Many common chores, such as grocery shopping and even routine doctor visits, can now be completed online. Law, however, has traditionally been a very “hands-on” industry. There are many moving parts involved in any one case: clients, judges, jurisdiction, precedent, and on and on. The skills necessary for organizing and synthesizing all of this information traditionally requires a person with a law degree and his or her paralegals, secretaries and other team members. Because of this, the field has been fairly resistant to automation. With rapidly advancing technology, though, this is changing. Below are six areas impacted by technology.
To begin with, let’s discuss one area of legal practice that still mandates in-person activity: the courtroom. Judges, juries, lawyers and others are still required to present themselves physically for trial. However, online scheduling systems, such as that available for court reporters Portland, make the organization of in-person activities more convenient and efficient. One exception to the need for in-person court appearances are witness depositions—testimony taken under oath outside of court. In some cases, depositions are presented in court with transcripts, but video is often more effective because it captures the witness’s body language as well as his or her words. The high resolution video technology available today allows for even greater clarity and nuance in depositions. With the ability to capture effective witness testimony remotely, lawyers now have the opportunity to incorporate expert witnesses that may have been previously unavailable due to travel or time constraints.
As with court appointments, meetings are also able to be scheduled online. Many one-on-one appointments and some conferences can be held over video chat. This allows lawyers, clients and other important personnel to work on a more flexible schedule which can lead to greater productivity by reducing scheduling conflicts. Additionally, virtual meetings can decrease expenses by minimizing travel time and eliminating the need for large conference rooms.
Writing legal briefs has traditionally been a time-consuming endeavor. Databases have been automated for years, but this only allows for searches by keyword, date, jurisdiction, etc. New software uses artificial intelligence to scour databases for relevant case histories and other pertinent sources, allowing lawyers to compose these documents more quickly than ever. Because AI can recognize patterns, the new programs can find applicable information that may have been overlooked using traditional search methods. In addition to having more information at their disposal, technological assistance with information gathering gives lawyers more time to synthesize that information and create a compelling argument for court.
Many legal disputes involve lengthy contracts. New software using artificial intelligence has the capability to review documents and draw attention to the most important or potentially troublesome areas of a contract. This AI performs initial information gathering and final inspection of documents and is designed to work in conjunction with legal specialists rather than replacing them.
Artificial intelligence also now has the power to assist lawyers in predicting the outcome of cases. The technology can help the legal team discover trends that are relevant to the case as well as gain insight into the behavior of judges and expert witnesses that will be on the case. The information learned about expert witnesses is particularly useful. Traditionally, lawyers only heard about experts through their colleagues. Legal analytics allows them to study data on the experts’ past performances so they can select the best witness for their purposes and craft a better strategy for dealing with the opposition experts.
Some aspects of the legal profession are automated or on their way to automation which can save time and money. However, more complex issues like handling lawsuits, adoptions, divorces, etc. will continue to require the critical and creative thinking that lawyers have always utilized. Furthermore, the automation of some of the more tedious tasks allows lawyers to devote more time and brain power to other matters and better serve their clients.