Dimitris Dimitriadis Explores AI’s Transformative Impact on the Legal World

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into various sectors has sparked global conversations on its potential impact, merits, and challenges. Dimitris Dimitriadis, Founder of zoltar.agency, stands at the intersection of this discourse. As someone deeply immersed in the confluence of AI and the legal world, Dimitriadis offers in this Q& A invaluable insights that bridge traditional practices with future-forward perspectives, setting the stage for a new era in legal proceedings and services.

Q1 – While AI has become a buzzword, automation tools are quite different from technologies underpinned by AI capabilities like machine learning and natural language processing. To clear the fuzziness, which innovation currently underpins the bulk of legal technologies?

The effectiveness of rule-based systems and NLP in legal technologies significantly relies on the synergy between technology and the human touch. While these tools are programmed to automate tasks and assist in analysis or research, their full potential can only be realized with the human legal professionals who understand and intelligently deploy these technologies.

Even though these tools can process and analyze data at unprecedented speeds, the final interpretation and decision-making still require the nuanced understanding, expertise, and professional judgment of human lawyers. This is because the law is not merely a system of rules, but a complex field that involves interpretation, negotiation, persuasion, and ethical judgment – aspects that are still beyond the capabilities of current AI technologies.

Additionally, for these technologies to be properly integrated into legal work, it’s important that legal professionals don’t just use them as black boxes, but understand how they function. This understanding will enable them to use the technology effectively, troubleshoot problems, and also trust the outputs produced by these systems. It’s not necessary for every lawyer to become a tech expert, but a basic understanding of how AI and automation tools work will be increasingly important in the legal profession.

Q2 – When talking about true AI tools, in what ways do you expect them to change the way legal work is performed and serviced?

As true AI tools evolve, we can expect significant changes in the legal profession. These tools will be capable of performing tasks beyond simple automation. They could potentially aid in predictive analysis, enabling lawyers to predict the outcomes of cases based on past data. Furthermore, true AI tools could revolutionize legal research, sifting through vast amounts of legal texts and case files more efficiently and accurately than any human could. This would free up lawyers to focus on higher-level tasks, such as formulating strategies and engaging in negotiations. The automation of mundane tasks like data entry, document review, and initial research will reduce the time lawyers spend on routine tasks. This reduction in routine work can create more time for lawyers to engage deeply with the complexities of a case, to strategize and to consult with their clients. Moreover, this shift could enhance the lawyer-client relationship. By spending less time on paperwork, lawyers could potentially have more time for direct interaction with clients, improving communication and understanding. They can also better apply their skills of persuasion, negotiation, and creative problem solving, elements that are crucial in the field of law but often overlooked due to time constraints. In addition, the automation of routine tasks could contribute to a better work-life balance for legal professionals, reducing burnout and potentially improving the quality of work. It could also democratize access to legal services, as automation and AI could make it economically feasible to handle smaller cases or offer pro bono services. Therefore, the integration of AI into the legal profession is about restructuring the way legal professionals work, positioning them to offer higher value, more strategic, and client-focused services.

Q3 – Let’s focus on the uncharted territory of AI-powered language models like ChatGPT. Recently, a federal judge in the US fined a firm and two lawyers for presenting fictitious legal research using ChatGPT – an obviously wrong way to use the technology! Do you see ways to leverage safely and ethically large language models to streamline internal operations and drive business growth in the legal profession?

Despite the misuse of AI-powered language models like ChatGPT in that case, these models hold enormous potential for the legal profession when used ethically and responsibly. They can be used for drafting and reviewing legal documents, performing initial research, summarizing long legal texts, and even offering preliminary advice to clients. The key here is supervision. AI should be treated as a tool, not as a replacement for human judgment. Every output needs to be reviewed by a human expert before it is applied. We can envision a future where AI tools and human lawyers work in tandem, much like a pilot and co-pilot scenario. In this vision, the AI, like a co-pilot, assists the human lawyer in navigating the vast seas of legal information, providing real-time insights, automating routine tasks, and aiding in complex analyses. However, just as in an airplane, the ultimate control and responsibility lies with the human, who makes the final judgments based on the information and assistance provided by the AI.

Moreover, as AI evolves, it may develop a form of internal judgment based on its algorithms and training. However, this shouldn’t be confused with human judgment, which is based on a lifetime of experiences, intuition, ethics, and the ability to understand and respond to nuances and context. The AI’s internal judgment should always be under the supervision and control of the human expert.

This brings to mind the concept of reciprocal accountability, a term with roots in Pericles’ Funeral Oration, a famous speech from ancient Athens. In this speech, Pericles lauded the democratic ideals of Athens, including the idea that each individual had a role and responsibility to the collective good. Applied to AI in the legal profession, this concept would mean that while AI assists and augments the work of human lawyers, both the human lawyers and the AI have a responsibility to ensure that their collective work adheres to the highest ethical standards. Human lawyers should ensure that AI tools are used responsibly, while the designers of AI systems should ensure their creations function in a manner that respects the principles of fairness, transparency, and accountability.

So in the end, the effective and ethical use of AI in the legal profession isn’t just about technology, but also about the values and principles that guide us as a society.

Q4 – What are the main barriers to widespread AI adoption in the legal profession?

The main barriers to widespread AI adoption in the legal profession include lack of technical understanding, concerns about accuracy and reliability, ethical and privacy considerations, and regulatory constraints. There’s also the fear of job loss due to automation, although many experts argue that AI will augment rather than replace human lawyers by taking over mundane tasks and allowing lawyers to focus on more complex and intellectually rewarding work. It’s important to stress that as AI continues to evolve at an exponential rate, it is set to transform the legal profession in ways that we may not yet fully comprehend. The introduction of AI into the legal sector can be likened to the shift from using a typewriter to a word processor. This transition may initially appear daunting, as it requires learning new skills and adapting to new workflows. However, just as the word processor eventually became a standard tool in every law office, advanced AI tools will likely become a common part of legal practice in the future.

Q5 – It’s well known that the legal sector is resistant to innovation, often characterized as traditional and risk-averse. Turning this on its head, what are the risks for law firms that do not start thinking about how they can adopt AI into their business models?

The risks for law firms that resist AI adoption are significant. They could find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, with higher operating costs, slower response times, and lower efficiency compared to AI-adopting rivals. They may also lose out on attracting top talent, as the next generation of lawyers will likely be tech-savvy and expect to work with advanced technology. Engaging with AI offers law firms the opportunity to influence the ethical and regulatory frameworks governing its use. Active participation allows them to advocate for principles and rules that align with their values and interests, taking into account the unique needs of the legal profession. By refraining from AI engagement, they risk having these critical frameworks shaped without their input. Furthermore, embracing AI positions firms as leaders in the tech-savvy legal landscape, enabling them to advise clients on AI-related issues and guide the profession’s AI evolution in a manner that is ethical, fair, and beneficial to all stakeholders.