Artificial intelligence (AI) penetrates nearly every sector of the modern world, and law and legal studies are no exception. Intelligent algorithms are revolutionizing legal studies by automating numerous tasks that have historically been labor-intensive and time-consuming. From document analysis to case prediction, AI-driven automation is becoming increasingly prevalent, eliminating the need for tedious paperwork and enabling more efficient and accurate work.
However, unlike other fields, AI integration into the legal field is still in its infancy. “It is going to fundamentally change the profession, in some ways better, in some ways worse. I think it’s too early to make a prediction,” says Felix Shipkevich, founder and principal of Shipkevich PLLC and Hofstra University law professor. “It’s just way too early. I hope it makes things more efficient and more affordable for consumers.”
There are some areas of the legal profession and legal studies that are implementing AI. Companies like OpenAI are leading the charge in this new frontier, creating advanced algorithms that can sift through vast amounts of legal data in a fraction of the time it would take a human to achieve the same task. These advancements are not only streamlining legal practices but also opening up new possibilities for the application of AI in legal studies.
Some companies are even working on legal document drafting with varying levels of success. “In the future, for example, if you are renting an apartment and need to renew it, why pay an attorney to write the new lease? Consumers should be able to access certain tools without paying for expensive legal services. That’s where AI could become helpful.” says Shipkevich.
Keep reading to learn more about where AI is succeeding in the legal, where it is falling short, what the future might hold, and advice for aspiring law students.
Felix Shipkevich is the founder and principal of Shipkevich PLLC, a New York City-based law firm focusing on transactional and litigation services in global financial services, debt relief and settlement, fintech, and emerging digital currency sectors. He is also a special professor of law at his alma mater, the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. He currently teaches courses on the business and policies of cryptocurrencies and corporate finance law.
Additionally, he gives talks on topics such as financial technology, digital currency, and regulation issues in the debt settlement industry. He has participated at gatherings across the United States, Europe, and Asia, including the Federal Bar Association’s “Blockchain: From Innovation to Regulation, Blockchain Law Summit’s Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Regulations in the U.S. and Abroad,” and many others.
AI is redefining how legal professionals perform their tasks, particularly in areas of research and due diligence. Firms can now utilize AI-powered platforms to conduct exhaustive searches of legal databases and sort through and analyze case law, statutes, and secondary sources: “Leading legal research companies have been doing a great job integrating AI. They can help attorneys navigate research, pick out better cases, and use these cases to make their argument versus burning the midnight oil and trying to digest the entire case themselves. These companies have done a good job over the years of getting to the bottom line quicker than before,” says Shipkevich.
This technology substantially reduces the time spent on these tasks and increases accuracy and efficiency, allowing lawyers to focus more on interpretation and strategy.
AI also assists in contract analysis by identifying and minimizing potential risks and streamlining the negotiation process. These advancements represent the tip of the iceberg regarding how AI can eventually transform the legal landscape.
While AI has made significant strides in the legal field, there are still areas where its utility remains limited. Courtroom litigation, for example, is one area that continues to rely heavily on the human element. The nuances of in-person interaction, emotional intelligence, and persuasive oratory are aspects AI cannot currently replicate.
Also, ethical, privacy, and security concerns surrounding AI use in legal matters necessitate a cautious approach. Before AI can be fully integrated into these areas, regulations and safeguards must be developed to ensure responsible use.
One area where Shipkevich sees AI falling short is in writing legal documents: “Where I think there’s a lot of need is in legal drafting. It’s both transactional work like contracts and litigation-related work,” he says. He goes on to share that colleagues have seen an associate try to use ChatGPT to draft simple default notices, and it was painfully obvious that a lawyer didn’t write the document.
As a special professor of law at Hofstra University, Shipkevich has seen firsthand how students use AI in the classroom. “I have seen AI used by students, and it always has huge downsides. The first time I saw it was last spring, when a student submitted their first paper, and it was clearly ChatGPT. I confronted the student, and he admitted it,” he shares. “AI writing is very dry and lacks emotion. It’s like watching paint dry.”
He continues, “Thankfully, I think we’re still at the stage where an intelligent person can easily distinguish original written material versus AI material. You probably will not be able to distinguish it easily in the future. I don’t think we had that stage where you could still distinguish it. Students who use AI put themselves in peril first to potentially fail the course, but second, they’re not doing themselves a favor and don’t learn the necessary skills.”
Looking ahead, the integration of AI in the legal field is set to increase significance. Currently, when using AI, there is no way to know if the cases it uses are actual cases without further research. “I have discussed this with several litigators who all say it’s terrible, but in a couple of years, as AI begins to prove itself and the code improves, it’s going to get smart,” says Shipkevich. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the very near future, we will see actual cases argued with more precision with less human error than we ever thought possible.”
AI will have the opportunity to excel in the future by helping lawyers decide how to handle a case: “If you’re a good litigator, you’re supposed to find your best and worst arguments. Average litigators have no idea what the best argument is, and they make their case in hopes that something will stick to the wall,” explains Shipkevich. “As a good litigator, it takes hours to find your best arguments, make a hierarchy, do the research, and confer with your colleagues. AI might be able to do this in seconds eventually. It could give you a list of talking points and rebuttals.”
Another area where AI is anticipated to play a significant role in the automation of legal discovery, which is the process in which lawyers gather evidence for a case. With the sheer volume of currently available electronic data, AI-based technology can expedite this process, accurately search for specific keywords, and even detect patterns the human eye would otherwise overlook.
For those aspiring to enter the legal profession, it is essential to understand the increasing role that technology, specifically AI, plays within the field. It’s no longer sufficient to excel solely at traditional legal skills.
“As much as we could talk negatively about how AI will take our jobs in part or the whole, you have to embrace it,” says Shipkevich. “At the end of the day, there will still be lawyers, doctors, journalists, police officers, and real estate agents. The work may just look a little different. Learn the trade, but also be two to three steps ahead. So instead of being skeptical about AI or using it to your advantage to avoid writing, learn how to write well and how to use AI to make writing easier.”
Kimmy Gustafson’s expertise and passion for investigative storytelling extends to the world of forensics, where she brings a wealth of knowledge and captivating narratives to readers seeking insights into this intriguing world. She has interviewed experts on little-known topics, such as how climate crimes are investigated and prosecuted, and has written for ForensicsColleges.com since 2019.
Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.