ADOPTING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO LAW PRACTICE IN NIGERIA; A LAWYERS DELIGHT OR DILEMMA?

According to a study by Deloitte, 100,000 legal jobs will be eliminated by automation by 2025. Thus, the impact of Artificial Intelligence(AI) on the legal profession cannot be disregarded. This has put the legal field in a dilemma as it has been interpreted to mean that machines will take over the jobs of lawyers in the nearest future. However, this interpretation is fallacious as AI merely augments and simplifies the job of a lawyer. This essay seeks to explain the reasons why lawyers should be delighted by the introduction of artificial intelligence into law practice in Nigeria.
The term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ was coined by John McCarthy and it is defined as the development and use of machines to execute tasks which usually required human intelligence. Various types of AI have been used to carry out various tasks in the legal fields to simplify the work of a legal practitioner. Examples of these are JP Morgan’s Contract Intelligence, a software which reduces the amount of time it takes to review legal documents; ROSS Intelligence’s EVA which analyzes your brief of arguments to check for obsolete laws and provide cases where certain phrases have been used before; ThoughtRiver, a contract intelligence software for the legal sector which uses machine learning to scan contracts and other legal documents and presents the information in an online dashboard which allows users to visualize risk. These different types of AI have in many ways contributed positively to the growth of the legal industry.
The first benefit of AI to Law Practice in Nigeria is that it improves legal efficiency as it saves time and money. It reduces the amount spent on manpower as it carries out the automated part of the work like reviewing the documents and gives room for the lawyers to do the human part like negotiating the terms of the deal. For instance, a Slaughter and May AI named Pilot frees up solicitors who would otherwise be scanning through thousands of pages of repetitive documents so that they could spend more of their time negotiating the terms of the deal. Therefore, instead of creating robot lawyers, AI takes the robot out of the lawyers. This was explained in the case of Lola v Skedden where the court held that “tasks which could otherwise be performed entirely by a machine cannot be regarded as engaging in legal practice.”
It has been argued that one of the problems of artificial intelligence in Nigeria is public acceptance because it may be hard for the lawyers and clients to trust the opinion of the computer. This is, however, not true as it has been shown that various law firms all over the world have begun implementing the use of AI. In fact, Nigerian law firms such as Aelex, Olaniwun Ajayi LP, Infusion lawyers and so on have embraced the use of AI. Furthermore, Law Pavilion has unveiled TIMI, Nigeria’s first artificial intelligence legal assistant.
Another benefit of AI in the Nigerian legal practice is that it allows for more accurate risk assessment on due diligence cases. It exposes the long term implications of short term decisions as it compares recent decisions with similar precedence. By doing so, it also helps to assess the risk of non-compliance with regulations. An example of this is the work of the AI named Kira made by KiraSystems which automatically extracts and summarizes any provision of virtually any contract and uncovers insights in them very fast. Another example of this are block-chain contracts which are contracts drawn up without the manual input of a lawyer.
Furthermore, AI can be used to predict the outcome of cases based on precedence of similar cases. This is considered to be very useful to the Nigerian law practice as the legal profession thrives on winning cases for its clients, thus the case outcome prediction is a welcomed invention. Researchers at University College London, the University of Sheffield and the University of Pennsylvania have applied AI algorithms to 584 cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights and found patterns in the cases. Through the precedence learned from these cases, the AI was able to predict other cases with 79% accuracy.
Another challenge which can be said to mar the existence and use of AI in the Nigerian legal profession is funding. The use of AI requires a lot of funds which in a country like Nigeria, is not usually available. However, it is important to note that when law firms consider the profit they stand to gain from the use of AI in carrying out their practice, funding is an investment they are willing to make. In 2018, it was reported that the Pan-African law firm Bowman’s invested in Kira, an artificial intelligence solution to improve efficiencies in certain key legal processes particularly in mergers and acquisition, private equity and compliance areas.
It is however noteworthy, that despite all these benefits, the use of AI in the Nigerian legal practice is at its incubator stage due to problems of archaic laws that do not conform with trends of the digital age. This can be changed if our laws are constantly reviewed and brought to par with modern trends of technology.
In conclusion, the writer believes that adopting the use of Artificial Intelligence in Nigerian legal practice should be to the delight of the lawyers as it guarantees a lot of benefits to the legal profession. These benefits include, to mention a few; improving legal efficiency, more accurate risk assessment, prediction of cases outcomes. However, as is common to innovations, it has a few challenges of its own. They include; the problem of funding and the problem of gaining public trust in AI which the writer has tried to provide solutions to.
The writer also opines that the use of AI in Nigeria is in its incubator stage and more can be done in terms of reviewing the laws to match modern trends in technology.
Fayinka Abisola Tiwalade is a 400 level law student of the faculty of law, University of Lagos. She enjoys reading and writing on various areas of law ranging from oil and gas law, to jurisprudence and international law.

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