Adopting Artificial Intelligence In Nigerian Law Practice
Technology today is fast changing the narrative of work, time, and distance. It is constantly reshaping the human mentality and bringing to fruition several things that long ago were deemed impossible. Phones are connecting people of wide distances, and the internet is providing tons of data in one-click. It is in this era that we see a fast-growing component of technology which perhaps would be the greatest of all time – and that is artificial intelligence (AI).
Today in Nigeria, either as a result of poor infrastructure or simply due to sheer disregard for development, the practice of law has been sluggish towards technological advancement. In this era of modern technology, very few AI technologies are found in Nigeria. One of such is the AI legal assistant of Law Pavilion called TIMI which was recently introduced and has in fact not received much significant acceptance in the legal industry. Instead, a large number of legal exercises that should have otherwise been automated are still carried out by human beings, thereby leaving the system fraught with higher levels of risks, inaccuracies and unnecessary orthodoxy. This conservative work-style not just places the Nigerian law practice several steps behind the world, it further prevents budding lawyers from being ready for the future of work – a largely technologically inclined future.
Artificial Intelligence in Law Practice
Further, contrary to the traditional notion, law as a field of practice is not immune to disruptive technology. Artificial intelligence today is rapidly cutting into different fields of practice and various industries with the aim of redefining the concept of work in terms of unparalleled efficiency. The understanding here is that AI seeks to enhance what the lawyer does, and not to replace the lawyer. However, while many fear that the emergence of AI would occasion loss of jobs; the million-dollar question remains “what impact would AI make on the lawyer’s mode of work?”
First off, embracing artificial intelligence into our legal system heralds the emergence of unbridled analytical accuracy and speed. The reality of today sees clients paying lawyers exorbitant service fees with the expectation of proportional excellence in legal services. This has constantly created a gap in the Nigerian Legal system as human lawyers find it hard to match the demand within a short period of time. Humans easily wear out, both mentally and physically, thereby leading to delays in service provision. This is the gap AI intends to bridge. With the proper set of algorithms, intelligent machines would help lawyers know the most probable judgment of the court by assessing all cases that have been decided in that line thereby guiding lawyers in preparation of arguments. They would help lawyers review and analyse contracts for clause evaluation and risk assessment. They would also constantly factor in prevalent and emerging trends in solving research questions. And most interestingly, they would do all these and more in seconds, or at the very least, minutes.
Sequel to this, human lawyers would be provided with ample time to deal with the legal realms of the law that require high level human intelligence – and would always do. The practice of law is a field that, based on all indications of available technology, cannot be fully automated. There are several grey areas that require practical strategy, emotional intelligence, and consideration of public policies in dealing with them. These are things that cannot be coded into algorithms – they are not hard and fast. They are not a series of actions that can be fine-tuned into a set of instructions for AI to operate on. Thus, while AI speedily performs the routine part of the lawyer’s works, it allows the human lawyer to invest his intelligence on considerably more important things that actually determine the better lawyer and the winning of cases.
To many, the ultimate fear is that AI would take the lawyer’s works and there is indeed, some truth to this. If AI is adopted into the Nigerian Legal system today, it would displace a lot of lawyers. This is sadly because of the perpetration of mediocrity which sees many Nigerian lawyers feeding off low-level document review, paralegal work and other tasks that can be easily automated. However, for lawyers who understand the impact of technology and the need for constant evolvement, they merely see the advent of AI as a need to leave routine works to intelligent machines and focus their strength on greater causes. They see a need to learn new technology skills and incorporate them into their legal career. Very simply, they see a need to evolve. And frankly, these are the breeds of lawyers our legal system needs and deserves.
In conclusion, the optimism of this essay is not to say that AI is not in any way threatening to the legal profession. This line of reasoning is substantiated by the fact that technology is rapidly growing and vastly unpredictable. For instance, it used to be argued that due to the subtleties of chess, the former human champion could not be beaten by a robot. But AI has proved this wrong. However, as it currently obtains with regards to law, it suffices to say the AI legal tech cannot yet replicate the intricacies of law cutting across experience, creativity, and human interaction to say a few. Hence it would be a futile exercise for Nigerian legal practitioners to revolt against AI as though it is the enemy, when it could very well be the friend.