Artificial intelligence (AI) has been given a fair recognition by the public in recent time in developed and in some developing countries. The incorporation of AI into not a few sectors of commercialization and industrialization has grown too. The use of Artificial intelligence in agriculture, data security and storage, finance, technology and other notable areas of endeavour are seen the world over.

Artificial Intelligence is defined as an area of computer science that deals with giving machines the ability to seem like they have human intelligence: it is the power of a machine to copy intelligent human behavior.[1] It is also a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.[2]

The introduction or application of Artificial Intelligence to law practice has rather been received with mixed feelings by many lawyers. At least a recurring argument against (AI) is the notion that lawyers will be rendered redundant. Also, that Artificial intelligence cannot perform creditably well as a lawyer in legal practice. It is conceded that these doubts may have some truth. However, the practice of law can be better and sustainable if artificial intelligence is given a good place in Nigeria.

LAW  PRACTICE IN NIGERIA

The lawyers and the courts face challenges in the dispensation of justice and smooth interaction with clients’ transactions, which ordinarily a commitment to science and technology would have cured. It is also the situation in Nigeria that lawyers are usually occupied with loads of research work to do, the preparation of processes, drafting of private and commercial contracts, clients and witness interview, e.t.c., and are done usually with little or no scientific support.

Lawyers are social engineers and the better their processes of work are faster and easier, the more the gains and improvements tilt down to the clients and of course to the nation at large. Lawyers can thus have more time for their families, friends and loved ones. The prevailing issues of family discord, separation and even divorce have significantly increased among lawyers in Nigeria, which can be traced to the stringent itinerary of a lawyer .The average lawyer in Nigeria barely has time to get sufficient sleep, eat or even to socialize, therefore impacting on the physical, social and emotional health being of the lawyer. It is therefore on these foundations that the discussion of this subject is imperative.

THE BENEFITS OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO LEGAL PRACTICE

Nothing becomes important if there are no advantages that it confers on the user. It will be fool-hardy to advocate for something that will not be beneficial to humanity. The roles or benefits that artificial intelligence provides for the practice of law in Nigeria are enormous; albeit an attempt to discuss some of them shall be made here. This discourse will be made under the following headings, to wit:

  1. Due Diligence
  2. Document automation
  3. Legal analytics
  4. Electronic billings
  5. Legal prediction

DUE DILIGENCE

Arguably, one character that is the hallmark of law practice and sets apart any lawyer from the pack is the ability to do the needed due diligence before proceeding with a matter or transaction on behalf of clients. The process of going through a heavy pile of documents, books and other materials are crucial to due diligence for a lawyer, hence the need for a collaboration with the use of artificial intelligence.  The role of artificial intelligence here is very vital and clear.

According to Imanage,[3] due diligence is an essential task for many legal professionals, providing clients with procedures for regulatory compliance, mergers and acquisition. Dedicated legal AI technology for due diligence speeds up the processes, eliminates manual inaccuracies and allows legal experts to foster a better relationship with their clients.

The manual approach of due diligence is quite slow and cumbersome to reel through numerous documents and sieving the needed information. Technology helps to reduce this stress and that is what Artificial intelligence does to legal practice. Lawyers stand to benefit from this as more time is given to other areas of legal practice.

DOCUMENT AUTOMATION

The use of technology in the preparation of legal documents is another role Artificial intelligence play in the practice of law, and which can create sustainable environment in the legal community in Nigeria. Recall that AI functions as a result of the human learning activities built into it. The gist of document automation is that the points, laws, procedures and pattern necessary for the creation of any required document has been wired into the computer, thereby enabling it to reproduce same when needed under similar circumstance.

The process has been described as follows:[4]

“You might conceivably take a set of documents generated over the last few years, feed them and the data that was used to generate them- if still available- into a really well designed deep learning machine that was created to understand documents….”

It has further been suggested that you need to be confident that the documents used for training are accurate, that they cover all business scenarios, and that all such scenarios are represented sufficiently…..[5]

LEGAL ANALYSIS

Getting the documents, data, resources or materials needed for a legal work or transactions is not enough. It is not until a purposive decision is reached thereat before it can be said that same was helpful. This decision however cannot be made without recourse to legal analysis, and this is where the role of Artificial Intelligence is evident.

Artificial intelligence when imputed with the right data can function properly to analyze a document. The use of its algorithm or rules through learnt pattern makes it to appreciate various data, documents or material producing the needed result. Once a certain type of document is denoted as relevant, machine learning algorithm can get to work to find other documents that are similarly relevant.[6]

Legal analysis is very pivotal to the practice of law no matter the area of specialization. It is just the training of the [AI] to understand the required pattern is what it takes for a lawyer to delegate or pass those complex data and documents to [AI], thereby allowing more time for other jobs for the lawyer and thus creating a sustainable legal practice.

ELECTRONIC BILLINGS

It is often the joy of any lawyer to reap the reward of his usually uncomfortable long hours of work and service to his clients. It is however not always the case that this aspect of legal practice is free from trouble especially in Nigeria. It sometimes happen that there is a dispute to the exact amount a client is expected to pay or is indebted to the lawyer for the legal services.

Artificial intelligence plays a key role here with respect to billing, data extraction, preparing or generating invoice, separating and sending invoice. It is estimated that about 80% to 90% of invoices processed are paper-based. And most of this invoice is done manually or semi- automatically.[7] {Al} in this respect would help prevent fraud as the correct data of clients and other information will be clearly extracted, separated and generated plus transmitted to the destination as may be required.

LEGAL PREDICTION

At the core of the Nigerian legal system is the doctrine of stare decisis that demands that the past decisions of superior courts on a point of law, according to its hierarchy must be followed in the circumstance of similar facts. The precedents set in decided cases are authorities which lawyers use to fire up their cases especially in litigation. This fact is also important for other practice area of the law as the decisions of courts many at times touches a great parts of law generally.

The crux of this therefore is that considering the fact that AI functions under learned human imputation of data, it is easier for it to research through the puzzle and come up with a clear legal prediction of circumstances and save the lawyer the time that ordinarily would have been consumed engaging in a legal research.

CONCLUSION

It is not uncommon to be skeptical of technology, but the benefits abound for lawyers if AI is used in law practice as it sure would create a sustainable legal practice in Nigeria, notwithstanding the challenges that may be present; like lack of the requisite knowledge, damage to the computer or program.