The issue of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is hard to escape. Definitions of it vary but the expression is being sprayed wildly throughout articles, interviews and TV screens – and not just in the legal space, of course. To understand some of its potential is clearly to grasp the potential for signficant change, that is, change in the sense of both efficiencies, new opportunities – and also new redundancies. For many in the legal field, it is still regarded as being “quite far off” but many would also observe that it does “seem to be getting quite close.”
In the cold harsh light of day, we might point to many areas of law that lend themselves to much greater efficiency than we currently experience (read: tolerate) both from a client and provider perspective. In some areas, we can already see the inroads of technology in eliminating the human element in the process – we increasingly take for granted the ready availability of data sources cultivated and packaged without intervention. Data is becoming the life-blood of the sector.
It’s reasonable to think that as technology does more and eliminates many inefficiencies and lower-value activities, then the expectation on who and what is left will be far higher. This is a key aspect of the leadership challenge (read: opportunity) facing the legal sector moving forward. To introduce changes that drive cuts, cost savings, efficiencies and (in some cases) job cuts – while preparing those that remain to aspire to a far higher level of performance.
All this is not to say that the current industry is based on low performance or lack of effort. It’s not. Far from it. However, the expression “smarter not harder” immediately comes to mind. The relative performance of the sector and professionals in the sector is closely correlated with the tools, techniques and support mechanisms we have currently. As the latter become upgraded – and as they remove some of the administrative “noise” from the system – performance will become more visible to the buyer and expectations will only rise.
Leadership in law has a busy time ahead – to speak truth to change, to address higher aspirations, and communicate the message outward. To help in the adoption of better tools, new work products and (better, faster, cheaper) outcomes. To help professional colleagues on the climb to a new, higher elevation – while also seeking to weigh and manage the shifting expectations of buyers.
It’s a good time to listen. It’s a good time to share. None of us has all the answers but the experience and perspective of others when combined with our own -well, that can make all the difference in how we navigate a difficult road successfully.
AI is here – and it’s here to stay. This has far-reaching implications. But a renewed focus on leadership – and leadership development – will help us all get along with the robots just fine.