As intelligent technology has started to make its way into systems being used by lawyers, legal professionals are anxiously waiting to see how artificial intelligence will affect their line of work and are determined not to be left behind, lawyers say.

A growing number of companies and legal tech startups have incorporated intelligent technology or machine learning into their offerings, which provide faster and more efficient ways to do repetitive or time-consuming tasks, such as research, e-discovery and document review.

As a profession that has often been cast as conservative and reticent to change, some members of the Canadian legal industry now find themselves holding their breath to see how this kind of technology will transform their practices.

“Lawyers know what’s going on in the world. They know technology is breathing down their necks,” says Mark Tamminga, a partner and leader of innovation initiatives at Gowling WLG. “And they’re really anxious to make sure they’re using the appropriate tools on behalf of their clients.”

Tamminga says a lot of the work that lawyers do that is fairly routine could end up being replaced by intelligent technology.

Lee Akazaki, of Gilbertson Davis LLP, says he believes intelligent technology will end up cutting out a lot of that work.

“A lot of lawyers who currently do nothing but legal research and who don’t apply very much in the way of comprehensive thinking to their research will be replaced because the machine will be able to do that and will be able to provide ranked suggestions of outcomes,” he says.

Akazaki says that any lawyers who try to reject the tools that are becoming available will likely have to adapt or fall behind.

“You can’t charge a client for 10 hours for research that could have been done in two hours with the aid of electronic research,” he says. “If you’re going to have to pare down your fee account as a result of not having embraced technology, then you will not be able to compete with your colleagues who do.”

Canadian startups using intelligent technology are adamant that their systems will simply complement the work lawyers do and that their products will not replace them.

“When technology is assisting, it is not replacing,” says Andrew Arruda, a co-founder and CEO of ROSS Intelligence Inc., a California-based company founded by Canadians that has programmed IBM’s Watson computer to do legal research.

“It is not disruptive or displacing. It really is just ensuring that people are working better and that their decision-making is more informed and more pointed.”

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