Bloomberg Law carried a story earlier this week that really got my attention.
Five percent of Accenture's workforce is no longer human according to one of Accenture's managing directors, Michael Redding. He shared that figure this month at a summit in New York on artificial intelligence. At Accenture, that percentage equates to 20,000 full-time-equivalent positions.
This is not a projection but a current reality which reflects the potential of AI, which is being employed on a host of fronts. Magellan Health utilizes a suite of programs – all under the banner of artificial intelligence – to handle a significant portion of its process for reviewing and approving requests for medical tests. Robot reporters are on the rise in journalism, including the Associated Press's announcement this year that an automated writing service will begin covering 10,000 minor league baseball games annually. The list goes on and on.
Yet the legal industry appears to be stuck, at least largely, in the past. According to a recently released Wells Fargo report on law firm performance, productivity is down in the first nine months of 2016, while attorney hiring and rates are up, the latter by 3.6 percent. That is simply not sustainable. More people and less work just doesn't add up.
As the article points out, law firms (in general) have not even done a very good job of using technology already available to achieve efficiencies and lessen costs by augmenting the work of their people with machines. Only a few of the largest firms in the country are actively seeking to implement artificial intelligence, most on a limited basis while AI matures.
My opinion? Accenture's recent announcement should operate as a harbinger of things to come in the legal sector, prodding law firms to evolve their business models sooner rather than later.
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