‘Automation and AI will disappear. It won’t disappear because it’s not going to get used, it will disappear because it will be used everywhere’.
Guy Kirkwood, as chief evangelist of a large Robotics Process Automation (RPA) vendor, might be expected to say this, but he’s not wrong. Deloitte’s annual RPA report shows that 53% of organisations have already begun using RPA in some capacity and this is expected to rise to 72% within just two years. Financial services are currently leading the pack, being the industry with the quickest and most widespread adoption of RPA. Law firms, on the other hand, have been among the slowest to start incorporating this new technology.
The legal industry being reluctant to implement emerging tech may be unsurprising, however, it does lend itself particularly well to the use of automation software. Despite the characterisation in ‘Suits’, the legal profession is not all dramatic cross-examination, and there are a lot of mundane and repetitive tasks going on in the background. This is where RPA excels. It is specifically designed for the purpose of carrying out rule-based, repetitious actions. Furthermore, its installation does not require a huge infrastructure overhaul. The ‘digital workforce’ slots in just like regular employees, with their own logins and passwords, and can generally show a good ROI quickly. They can also work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, much like private practice lawyers.
The main benefit of automation is most likely the time that it saves on everyday menial tasks. Not having to take on these time-consuming responsibilities would mean that lawyers can focus on the more intellectually demanding and complex parts of their work. Of course, the time saved by automation does not have to be used only to do more work. It is no secret that many are enticed from private practice into in-house roles due to the promise of a better work/ life balance. Perhaps automation could help level the playing field? And, if the new Robot Lawyers start to become too accomplished, they can always have the batteries removed…!