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What Should Small Firms Know About AI?

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

What should solo practitioners and small firms know about AI?

He was only the highest-scoring point guard in the history of the NBA, that's what! He stood toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, crossed him over and scored on him like a boss!

Wait, you want to know about the other AI? Fine. Work with me here.

Like gifted athletes on the basketball court, solo practitioners and small law firms can own the big leagues on the other court. And AI can get you there. That's what I'm talking about. Artificial Intelligence, not Allen Iverson.

AI Helps Level the Playing Field

AI is already working in law firms. Many lawyers employ smart technologies, from software to hardware solutions.

At the highest level, analytics help firms analyze data and use it to develop strategies in their practices. This includes legal research, e-discovery, document management, compliance and marketing. As it evolves, AI will use predictive technology to know what lawyers and judges will likely do, when to settle or try cases and more.

BakerHostetler was one of the first law firms to employ ROSS, an AI program that uses a supercomputer to comb through massive quantities of data and learns how to apply it to the law firm's needs. The law firm uses the technology to handle bankruptcy cases as employees type questions into the program and ROSS searches through databases and to produce relevant answers.

Some AI programs like ROSS may be too expensive for small firms, but the cost will likely go down over time. In the meantime, you can buy a digital assistant for less than $200 that can learn to read documents, take dictation, re-order office supplies, remind you of deadlines, and even deposit money in the bank.

Robots Don't Have Bar Cards

While AI is helping law firms large and small, it is not ready to emerge from the computer world into the real world and take the lawyer's place. Personal skills are premium qualities in client services, especially in the legal profession.

"People are talking about robot lawyers, or robots taking over for lawyers," says Jared Correia, who provides technology advice to law firms. "I don't think we are anywhere close to that at all."

Solo practitioners and small firms actually have an advantage over big firms when it comes to client relations. They usually know all their clients, unlike the partners at big law.

In any case, it's safe to say that not even ROSS is going to win cases anytime soon. Smart machines may help lawyers analyze data, draft documents and prepare for trial, but a robot will not take their place in court.

So put on your game face, give that big firm a fake left, and shoot the ball. Who's the boss now, ROSS?

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