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Automation and AI to improve quality of legal services in Australia but also raises ethical questions, LexisNexis report reveals
Australasia News

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Findings from the Legal Frontiers: From AI to Ethics, 2018 LexisNexis Roadshow Report show that the implementation of new AI technologies has opened up new opportunities to shape the role of lawyers and improve the quality of legal services.

The report was created to collate insights garnered from a series of panel discussions with industry thought leaders, held across Australia by LexisNexis. The topics explored during the Roadshow were guided by findings from the 2018 LexisNexis Australian Legal Tech Survey of 264 legal practitioners.

Simon Wilkins, Managing Director of LexisNexis Australia, said: “This report shows that the legal industry is in a period of significant technological advancement, which creates excellent opportunities to improve access to justice and how effectively we work, while also challenging us to address data privacy and other issues that may risk undermining the industry’s ability to innovate.”

Graduate and professional competencies

In the short-term AI will likely affect the roles of graduates and junior lawyers the most. The report discusses the potential of automation to remove grunt work commonly performed by graduates, allowing them to spend more time building cases and developing skills to become better lawyers.

The report also found that hybrid legal-tech skillsets will be highly valued in the industry as more tech tools are adopted, ways of working change, and clients come to expect their legal representation to understand the technical nature of work that they’re carrying out. 

Mr Wilkins said, “This is a very exciting time to be a law student, as the options available to graduates are far more varied than they have been previously. Rather than simply pursuing the partner pathway, graduates can now seek more creative career journeys by taking on roles within Australia’s flourishing network of legal start-ups for example.

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“Whilst legal tech skills will be highly beneficial to future lawyers, we also see a future in which lawyers assemble multi-disciplinary teams to deliver the best results for clients, rather than shouldering all of the burden themselves.”

Future tech: AI & chatbots

The legal community is still refining its relationship with AI and is in a period of optimistic uncertainty around its uses, implications, ethical considerations, and how it can be leveraged for positive commercial outcomes.

As the volume of data involved in legal cases continues to grow, AI solutions are becoming a necessity to ensure that standards of diligence are maintained or improved and are a key factor in ensuring the legal industry keeps up with the pace of technological development across the sectors it works with.

As new legal tech products inevitably enter the market, the challenge for legislators will be to stay ahead of the curve and pre-emptively legislate to protect Australian consumers, particularly for automated advice that may lack the input of a qualified legal professional or any human review.

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Data privacy and rights

Whilst people in the legal and media industries are increasingly questioning how personal data is handled, in wider society people are less concerned about who has their data and what it is used for and are happy to offer their data to companies in exchange for convenience. To safeguard individuals’ cyber security in such instances, 60% of survey respondents and 69% of Roadshow respondents who engaged in live polling believed that stronger data protections are needed in Australia to ensure future applications of AI remain ethical.

“Respondent pointed to the need for an Australian legislative framework similar to Europe’s GDPR that would enable sustainable progress and investment within artificial intelligence, allowing Australia to thrive in a competitive global market,” said Mr Wilkins. “Whilst the application of AI in the legal industry faces many challenges, including overcoming algorithmic bias, the main message that can be taken from this report is that AI can provide highly impactful benefits such as equal judgement before the law, and can improve access to justice at home and abroad.”

 

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