Artificial intelligence won't replace professionals in the legal sector, but it will make their lives much easier. These are the words of Alessandra Bini, General Counsel at IMB Italy. It was IBM, alongside robotics company SoftBank robotics, that created Pepper two years ago. Pepper is a high-tech legal assistant, developed using a cognitive AI system that can analyse vast quantities of data in just a few seconds, optimising and rationalising the work involved in legal research to extensive levels. We asked Alessandra Bini how artificial intelligence will transform how the law is practised. This was her reply.
In what ways could artificial intelligence be used within the field of law?
The impact of artificial intelligence in the legal sector is similar to its impact on other disciplines. AI’s huge value is that, with it, it's possible to take enormous volumes of data and apply comparison methods to it. This makes a high level of knowledge management possible. Being able to analyse documents in this way is comparable to older legal research methods using databases, but with the added benefit that results can be found not just by using a keyword but by analysing concepts or even document structures. Artificial intelligence thus allows us to study large quantities of documents within exceedingly short time frames. This also facilitates the identification of risk areas and clauses that require particular attention because they are not in line with standard models or with the law.
Artificial intelligence allows us to study large quantities of documents within exceedingly short time frames.
In addition to knowledge, another possible use of AI in international firms is linked to the expertise finder or, rather, the ability AI has to rapidly identify the top specialists in a given sector or on a particular matter. It is, therefore, an advantage in rationalising human resources, especially when it comes to firms with offices in several countries.
The other aspect for which this tool is incredibly useful is the efficiency it brings to processes. Artificial intelligence allows for a very strict control of resources and spending budgets. It is a less obvious function, but a very important one.
Finally, AI can be used to implement engagement. Using query methods - chatbots, for example - opens the way for face-to-face interaction. The user can ask questions and obtain accurate responses.
What do you think will be the main developments?
Legal professionals are used to investing huge amounts of time in studying texts, which is why I believe the analytical abilities of artificial intelligence represent one of the most significant areas of advancement. It will no longer be necessary to personally carry out research - instead, there will be tools that perform that research for us and infinitely faster. This will allows us to optimise and save on resources and on time.
Artificial intelligence allows for a very strict control of resources and spending budgets.
There seem to be many advantages, but what will the main difficulties be in adopting this tool?
The biggest challenge will be in understanding the exact purpose for making use of artificial intelligence. It cannot be set up in the same way as a traditional database, we’re not dealing with a storage system. It needs to be customised and, for that, it is important to clearly define what is required of it. The work constructing the model will be extremely complex, so it is necessary to invest in a big way from the start. And not just in implementing the system but also in training, as we need to ensure the professionals are able to understand and use the functionalities of AI to their fullest, allowing them to capitalise on the investment and freeing up resources elsewhere.
The value of artificial intelligence is often discussed, but so is the risk that it could take away human jobs. Is it possible that the law could be practised exclusively by machines in the future?
Artificial intelligence definitely allows us to speed up processes and increase their efficiency, but ideas make people. It’s easy to see how the most repetitive tasks could be performed by the machines, leaving people to do the more complex - but also the more interesting - ones. I don't believe AI will replace professionals.