Can Artificial Intelligence Automate Contract Specialists and Lawyers?

This is an update from a post I published on April 9, 2021 on artificial intelligence automating contract managers and lawyers. I asked the same questions as here below in LinkedIn groups (here and here). Below this article, you will find a summary of the many reactions I got.

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The Original Article: Can Contract Specialists and Lawyers be Automated?

The other day I saw this question on Quora: “Can artificial intelligence replace lawyers, politicians, and diplomats?” Translating this to my world: can contract specialists and lawyers be automated? This is the answer I gave.

No, but lawyers are already and will be using and collaborating more closely with artificial-intelligence-enabled software (AI) (like already is happening in man-machine engineering).

And the combination is compelling. Politicians and diplomats may follow this trend and start using similar AI-based expert systems.

In chess, it is a well-known fact that neither a chess master ‘of flesh and blood’ nor the best artificial intelligence chess software (like the famous IBM’s Deep Blue) can win independently from a chess master working together with similar chess software. This combination is unbeatable.

The same will happen (and is happening) in contracts and other negotiations already where lawyers are using intelligent negotiation software to assist them in negotiations. This is certainly leading to innovations and other ways of working.

But can it replace them completely? Will we have fully automated lawyers and contract managers?

We also shouldn’t forget that AI is still human-made and programmed by humans (with all their limitations).

Here one of many questions. How is AI going to deal with lawyers, politicians, and diplomats who actually ethically and for other reasons (opportunism in the case of politicians) are permitted or even expected for what they consider to be ’the good cause’ to misrepresent certain events or subjects?

In many (if not all) cases in politics, justice, and diplomacy, the ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ outcome (or compromise) is absolutely not the ‘best’ outcome, as we all know.

Artificial intelligence can and will improve what we’re doing, but it can only assist and will not replace lawyers, politicians, and diplomats.

Even if some scientists (and authoritarian leaders out there) would really like to argue differently.

So what’s your take on this?

Do you see a dark future for contract specialists and lawyers losing their jobs and being replaced by smart machines? Or are you more of an optimist and see a better world with new opportunities where humans and machines are collaborating to get to the best solutions for whatever they’re working on?

Are you today struggling with issues where you think AI may help? Like speeding up the proposal and negotiation process? Automating contract management?  Which tool to select?

Even if it’s something small. I’d love to hear more.

Talk soon and regards,

Nicolaas

Tel.: +31 6 20 21 21 65

Mail: [email protected]

The Comments on the Post on LinkedIn

And here below a summary of the comments I got (and am still getting!).

Contract managers and lawyers will not be replaced; AI/technology will only help

Most people agree that artificial intelligence will help to manage and administer contracts. Mihaela: “Technology can help but it can’t replace professionals”.

However, only a very few see that contract managers and contract lawyers will be replaced.

The main argument being that ‘human intervention’ will still be needed.

Another argument is given by Celine, lawyer in Paris, (which I also recognize in the industries I am working in): “.. the call for tenders (contracts, structure of the call for tender) are different one project to the other and this will not change. Except for NDA or BToC contracts, standard documentation, contracts will not be automatized. (Moreover, ) ….clients, general contractors will still have shareholders with different views, different appraisal of the level of the admitted risks. ” Celine ends that she is still very optimistic that AI will create substantial value in lawyers’ day-to-day work.

Willem, a provider of CLM solutions for lawyers, agrees and adds that “.. only .. the nature of the legal work will change, to become more ‘high-end’ and more value-driven….. . ….. The focus of lawyers will shift towards closer involvement in process-optimization, optimizing compliance and differentiated risk assessment – likely more business-oriented.”

And he states: “Boring and time-consuming work will be automated; …. an automated solution will make less errors compared to human review, and provide deeper insights. ”

AI will replace contract managers and lawyers: it is only a matter of time

Of course, and as can be expected, the ‘very few’ disagreeing actually work in AI-related software environments.

Jeff, a senior director in Operations of such an AI company with 20 years of contract experience expects that “in the next five to ten years, computers will be able to not only identify the relevant issues in agreements or other disputes (or legal areas) but will also have the infinite databases from which to pull every bit of case law and blackletter law to construct “perfect” agreements.”

According to Jeff, “lawyers are knowledge workers with language skills. Once computers develop language skills, the lawyers won’t be able to keep up on the knowledge side.” It is as easy as that, according to Jeff. His conclusion: people will be eliminated from the equation.

And he adds an intriguing statement “What will be fascinating is if we allow computers to be judges. Pure triers of law.”

For simple contracts, Jeff may be right actually since the replacement by technology/AI of contract managers and lawyers is already taking place: see what’s happening in ‘blockchain technology’ and ‘smart contracts’. But what about more complex contracts like we have in many industries like aerospace, defense tech, aviation, high tech, IT, oil & gas, and so on?

“Contracts are heavily dependent on the kind of industry they are drafted for”. This remark was made by Soumya, working for a virtual legal services consultancy in India.

Jeff also, unfortunately, doesn’t answer the other question I raised in the article “… how AI is going to deal with lawyers, politicians, and diplomats who actually ethically and for other reasons (opportunism in the case of politicians) are permitted or even expected for what they consider to be ’the good cause’ to misrepresent certain events or subjects?

Darkhan, lead of a contract and procurement team in Kazakhstan, highlights this in his comment: “(I) doubt that AI will recognize tricky contract language your counterpart suggests. (A) professional will relate such language against contract provisions and surely catch the counterpart’s intention or future game plan (of the other party).

How do you teach a database to takes such more illogical and irrational considerations into account?

Unanswered: the Unbeatable Combination of AI and Human Collaboration?

Another question still mainly unanswered is whether the combination of a human working with AI will be the best combination (and as I said proven to be unbeatable also in chess simulations).

So a lawyer or contract manager will perform at best only when using AI. But also vice versa: AI can only perform maximally if aided by a human!

To stay in Jeff’s analogy: so if the above is true, a judge using AI will perform much better than a judge not being supported by AI technology. This then also goes for AI being used without a judge can never be better than AI supported by a judge!

Shouldn’t we, instead of using AI to eliminate people, do exactly the opposite: actively put them into new AI equations? Thus creating unbeatable human-machine systems?

Continue to comment here below or on LinkedIn and maybe next time your comment will be also included.

I’ll be back (from which man-machine movie is this quote?)! As soon as I have more interesting comments on this intriguing subject I will update this post again.

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