By Hilary Rosenthal


As a law student, one of my top worries for when I graduate in a year is if I will have a job upon graduation. With technology rapidly advancing, there is speculation that artificial intelligence (A.I.) could soon replace work that human lawyers complete.[1] By using A.I. instead of real people the work would be automated, which is easier said than done.[2]

A large part of being lawyer is researching using legal resource search engines such as Westlaw or Lexis Advance. A lawyer spends a lot of time looking for and at relevant case law and precedent in various areas of law in order to help build a case. This is an ongoing process as the law can change on a daily basis. Given how time consuming researching can be, some lawyers created CARA, a digital assistant that uses A.I. along with natural language searches in order to find the most important legal precedent more readily.[3] CARA can predict which cases will be most relevant for the case.[4] A few things CARA cannot do, at least for now, are write briefs, interact and advise clients, or appear in court.[5] CARA is not the only A.I. technology created to do lawyers jobs, and probably will not be the last.[6]

There are two kinds on intelligence to consider when talking about a lawyer’s intelligence, IQ and EQ.[7] EQ refers to people skills and IQ refers more to raw intelligence, good lawyers posses both.[8]   “Lawyers have analytical skills that enable them to identify client challenges and to apply legal expertise that produces solutions commensurate with client risk tolerance and objectives.”[9] A key piece of being a lawyer is the ability to read people, connect with clients and people in a courtroom, and gain the credibility and trust of people.[10] Furthermore, lawyers’ ability to work collaboratively across the profession is highly underestimated and a skill that is important to the profession. So, while an A.I. technology might be able to replace a lawyers IQ, it has yet to be seen that they can replace a lawyers EQ, which is arguably just as important.

With the way technology is rapidly advancing CARA or other A.I. technology could one day have a personality, which threatens the legal workforce even more than it does now. Two professors at the University of North Carolina School of Law concluded that the use of systems such as CARA would result in a 13 percent drop in lawyers’ hours.[11] Furthermore, depending on the rate these technologies are implemented, they could cut lawyers hours by 2.5 percent annually over five years.[12] The reduction in hours is not necessarily a bad thing as shorter research time that yields better results leaves more time for lawyers to write memos, prepare for court and do many of the tasks A.I. technology cannot do just yet. However, the McKinsey Global Institute recently found that almost all tasks could be automated, meaning that roughly twenty-three percent of lawyer’s jobs can be automated.[13] Research suggests that many large law firms are already outsourcing some of this work, so the drop on jobs may not be as precipitous.[14]

It seems the legal world may be moving toward using A.I. to fulfill some of the necessary and time consuming tasks, but it will not be a total takeover, at least not within in the next few years. Additionally, rather than hindering the profession, these A.I. technologies leave more time for lawyers to do what they do best, use their intelligence to produce solutions. But what about clients, do they feel comfortable with the automated legal work? While A.I. is slowly being introduced to lawyers and many are not shocked by the innovative technology; however, it would probably surprise many clients to know that firms are using A.I. technology. Clients do not like paying for lawyers to do menial manual tasks, they pay lawyers for their analytical skills and ability to problem solve.[15] So, if A.I technology was able to free up time for lawyers to handle more substantial tasks clients might be happier that a majority of the time they are billed for is spent on harder thought-provoking tasks.[16] Arguably, this technology is equally beneficial to lawyers and clients.

Many lawyers do see A.I. as the future of the profession. Some big law firms are turning to A.I. in order to automate tasks, which would normally be handled by first year associates.[17] As more and more firms implement A.I technology for document review, litigation discovery exercises and more, it would not be abnormal to see drop in summer associate classes, eventually leading to a drop in first year associates.[18] However, with A.I. technology leading to more efficiency, it may allow firms to take on more cases, meaning there will be a demand for more lawyers to keep up with the caseloads. Moreover, A.I. could increase the labor force by driving the cost of legal services down, allowing for legal services to become more affordable and reach a market that was previously foreclosed by how expensive legal representation can be.[19]

As A.I. technology gets slowly implemented throughout the legal profession, the question will remain whether or not it can truly replace the work lawyers do and if it will lead to lawyers losing their jobs. Overall implementing A.I. technology into the legal profession, may actually prove more beneficial as many law students and current practitioners can attest that performing document review or other menial tasks are not why they chose to become a lawyer.



[1] See Steve Lohr, A.I. Is Doing Legal Work. But It Won’t Replace Lawyers, Yet.,The New York Times (Mar. 19, 2017),

[2] See id.

[3] See Luke Stangel, Palo Alto startup raises $12M to give lawyers an AI assistant, Silicon Valley Business Journal,

[4] See id.

[5] See supra note 1.

[6] See Alice Kohn, An AI Law Firm Wants to ‘Automate the Entire Legal World, Futurism (Jan. 30, 2017),

[7] See Mark Cohen, Artificial Intelligence Will Not Replace Lawyers With IQ And EQ, Forbes (Mar. 20, 2017),

[8] See id.

[9] Id.

[10] See id.

[11] See supra note 1.

[12] See id.

[13] See id.

[14] See id.

[15] Julie Sobowale, How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Legal Profession, ABA Journal (Apr. 1, 2016),

[16] See id.

[17] See Jane Croft, Artificial Intelligence Disrupting the Business of Law, FINANCIAL TIMES (Oct. 5, 2016),

[18] See id.

[19] See Dan Mangan, Lawyers Could Be the Next Profession To Be Replaced By Computers, CNBC (Feb. 17, 2017 1:55PM),

Share this post