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AI Can Have My Job Someday…Just Not Yet

According to some pundits, artificial intelligence (AI) is a threat to replace workers performing knowledge-based jobs; however, when it comes to reviewing and negotiating contracts, my job is safe…for now.

Let’s face it, AI is faster at processing information than I am, and it can tap into more knowledge and data than I will ever amass during my lifetime. Part of my job involves reviewing contracts from a business perspective and providing feedback to our members. While reviewing contracts is somewhat formulaic, those tasks involve far more than applying a checklist to a set of facts (i.e. the contract).

Three heavy-weights in the fight to put me out to pasture (LegalSifter, LawGeex, and BNA’s Draft Analyzer) are making it easier for people to access crowd-sourced data and machine learning to analyze their contracts. Although this industry is still in its infancy, I can’t ignore the possibilities looming on the horizon.

Test Drive

I recently took LegalSifter for a test drive and I was impressed. It performed a comprehensive review of an agreement faster than I could, and the resulting comments provided invaluable feedback. Despite the adequacy of the background material and useful advice provided, I still see AI as a tool and not my replacement for reviewing contracts. Sometimes human intervention is required to connect the dots and bridge the gaps for other humans. This will improve over time as AI continues to learn, but for now, I see myself still having a fair amount of job security.

To illustrate my point, one comment from the AI indicated that a warranty being disclaimed by the vendor could not be disclaimed in certain US states. This is great information, but the recipient of that information needs to understand the nexus between that comment and the governing law provision in the contract. This wasn’t spelled out. AI didn’t connect the dots for me…my experience and knowledge did.

Another issue is the interplay between documents comprising the entire agreement. For example, if there are three related documents (a services agreement, a statement of work, and an order form), AI looks at each document individually, leaving it to the user to integrate the information. On the other hand, a human reviewer will look at all three documents as one arrangement and is aware of the relationship between and among the documents. In this case, the human reviewer is more likely to spot inconsistencies and potential conflicts in the overall agreement.

Benefits

There are many benefits associated with using AI in this field, ones that will make me better at my job. AI will help me:

  • Keep up to date on trends, cases, and laws.
  • Learn about new issues (domestic and abroad).
  • Minimize the chances of overlooking something by providing a second set of eyes.
  • Improve my checklist over time.
  • Tailor my review by contract type.

To avail myself of these benefits I have to embrace AI rather than worrying about it replacing me.

Recommendations

As I embark down this new path (with one eye on the future and the other looking over my shoulder), I know I will have to be flexible in my approach. To that end, I have adopted these AI guidelines:

  • When reviewing AI, I won’t be immediately put off by any perceived shortcomings.
  • I will look for and focus on the positives – how can AI help me work better, faster, smarter, etc.?
  • If AI doesn’t currently meet my needs, I will be patient.
  • I will reevaluate every few months the AI I’m interested in since AI is constantly evolving, learning, and improving.
  • I will go gracefully when the time comes…well, probably not.

Bottom Line

We’ve become comfortable using online services for creating routine documents such as wills, simple agreements, and articles of organization when forming a limited liability company. AI services, like the ones referenced above, represent the next evolution. Embracing it fully will take time, but the efficiencies to be gained can’t be overlooked.


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