For many years now there has been a concerted push towards automating a number of different aspects of the legal field. The digital age has transformed the profession, with menial tasks such as trawling through physical documents and records that would previously have been relegated to first-year graduates now being unnecessary with the advent of electronic databases and search-engines. While automation carries a number of positive aspects, it is important to keep in mind the limitations and risks that the practice can carry as well.
Take for example automated legal systems document systems. Their use is nowhere more prevalent than in business and investment structures such as companies and trusts, where they are regularly used to prefill deeds or contracts. While these robotic systems may be perceived to save time and money, in reality they can have serious professional repercussions for businesses when not used correctly.
Generally, such systems are essentially template legal documents that are filled in by the computer based on an algorithm or branching logic system. They are usually sold by online-only providers that generally do not offer physical assistance. What assistance they can provide is unlikely to be even specific to a client’s needs or situation. This further complicates the ability of businesses or individuals using these programs to respond to difficult situations in a timely and effective manner.
Such complications can arise out of any number of issues with these programs, beginning with the initial possibility of substandard legal templates being used by such programs. The individuals operating these systems will often lack the detailed knowledge and education of a lawyer who has been trained to become an expert in the specific field of law, which means mistakes, can be readily made. Of course, we then need to keep in mind the distinction between “automation”, and “artificial intelligence” which means in practical terms that the programs themselves are nothing more than basic coding, lacking the cognition required to recognise when mistakes are being made and so are unable to raise any sort of red flag to the user. The problem is further compounded if advisors filling the role of human checking mechanisms fail to pick up on errors and they become enshrined, waiting to be repeated again.
Mistakes such as these are not easily rectified and they can cause serious problems and liabilities for the affected parties. It is important to remember that such liabilities will fall on the advisors using these systems, rather than the automated system itself. The question becomes, then, whether the monetary savings achievable through using such automated services outweigh the risks.
In our opinion, progress is never a bad thing. Automation boosts productivity and it lowers costs. The idea is to understand the limitations of said technology and recognise where a human touch may be necessary.
Harris Gomez Group is a Common Law firm, with offices in Santiago, Bogotá, and Sydney. Over the last 15 years we have been supporting foreign companies with their growth in Latin America. Many of our clients are technology companies, service providers and engineering companies that focus on the mining, energy and infrastructure markets.
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