It’s a rarity for the great pre-occupations of our age to intersect so closely with that of the legal profession but artificial intelligence (AI) and the prospect of increasingly capable machines taking on swathes of work handled by people is a startling exception. While there has been much debate regarding the disorientating march of intelligent machines, the discussion is particularly potent in law, based as it is on the application of large, codified bodies of information that are freely available but very expensively applied via the legal profession.
And, as we address in our report on AI and automation this month, the hype looks largely justified. Advances in recent years in machine learning against a backdrop of increasingly powerful networked computers means automation has already driven considerable change in the legal industry in the last decade. Within five years that process will probably be at the level of reshaping the underlying business model of many industry leaders.