Law, as a self-regulated profession, has not changed much since the industrial revolution. It enjoys substantial immunity from outside challengers, particularly in comparison to other professions. This immunity is safeguarded by the enactment of protectionist professional rules and guidelines which govern civility, ethics, and protect lawyers from overthrow. Artificial Intelligence is, however, changing quickly the practice of law because the employment and application of AI is an indispensable aid in technology which every lawyer in Nigeria cannot ignore to practice law successfully in the future.
With the advent of Artificial Intelligence comes the dilemma that machines will take over the jobs of many lawyers in the future. However, this interpretation is fallacious as AI merely augments and simplifies the jobs of a lawyer. So, whilst it is true that intelligent software tools cut down the amount of time and generally improves efficiency, it is hard to imagine that machines will one day take over lawyers’ jobs. This paper therefore seeks to examine the pivotal roles of AI in creating a sustainable law practice in Nigeria.
The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was coined by John McCarthy, who defined it as “the development and use of machines to execute tasks which usually require human intelligence.” The term is also used to “denote machines that could use cognitive computing capabilities to mine data, decipher trends and pattern”. Simply put, it is the science of teaching computers how to ‘learn, reason, perceive, infer, communicate and make decisions that humans do’.
THE ROLE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) IN CREATING A SUSTAINABLE LAW PRACTICE IN NIGEIRA
While ‘AI’ remains a relatively unknown, and possibly even scary, term to many lawyers in Nigeria, it is undeniable that it is capable of contributing immensely to the creation of sustainable law practice in the country in the following areas:
- DUE DILIGENCE
One of the primary tasks that lawyers perform on behalf of their clients is the confirmation of facts and figures, and thoroughly assessing a legal situation. While extensive due diligence can positively impact long-term shareholders return, the process can also be very time-consuming and tedious. Lawyers need to conduct a comprehensive investigation for meaningful results. As such, lawyers are also prone to mistakes and inaccuracy when doing spot checks.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology proffers a feasible solution to these problems. If implemented in due diligence processes, AI is capable of performing a more accurate due diligence contract review by searching, highlighting, and extracting relevant content for analysis. A lawyer would have to customize the type of information that need to be extracted from scanned documents, and the software will then convert it to searchable text.
For instance, Kira Sysytem claims that its system can complete due diligence task up to 40% faster when using it for the first time, and up to 90% for those with more experience. E-Brevia claims that it can analyse more than 50 documents in less than a minute, 10% more accurate than a manual review process. JP Morgan claims that their program, named COIN extracts 150 attributes from 12,000 commercial credit agreements and contracts in only a few seconds. Others include LEVERSON; Thought River; LawGeex, Exterro, LegalSifter, etc
- LEGAL RESEARCH
Every lawsuits and legal advice requires diligent legal research. However, the amount of links to open, cases to read and information to note, can overwhelm lawyers who have limited time doing research.
Lawyers can take advantage of the AI for getting access to relevant statutory or judicial authorities. For instance, the natural language search capability of the ROSS Intelligence software helps lawyers read through thousands of cases; shows a list of most relevant laws, and help lawyers to analyse legal issues accurately.
In Nigeria, we now have companies dedicated to advancing legal technologies. In 2016, Nigeria’s foremost legal technologies company, Law Pavilion, launched Law Pavilion Prime, the first of its kind in Africa. The AI “gives in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of legal positions and authorities by generating a never-before-seen statistical analysis, historical data, precedential value ratings, conflicting judgments, locus classicus, statutory or literary authorities and opinions.” And now, the company has unveiled TIMI, Nigeria’s first artificial intelligence legal assistant which assists lawyers with legal research, litigation, and opinion drafting.
- PREDICTION OF LEGAL PROCEEDINGS OUTCOME
Sometimes, lawyers fail to pass the litmus test of outcome prediction, thereby leading to a backlog of cases in courts. Nevertheless, the introduction of AI in the legal industry offers a solution to this problem. Unlike human lawyers, AI can accurately utilize predictive analysis in a way that correctly envisages the conclusion of a legal dispute.
In 2004, a group of professors from Washington University tested their algorithm’s accuracy in forecasting Supreme Court decisions on all 628 argued cases in 2002. They compared their algorithm’s results against a team of experts’ findings. The statistical model by the researchers proved to be a better predictor by correctly forecasting 75% of the outcomes compared to the expert’s 59% accuracy. Similarly, Nikolaos Aletras of University College London and his team used machine learning to analyse case text of the European Court of Human Rights 584 cases and reported 79% accuracy on their outcome prediction.
- LEGAL ANALYTICS
Through the use of AI, lawyers in Nigeria can use data points from past case laws, win/loss rates and a judge’s history for trends and patterns that will help them during the course of litigation.
An AI tool, Lex Machina’s legal analytics software can be used to find out “who is the plaintiff, who is their counsel, who have they represented, and who else have they sued.” Using the Legal Analytics tool, an IP lawyer, Huong Nguyen found out that the judge’s history of ruling cases tend to favour cases like hers. Both parties settled in the end, which was a better resolution according to Nguyen.
Through Ravel Law and Premonition, the data can also be used in pitching a law firm’s services to potential clients by identifying a judge’s pattern of handling a case, providing intelligence on the opposing counsel, generating values on probability of winning the case and identifying litigation trends to use in their marketing campaigns.
- DOCUMENT AUTOMATION
Some law firms are beginning to adapt AI to draft documents through automated software. Many such software companies claim that the final document, which could take days by manual human drafting, is generated in a matter of minutes and made available online for attorney use.
For instance, Neota Logic System claimed that its software, PerfectNDA, shortens the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) process by offering templates selected by AI according to a user’s scenario. The user answers questions and a pre-filled template is then generated.
It is worthy of note that lawyers must accept and prepare for the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and explore the areas where the technology will greatly improve their services to clients rather than the fear and threat of Artificial Intelligence taking their hitherto protected legal services. Lawyers need not be afraid. Despite advances in technology toward providing technical answers in some of these areas, clients still need lawyers to predict human reactions in ways that no computer can handle. As succinctly put, ‘the point is not to “create robot lawyers, but to take the robots out of the lawyer.’
Lawyers must jettison their innate tendencies to resist change: they must innovate. In the face of imminent disruptions, lawyers and law firms should be willing to incorporate technological skills. It’s good to know that some Nigerian firms like Aelex, Olaniwun Ajayi, and Infusion Lawyers—the country’s first fully virtual IP&IT law firm—have embraced the endless possibilities that technology has to offer.
Adegboyo Solomon Adekunle: firstname.lastname@example.org
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