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The intersection of technology and mental health often carries negative connotations in the media. New articles are published daily about the strain social media puts on users' self-esteem, how artificial intelligence raises ambiguous ethical questions around liability, and how ‘robots’ are taking over our jobs.
Less reported, however, is how technology is positively impacting, and potentially transforming, the way that lawyers are able to cope with ever-growing workloads. A common aspect of legal work is documents in need of review. Sifting through this data falls to teams of lawyers who are tasked with reading and commenting on thousands of documents, often with tight external deadlines which can be stressful.
Let us take Mergers & Acquisitions as case in point: the bulk of M&A due diligence often falls to junior lawyers and paralegals, who are expected to analyse documents in huge volumes and at high speed. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to additional pressure at junior level; figures from LawCare recently showed that 48% of callers to their helpline were from trainees and junior lawyers up to 5 years qualified. In a survey by the Law Society's Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), more than 90% of junior lawyers say they feel stressed and under pressure at work. So how might new technologies help with some of the pressure and stress of legal practice?
Freeing up time
The latest advances in machine learning have led to solutions that are capable of reading and understanding contracts in the same way a human does and can therefore take over the daunting task of reading thousands of very similar documents, pointing out the anomalies for the lawyer to consider. Thus, artificial intelligence tools may free junior lawyers to instead tackle the thought-led, creative and analysis-driven tasks that attracted them to the profession in the first place. Law firms deploying AI solutions may therefore be better placed to support and develop their junior staff.
Flexible workingWe have seen another cohort benefit from this leap in computer understanding: working parents and those who need to work flexibly. Tarnya Pilgrim, Associate Director of Real Estate at Penningtons Manches LLP, is experiencing this first hand. “It is strange to think back to when I was pregnant with my children (now fifteen and eighteen), having boxes of documents couriered to my door from the office to do my due diligence from home. Now I use a cloud-based service, which means I can log in from anywhere, and AI software reads piles of paperwork quickly. This allows me to use my skills as a lawyer in a more productive way; to focus on the problems, consider the commercial impact of the issues and suggest solutions."
Mental healthThere are signs that Artificial Intelligence will soon help with the management and monitoring of mental health conditions. The long-term efficacy of AI for mental health is yet to be tested, but the potential for increased access to help is certainly encouraging, particularly for cognitive behavioural therapy. A shortage of services has been a barrier to those experiencing mental health difficulties in accessing professional help, but chatbots and online platforms are available whenever their support is required.
Lawyers have been slow to adopt new technologies and in the past systems often required a lot of implementation and training. The new generation of machine learning products are fast to deploy, intuitive to use and can provide benefits to the user, their clients and their firm at large.
This blog was written by Luminance, the leading artificial intelligence platform for the legal profession. The technology builds on ground-breaking machine learning and pattern recognition techniques developed at the University of Cambridge to read and understand legal language much like the human brain. Luminance is used by law firms and in-house teams in over 40 countries around the world to improve processes such as due diligence, compliance reviews, property portfolio analysis and eDiscovery. Luminance has offices in London, Cambridge, New York, Chicago and Singapore.
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