AI is already changing the way attorneys approach legal work. Add in a supercharged capacity to predict case outcomes, and you have a completely altered landscape of work and business opportunities from what lawyers know today.
The AI industry is poised to be massively transformed by quantum computing, with its enhanced power to process information, according to Kenneth Grady, Michigan State University College of Law adjunct professor.
This is light years ahead of what even the best software can accomplish today, and it has the potential to change legal technology — and the industry — for good.
"Machine learning is a very resource-consuming process. Training it and analyzing things still requires time and resources to crunch through data and come to conclusions," Grady said.
Quantum computing alters the way a processor's memory works, making use of a more flexible and expansive method for storing and processing information.
Google and NASA announced in October that they were able to complete in 200 seconds a task on their Sycamore quantum processor that would take 10,000 years on a traditional supercomputer.
With this kind of processing power, an attorney could, for example, accurately predict the probable outcome of a client's trial, because the technology could test hundreds of millions of scenarios in a very short period of time and predict the probability of various outcomes using untold combinations of variables.
Apply these abilities to a criminal trial setting, and a quantum computer could hypothetically predict a jury's verdict before the trial even begins, according to Ian Connett, an international speaker on the intersection of the legal industry and quantum computing, and founder of legal technology company and consultancy Quantum Jurist.
Just the steady evolution of AI as we know it today could mean huge changes for the legal industry by 2040.
Many believe the negotiation and creation of contracts could be almost completely automated by that time. Other consumer services like drawing up a will or getting a divorce could also potentially be done with less help from a lawyer and more help from technology, using systems similar to the tax preparation app TurboTax or parking ticket contesting chatbot DoNotPay.
A lot of legal technology and AI is currently being built to emulate human tasks, such as document review, and to help ease the burden of the work humans are doing, said Peter Ozolin, CEO of content aggregation company Manzama.
Speeding up such tasks "has made us more efficient, but not necessarily smarter. These systems should make us smarter," Ozolin said.
However, attorneys may also need to prepare for a future that, in certain areas, will see them replaced altogether, according to Syndio Solutions founder Zev Eigen.
"Really, the stuff clients want is the use of technology to provide substantive services … to solve business problems where lawyers were solving them before," Eigen said.
Eigen's company provides software that examines a corporation's employee pay and then performs an automated analysis on whether protected groups are paid fairly — a process that is often performed by a law firm, along with outside experts and consultants.
In the future, this kind of technology will permeate many more service applications in the legal industry, anywhere there are mass amounts of data to be collected and analyzed, Eigen said.
And the transformation in legal services won't stop there.
AI will one day provide business professionals with legal advice and products, according to Ron Friedmann, former chief knowledge and information officer at LAC Group.
"Right now someone needs to know they need a legal service and go somewhere to get it. The technology could evolve so that systems can deliver advice and guidance as it's needed," he said.
Administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers will bear the brunt of the impact that AI will have on the workforce in the legal sector, a recent Brookings Institution report found, along with paralegals, legal assistants, arbitrators, mediators and conciliators.
"Unlike robotics (associated with the factory floor) and computers (associated with routine office activities), AI has a distinctly white collar bent," the report said. "While earlier waves of automation have led to disruption across the lower half of the wage distribution, AI appears likely to have different impacts, with its own windfalls and challenges."
But lawyers will still need to be the final decision makers in their areas of expertise, reviewing information, projections and draft documents prepared by AI, according to the the report.
Even if systems replace a portion of the work law firms are currently doing, that doesn't mean the need for lawyers will go away completely, Friedmann said.
"It may mean lawyers do less of A and more of B," he said. "There's no history showing the demand for lawyers or legal advice has gone down. It's just that how legal needs are fulfilled and who fulfills them changes over time."
--Editing by Martin Bricketto, Pamela Wilkinson and John Campbell.