Legal document automation is a process that occurs when your law office relies on a program or chatbot-style technology to make the creation of basic legal documents more efficient. It takes information provided and completes specific legal documents. These legal documents may be an intake form, a template for a complaint, a template for your most commonly used motions, or even letters that you send out with your invoices.
With the big scare in the legal industry that artificial intelligence will one day take jobs away from lawyers, we want to answer an important question (and also tell you that AI will not take away your job). Is legal document automation really a form of artificial intelligence?
Process Automation Is Artificial Intelligence, But Shouldn’t Scare You
Depending on the legal document automation tool or tools relied on by your law firm, it may or may not feel like you’re using AI. It’s also important to note that while machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence, not all AI will get smarter through use.
Let’s use email to show you the main difference. No matter what email program you use, you have the ability to set rules through the program. You can set rules to send certain emails from particular senders into individual folders. You can set rules to have emails with certain keywords in the subject line automatically moved to a folder. It is a rules-based experience. Yes, you get to set the rules. That is based on an AI component that you set-up. You tell it exactly what to do…and it will do exactly what you tell it, no more and no less. And if your rules aren’t properly set-up, the program may not do anything. Yet, this function all of us have the ability to use isn’t something that we necessarily feel is artificial intelligence. We’ve just accepted it as something we expect out of our email providers.
Now think about one of Gmail’s newer features: the ability to guess what you’re going to say. As you type on your computer or even on your smartphone, Gmail will suggest the rest of your sentence. You either click at the end of the sentence (computers) or you swipe your finger to the end of the line (smartphone). Now that is what we all think of as artificial intelligence. It’s more helpful than what we actually thought it would ever become.
When it comes to process automation, including legal document automation, we’re talking about a form of artificial intelligence that is rules-based just like your email sorting (although the rules are clearly different). It will only do what it is designed to do, no more and no less. It still isn’t perfect. There still needs to be someone checking over the document before it ever goes into a file, into an envelope, or filed in court. It is a rules-based process used to make your law firm life just a little bit easier.
And It Won’t Take Your Job
We are very hopeful that legal document automation makes law firm life easier for everyone. We’re also extremely hopeful that it will be used to improve access to justice. Yet, as we mentioned, legal document automation runs its processes based on rules set. Unless you have it designed to do so, it won’t get smarter through use. It just collects information and completes forms and documents so you can put your focus elsewhere.
When it comes to artificial intelligence in law offices, it’s important to embrace it and let it make your life just a little bit easier!
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