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AI Lawyers Help Build Business for Human Lawyers

In recent months, many lawyers and firms have started to embrace artificial intelligence, recognizing that it won’t displace all lawyers but instead, free them up to do higher value bespoke work that requires creativity and judgment.  But believe it or not, AI and other technologies can actually help create jobs for lawyers by helping to aggregate tiny law problems in one place so that the ensuing economies of scale justify the cost of a lawyer.

Here’s a recent example. Earlier this week, Fast Company featured a story on a company called AirHelp, which assists airline passengers in recovering refunds and damages for cancelled flights. According to the article AirHelp has just added several AI-powered bots to its team, including Herman, an AI-lawyer who reviews travel claims that reach the legal stage and Lara who processes more complex cases and can make legal recommendations with a 96 percent accuracy rate.  Herman is no slouch either, having been tested on 35,000 claims – far more than a human lawyer could ever handle. 

But here’s the thing: even with its AI lawyers, Airhelp still employs a team of 40+ lawyers, and is still continuing to hire.  Without a central source like Airhelp for claims, airline refunds weren’t really economically viable for individual law firms to handle. Many of the claims are valued at a few hundred dollars and involve several hours of legal research thus making them uneconomic for a consumer to pursue or for a law firm to handle. But when the hundreds of thousands of claims are aggregated and sorted by artificial intelligence, that’s where the magic happens – and suddenly once unviable, one-off claims are into a pool of new work for lawyers.  That said, these kinds of tiny law tools may also obviate the need for class actions which were initially developed to allow small claims to be brought all at once to make them economically viable. 

Are there other areas like airline refunds that lend themselves to this kind of model? Maybe privacy or other data breach violations? Disputes with online merchants? This is where the future lies.

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