Will AI ever replace lawyers?

Uwais Iqbal2022-09-01

The claim that “AI will replace lawyers” certainly grabs attention and is great for headlines. But is there any truth to that claim?

Before we can answer the question of whether AI will replace lawyers, we need to understand what we mean when we speak about AI.

The Different Kinds of AI

A common categorisation of the different kinds of AI is based on what the AI system is capable of doing. Researchers usually break AI down into two kinds: Strong AI and Weak AI.

Strong AI refers to an AI system which has reached a level of human intelligence. The system can learn, perceive, understand, and function completely like a human being.

At the moment, we haven’t developed such systems so Strong AI is still something purely theoretical. Many researchers are sceptical as to whether Strong AI systems are even possible. Strong AI is also known as general AI or artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Weak AI refers to an AI system that can perform a specific and precise task like extracting a field from a document or clustering a set of documents. The AI systems we have today are all examples of Weak AI. Weak AI is also known as Narrow AI.

Debunking the "AI will replace lawyers" claim

The claim that “AI will replace lawyers” certainly grabs attention and is great for headlines. However, it's a claim about Strong AI. Strong AI systems are still a theoretical estimation - we don’t know if we’ll ever get to that point.

It’s fair to say that lawyers are still around today despite AI systems being used in the legal sector for a number of years. Lawyers will be around and won’t be going anywhere!

Where AI can be useful in the legal profession is in the form of Weak AI. With a focus on specific tasks, AI systems can be developed to help scale expertise, save hours of gruelling grunt work and make work more enjoyable for legal professionals.