By Ayomide Oluwafemi. Esq.
We cannot live our lives pretending, especially at the changes around us. Each decade ushers in a new form of technological development, many of which we need to be conversant with or we will be left behind. The advancement in artificial intelligence which really is not a new innovation seem to have caught the world unawares, the legal profession inclusive.
Artificial intelligence, sometimes called machine intelligence is the intelligence demonstrated by machines in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by human and animals1. The term (Artificial intelligence) was coined by American Computer Scientist John McCarthy in his 1955 proposal for the 1956 Darmouth Conference, the very first ‘Artificial Intelligence’ conference. This field of science was founded on the assumption that human intelligence can be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it2.
The practice of law in Nigeria has evolved over the years and it keeps evolving from decade to decade. What was obtainable in the 80s will be taking several steps into oblivion if applied today. With the times, comes the development which ordinarily will require the active participation of man to tap into to be considered developments. Therefore, the legal profession in Nigeria which otherwise was moving at the pace to which a man could think is gradually getting help from factors that can help the pace of such thoughts, and one of them is technology. One of the best thing to have happened to the world in form of technology is the creation of Artificial Intelligence.
Today in developed countries of the world, artificial intelligence is beginning to transform the legal profession in many ways, which is not to say that Nigeria being a developing country is left behind. However, Nigeria like many developing nations has approached the introduction of artificial intelligence with ‘caution’ or better put, fear. Fears created by fallacies born from beliefs that some things are too traditional to be changed. That is untrue because that change has crept up on the Legal profession and the failure to acknowledge and work with the change will create a 20th Century lawyer in the 21st Century which exactly is not attractive.
The legal profession as we know thrives on hard work, dedication and consistency, but much as hard work is required, no one said the work should be that hard especially when you have a means of making that yoke light. The presence of artificial intelligence can do all of that and more. They include:
- Due Diligence
Due Diligence is an essential task for many Legal Practitioners, providing clients with vital information concerning things like Mergers and Acquisition, it is vital for accessing risks and structuring an agreement. It is also very time consuming.
Modern law firms are increasingly turning to the power of Artificial Intelligence in their due diligence task. Dedicated Legal Artificial Intelligence technology for due diligence like ‘Imanage’ can speed up the process and eliminate inaccuracies that can arise from human errors. From preparation and goal-setting to the investigation and categorization of financial statements, contracts and other vital information, the due diligence process is an arduous task. The process requires gathering documents saved across systems and hard drives, analyzing each text for key data points and creating a due diligence report based on content findings. Legal practitioners spend significant amount of time and money on each task, valuable resources that can be used elsewhere. Time constraint often limit this process and many legal practitioners work late hours or hire outside resources to meet many demand in the allotted time. This can lead to frustration across the firm, decrease employee morale and even lead to inaccuracies that could affect the entire deal’s integrity. Artificial Intelligence presents a solution to these challenges and more. With artificial intelligence, Law firms can perform more tasks in less time while ensuring greater accuracy in their reporting. For example, the ‘imanage RAVN Extract’ is an artificial intelligence that can automatically read, extract and interpret critical business documents and unstructured data. With this, there is increase in productivity, reduction in cost, it saves time and it transforms unmanageable projects into streamlined and profitable processes.
- Legal Research
Artificial Intelligence is too great an opportunity for Lawyers to ignore. Much as the legal profession is undergoing constant change, one thing that remains unchanged is the importance of legal research. Legal research will allow you to advise your client on the standards of the law of this moment3. In this regard, artificial intelligence can help to rapidly confirm facts, expedite the process of finding background information which can accelerate arbitration and litigation Proceedings.
The world’s first artificial intelligence lawyer ‘ROSS’ can read over a million pages of law in a few seconds, try giving that to a human. Currently, lawyers run into two main issues when performing legal research;
- Too many cases on a legal issue, which one best supports an argument?
- Too few cases on a legal issue, am I unto the right line of research?
‘ROSS’ helps in avoiding both situations by finding the most relevant cases in a snap, thereby reducing the workload. In Nigeria, legal Technology Company ‘Law Pavilion’ introduced ‘TIMI’ an Artificial Intelligence which was the first of its kind in the whole of Africa. It works like a consultants that a lawyer can chat with to get things done faster.
- Predict Legal Outcomes
A sustainable law practice can also be created through Artificial Intelligence in the area of storing legal data and predicting legal outcomes. Artificial intelligence has the ability to store years’ worth of legal data and can sift through them to tell lawyers their chances of winning relevant cases. While this may be theoretical in Nigeria at the moment, it will not be in a few years’ time especially with the fast growth in both technology and law in the country. Already, in more developed countries of the world, artificial intelligence like ROSS is used for such purpose.
There seems to be a certain fear among legal practitioners on Artificial intelligence taking over their work or creating mass unemployment, let it be known that nothing can be farther from the truth, because at the end of the day, artificial intelligence was created to create ease in almost all facets of life and by extension, the legal profession.
Generally, there are three types of Artificial intelligence to wit:
- Artificial Narrow Intelligence, which is what is obtainable now.
- Artificial General Intelligence, seen in many science fiction movies and novels
- Artificial Super Intelligence, this is what people mean when they talk about robots taking over the world.
Artificial intelligence is an assistant, it assists in making burdens light, work that would have otherwise taken weeks can be done by an Artificial Intelligence in seconds. We must realize that we do not have a situation of technology v humans, rather we have a situation of humans v humans with technology.
The ‘Artificial Narrow Intelligence’ popularly called the ‘weak AI’ is what is in our world today. It is not conscious, sentient or emotion-driven like the way we humans are, that is, it has no will of its own. Most of them are designed to perform a single task and anything outside that will most likely come back with answers that are not so sensible, because no matter what, Artificial intelligence is incapable of producing true human intelligence. Therefore when we converse with an artificial intelligence like ‘SIRI’, it is not a conscious machine responding to our queries, that is why if you pose an abstract question like ‘the meaning of life’ you will not be too impressed with its return, why, because it was not designed for something like that, therefore, such machine cannot take over the job meant for humans.
The late Physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking once expressed in 2014 that he believes that artificial intelligence will be the end of mankind4, much as i am not a physicist or a scientist, I do not agree with him. For a machine to have the ability to ‘take over’ it has to have the ability of experiencing consciousness and having a will of its own and this cannot happen, because whatever will an Artificial Intelligence will display will be a will imputed in its design, therefore movies like ‘Avengers, Age of Ultron’4 where ‘Ultron’, an artificial intelligence suddenly developed a will to destroy mankind as against the original will imputed by ‘the Iron Man’ to be a form of security is not foreseeable due to the lack of consciousness in machines. Therefore, in summary, artificial intelligence is a form of assistant and nothing else.
The growth and continual relevance of law practice will be dependent on its aligning with the technological trajectory, a trajectory pointing in the direction of artificial intelligence, failure of which will create an obsolete law practice.
In the year 2016, the law firm of Baker & Hostetler announced that they were employing ‘ROSS’ to handle their bankruptcy practice5. What that would do is lessen the workload of the several lawyers in the bankruptcy department of that firm and also help in accurately generate responses along with reference and citations.
Concluding, artificial intelligence is not the future of technology and the law, it is the present, and the earlier the Nigerian legal profession embraces this progressive concept, the better for it.
2 The Darmouth Proposal, 1955, John McCarthy.
3 ‘How to find out anything and the internet guide for the Legal Researcher’ Don Macleod.
4 From the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Cecille De Jesus “Artificial Intelligence” May 11 2016.