Can lawyers and robots be friends?

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The friendship between lawyers and robots is a win-win for lawyers and the business.

After publishing my last article, Introducing the Digital Contract Lawyer, I had a lot of people reach out to me with comments and questions around automation and artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal area.

Many of the lawyers I’ve talked to seem to think that robotics and AI cannot be used in legal services since there is too much complexity and human judgment involved. Of course, after five years of law school and over 12 years of experience, I know just how complex the legal environment is and I do not believe that a robot could do my job. But I am not suggesting that robots and AI should replace lawyers. Rather, I would like robots to become a lawyer’s best friend. Here’s why:

1. The role of a lawyer, especially an in-house contract lawyer, is being redefined. Lawyers are no longer focused solely on protecting company interests and highlighting risks but are increasingly helping to equip a business with the right tools to enable growth and facilitate sales. To do this, they need support because it is challenging to review thousands of contracts while helping to drive business growth.

2. While the role of the lawyer is shifting, organizations are also adjusting to market changes which puts increasing pressure on internal functions to be cheaper, faster, and better. The only way to address the challenge is through standardization, rightshoring, or automation. I think we’ve all accepted the fact that we need to standardize legal processes through templates, rulebooks, processes, procedures, RACIs etc. Most likely, we all have them in place by now. The other option is outsourcing and building a rightshore model in-house. The next clear tool to address all three points is automation.

3. At the end of the day, lawyers want to focus their time and training on more complex and higher value activities like driving negotiations and working with the business rather than reviewing simple NDAs or procurement contracts. This is where robots can help.

For example, as part of the Contract Compliance and Optimization services we provided to a client in the financial services sector to support a large due diligence project, we used a cognitive tool to extract and compare both the metadata and key clauses for hundreds of supplier agreements. The lawyer only had to do a final analysis and prepare the report. As a result, it allowed the lawyers to focus on the value-add tasks and the business saved 50,000 euros on this one-time activity alone.

The friendship between lawyers and robots is a win-win for lawyers and the business. And it is best to embrace the journey as it starts so you’re not left behind. There is a lot of space for both lawyers and robots to work together to deliver more value to the business while learning from each other.

I think, like in all things in life, the right balance is needed to make this partnership work.

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