Law Society president Christina Blacklaws has questioned whether new entrants to the profession are prepared for the growing reality of working alongside artificial intelligence (AI). ‘At the moment we’re training lawyers for 20th-century practices, not even for current practice,’ she told an international conference on AI in London last week. ‘There is a mismatch with what they are doing in practice today, let alone what they will be doing in future.’

Blacklaws (pictured, centre) was chairing a panel at the AI Congress at which lawyers spoke of their experience of working with AI systems already implemented at magic circle firms. 

Sonia Cissé, managing associate at Linklaters in Paris, said her firm is already sifting through unstructured data with systems including its self-developed tool Nakhoda. Linklaters was one of the first magic circle firms to install an AI system from RAVN, now part of iManage, to organise, discover and summarise documents. The system is used on live matters, including by the firm’s banking department recently to compare 200 loan agreements, she said. 

Tests show that the AI system cut on average 26% of the time taken per document, displaying an average accuracy of 75%, she said: ‘These time savings are reflected in the fee we propose to clients.’ Other technology installed includes an electronic bundle creation system. 

Innovation consultant Peter Stovall, formerly a solicitor at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, said that the magic circle firm has a Kira AI system assisting with corporate due diligence. Among other AI systems is one to predict where time-recording entries should be made. 

He noted that AI was still applied in ‘very narrow use cases’ in law, reflecting the practice groups within firms. ‘Not many firms stick to one platform like the Big Four [accountants] do.’ However he predicted that ‘general AI’ – a system capable of learning any new task – was a decade away.  

Cissé stressed that machines were not replacing humans. ‘How do we know there’s 75% accuracy? Because we did a close check and will keep checking what happens on the machine.’ AI is helping lawyers focus on the more important strategic things, she said. ‘It also improves morale among junior lawyers – they are not expected to work such long hours.’