea so analytics may predict the results of future litigation, streamline legal workflows and reduce or eliminate risk altogether.

Future AI Projects

AI may even detect crime. NexLP is also working on measuring emotional responses that, for example, could see technology detect insider trading, among other things.

Of course for AI to keep shaping the legal landscape it requires time and funding. NextLaw Labs is a global platform focused on developing and investing in new technologies to transform the practice of law. For example Ross Intelligence, a NextLaw Labs startup uses AI to answer legal questions about legislation, case law and secondary sources, in simple terms.


AI is enabling lawyers to do more complex and intellectually challenging work. Why? Because it takes over basic tasks and allows lawyers to concentrate on high-level issues to deliver results to clients in less time. AI’s ultimate beneficiaries, however, will be clients who will receive legal advice quickly at a greatly reduced cost.

What do you think about AI and its effects on law? Let us know your thoughts on LegalVision’s Twitter page.

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