Artificial intelligence slowly eliminating need for lawyers?

After Indian law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas made an announcement to deploy an Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for its operations, Infosys’ Mana has recently been in the news for having absorbed the work performed by an entire team of lawyers.

Infosys’ home-grown AI software is being adopted by banks in Asia, which have been at the forefront of adoption of newer technologies.

As reported by Business Standard, an undisclosed Bank in Asia has used Mana to process contracts, which would otherwise require a dedicated team of 10-15 lawyers.

We had an astonishing experience with a client in Asia in the last quarter where we were able to eliminate a small team of lawyers by using Mana to analyse non-disclosure agreements and other contractual documents, only escalating exceptions to senior lawyers”, said Vishal Sikka, chief executive officer of Infosys.

In other parts of the world, AI has already started dispensing with the use of lawyers in many places.

JP Morgan’s COIN for instance,

does the mind-numbing job of interpreting commercial-loan agreements that, until the project went online in June, consumed 360,000 hours of lawyers’ time annually.

The software reviews documents in seconds, is less error-prone and never asks for vacation.”

Russia’s Sberbank has also announced a launch of a robot lawyer, which will be assigned a task to process letters of complaints.

The bank reported that this innovation will result in the axing of approximately 3000 specialists currently working in the bank structure, relieving bank’s specialists from routine tasks.

Looking into the future, the bank’s Deputy Chairman said that eventually the processing of all routine legal documentation will be automatized, allowing lawyers to deal only with serious legal procedures.

Meanwhile back home, Citibank is also committed  to adopting the cutting edge of AI. Just recently, they kicked off a number of pilots for robotics and smart process automation in the space of contract drafting, contract abstraction, invoice processing and review, settlements, accruals and reserves reconciliation, and other legal operations processes as well.

The first AI lawyer ROSS, that runs on IBM Watson’s cognitive computing platform has significantly expanded its clientele. Law firms already using ROSS include, Van Horn, K&L Gates, Simpson Thacher, Latham & Watkins LLP, Dickinson Wright, Salazar Jackson, Bryan Cave, Von Briesen, Womble Carlyle, Dentons, Sedwick LLP, Korbe & Kim, BakerHosteler and Fennemore Craig.

This rekindles the debate on whether AI will aid or replace legal professionals. The general perception is that AI will automate only routine tasks performed by junior lawyers whereas complex, higher-value work will continue to require a lawyer’s skills.

According to Sikka,

For now, we have AI at a unique situation, where on the one hand it is eating the jobs of the past but on the other hand it is creating far greater opportunities for jobs of the future.