Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession: An 'intelligent' way ahead?

Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession: An 'intelligent' way ahead?

The advent of technology-driven economy and globalisation has brought along with itself several boons and banes, with the whole world becoming virtually closer. Among all these developments around the world, the one area that has perhaps grabbed the most eye-balls is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Use of AI: A double-edged sword

AI, like any other innovation, has its own advantages and drawbacks. On the positive side, AI can help us get our work done with more efficiency and effectiveness along with being cost effective and time saving. But on negative side, it can literally usurp the employment of millions of people worldwide, irrespective of their job profile.

In this regard, one can refer to McKinsey Global Institute’s study which has predicted that anywhere between 40 million and 160 million women worldwide may need transition of occupations by 2030. Although an increased reliance on automation may result in higher demands for jobs related to robotics science, engineering etc, the number of people rendered unemployed due to automation is highly disproportionate than those who would be employed.

Further, the NITI Aayog in its report titled ‘National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence’, has exhaustively discussed the challenges, focus areas and global development of AI. It has stated therein that concerns of privacy of data, an unattractive Intellectual Property regime, low intensity of AI research, and low awareness for adopting AI in business processes, will be some of major impediments in successful deployment of AI in India.

Use of AI in the legal system

The use of AI in the legal system is still in its nascent stage, but is slowly being adopted by several countries, law firms and judiciaries alike. It provides cost effective solutions to lawyers by pointing out the legal infirmities in judgments, providing assistance in drafting contractual documents, due diligence, legal analytics etc. Similarly, AI can act as catalyst in lessening the burden of the judiciary, especially in those cases that involve menial offences, leaving the complex cases to be decided by human judges.

AI Ross, developed by IBM, has been adopted many law firms worldwide, particularly in the USA and is primarily used to vet legal contracts, conduct legal research, and briefly summarize case laws etc. Likewise, Linklaters LLP, a multinational law firm, is also developing an AI programme, Nakhoda, with the objective of providing effective contract management and structured legal data.

The Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada has formulated directives on the use of automated decision-making. These state that the decisions made by the AI should be in consonance with basic tenets of fairness, transparency and legal principles.

Amongst all these aforesaid developments in the AI related field, several core issues have emerged such as:

a) What is the legal personality of AI? Can it be accorded the status of a ‘person’ or ‘citizen’?

b) Who would be responsible if any loss occurs due to the negligence of an AI? Will the principle of absolute or vicarious liability apply in such a scenario? In the latter case, what punishment can be attributed to an artificial personality?

c) How far can AI be used in the legal profession?

d) Whether a person who avails the services of AI can be termed as a ‘Consumer’ under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 etc.

Much like its potential, the legal issues surrounding AI also seem to be endless. Though AI may seem to be attractive at first blush, it is fraught with many dangers that have been highlighted by several eminent scientists like Stephen Hawking, who said,

"…The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have proved very useful. But I fear the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded."

Recent developments in the Indian legal profession

The growth of AI in the Indian legal field has been subdued. According to a study, only about 4% of lawyers in India make use of AI for their work. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas is perhaps the first law firm in India to adopt AI which is primarily used to analyse and improvise contractual and other legal documents.

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The impact of AI on the legal profession and its consequent viability has aptly been described by former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra while addressing a conference. He said,

"...the future of any new-age technology lies in the regulations that govern them. Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises a high growth potential in a number of sectors… AI needs a strong legal framework around it to explore maximum benefits. AI today is growing multifold and we still do not know all the advantages or pitfalls…India has the right talent and technological resources. With a powerful legal directive, the country can set many milestones with a strong command over AI…But India currently does not have specific regulations that govern AI…"

Similarly, current CJI SA Bobde also spoke on similar lines and has advocated for greater use of AI in the legal system, especially in the field of docket management and decision making. At an the event organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), he opined,

…We must increasingly focus on harnessing IT and IT enabled services (ITES) for providing more efficient and cost-effective access to and delivery of justice. This must also include undertaking serious study concerning future of Artificial Intelligence in law, especially how Artificial Intelligence can assist in judicial decision making. I believe exploring this interface would be immensely beneficial for many reasons.

For instance, it would allow us to streamline courts caseloads through enabling better court management. This would be a low hanging fruit. On the other end of the spectrum, it will allow us to shift the judicial time from routine-simple-straightforward matters (e.g. cases which are non-rivalrous) and apply them to more complex-intricate matters that require more human attention and involvement...Therefore, in India identification of such matters and developing relevant technology ought to be our next focus."

Justice DY Chandrachud has also spoken on similar lines, In an interview, he said,

"The idea of Artificial Intelligence is not to supplant the human brain or the human mind or the presence of judges but to provide a facilitative tool to judges to reassess the processes which they follow, to reassess the work which they do and to ensure that their outcome are more predictable and consistent and ultimately provide wider access to justice to the common citizens."

However, in developing countries like India, the usage of AI may not be regularized because of reluctance to adapt to this new change. There is also an apprehension that AI may cause serious ramifications in a labour surplus economy like India, with majority of people being uneducated and poverty stricken.

In this context, Justice Dominique Hascher, judge at the Supreme Court of France, has rightly said that,

"Each nation today aims to become a global leader in Artificial Intelligence. Hence, countries such as the US, the UK, China and Germany are increasing investments to leverage this technology. However, private technology companies are acing the field…India’s approach towards AI strategy has to be balanced for both local needs and the greater good. A strong regulatory system around this can ensure long-term benefits and growth.

The author is an advocate currently working in AUA Legal LLP, and practicing before the Delhi High Court and subordinate courts in the capital. He can be reached at for any suggestions/comments.

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