Blog Post

The Future of AI – 5, 10, 50 years into the future

December 10, 2020

AI development is accelerating every day, but how is this going to impact the legal sector today, tomorrow, and beyond? Should we be preparing for Robo-judges anytime soon? What does the future of AI look like?

It can already write contracts, search billions of documents in just a few minutes, conduct legal research, make case predictions, book appointments, and provide basic legal assistance. With the right training, it can even make a half-decent cup of coffee.

AI isn’t going anywhere, but that’s not the point. The point here is for the legal profession to understand where it could go, and how it’s going to impact our sector, not just tomorrow, but next year, in the next five years, and the next 50 years.

The future of AI is not going to replace lawyers. Everything AI can do, even the most sophisticated AI in the world cannot do what it does without human intervention. It is, however, going to change the way we work – if it hasn’t already – and become as ubiquitous as email.

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs AI is already impacting the legal sector, through due diligence, contract management, eDiscovery, legal spend analytics, and beyond. There are thousands of case studies about how lawyers are using the technology to augment their daily tasks and give them the opportunity to do spend more time on better counsel and more judgment-based work.

The future of AI will go beyond just helping with rudimentary tasks, the question we’re asking is, how far will it go?

The future of AI by next year…

Chances are you are just starting to look at AI as a business tool. While there are always going to be early adopters and the bigger law firms will be one step ahead on this, the reality according to the ABA’s 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report is that only a small percentage of law firms, are using AI.

Just 7% of respondents to the ABA survey reported that their firms use AI tech tools, a decrease of one percent from last year. Almost a third – 23% of respondents – said their firms were not interested in purchasing AI-based tools. Although nearly 34% said they didn’t know enough about AI to answer the question. Confusion wins the day.

However, this year has been a unique year for technology adoption in law firms – something no-one could have predicted – and this sudden reliance and acceptance of technology will likely spread to AI by next year.

Your first area for adoption (depending on your practice), is likely to be around contract review. AI has been around in this arena for 15-20 years and has established a solid reputation as a key ‘partner’.  Alternatively, legal research is another area that has seen positive responses from lawyers and GCs already using it to comb through thousands of documents more thoroughly than just keyword searches.

The future of AI in five years…

If this year has taught us anything it’s that it’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen. However, technology is moving at an unprecedented rate as companies seek to exploit their data to achieve competitive advantage, enhance customer experience, and boost efficiencies.

And that’s what AI will really be about (and adopted for) by legal teams in five years; it’s about being able to get the AI to do the long laborious, repetitive tasks, while highly trained legal professionals spend more time on strategic responsibilities, and helping clients make better decisions.

Within five years the trust in technology will have grown further as our reliance on it deepens. AI will not however have overtaken humans in general intelligence, regardless of what Elon Musk believes!

For legal, AI will be part of your daily life – to the point you don’t realize it (much like we don’t realize it now with Alexa, Siri, Sat Nav, banking, and beyond). AI will just be another tool you use to get your job done – and done well. It will change the way we work, but not to the point that lawyers don’t recognize their role.

AI-enabled contract management (and preparation), legal research, due diligence casework, eDiscovery, and legal chatbots will all become mainstream. They’ll be used daily, alongside smart search tools, and be considered, like email, essential to the daily running of a law practice and team.

As companies fully recognize and appreciate the value of data they hold as a competitive advantage, more and more legal firms and departments will be using advanced AI techniques, such as legal and spend analysis, litigation case prediction, and opposing counsel and judge analytics for example.

Other advanced predictive technology will become more popular as clients look for more certainty in their legal endeavors. Tools, such as maverick behavior prediction (where AI is used to analyze communications and detect potential fraudulent, litigious or anti-compliant behaviors before they happen), as well as case outcome prediction technology, will be well known.

All of this tech is already in play today – and being adopted by forward-thinking law firms.  Within five years this will need to be the norm for everyone, or their practice may not be in play at all.

The future of AI in fifty years…

This is the fun part – because nobody knows! Noted futurist Ray Kurzweil previously pegged the superintelligence tipping point at around 2045 – where machine (AI) become smarter than humans (singularity), although he predicts by 2029 AI will have human-like intelligence. Given how soon that is, and how far away we are currently, this seems unlikely.

For AI to really become ‘intelligent’ it must acquire general intelligence – not the siloed, specific task-based intelligence it has now. To achieve general intelligence AI needs to have a human-like understanding and comprehension of multiple things. Companies such as DeepMind and OpenAI are striving to achieve this, but even they admit they’re a long way off.

GPT-3 is a recent breakthrough from OpenAI.  It’s a powerful machine learning system that can consume data and generate text with astonishing accuracy. According to this article in the FT, GPT-3 has been trained on 45TB of words, for context the entirety of Wikipedia is about that’s 0.6 percent of its dataset. This training means GPT-3 recognizes the patterns between words and can work out what comes next.

However, it doesn’t have any understanding at all of what’s it’s written. So while it can write stunning prose, it still has no idea what color red actually is. It’s unlikely this will happen in the next 9 years, but it might, realistically occur in the next 49.

From a legal perspective and given the existing accuracy of prediction AI – in 50 years will this mean we have judge and jury in one? Will there be Robo-judges checking humans for the likelihood of guilt based on everything from speech patterns to body language, behavioral history to location – all based on mathematical probability (think Minority Report on steroids)?

We probably won’t be at this extreme in 50 years. This kind of Robo-cop meets I, Robot scenario sits alongside the dreams from the 1970s of flying cars, colonization of Mars, and holographic business meetings by 2020.

There are still incredible challenges to overcome with AI, not least of which is overcoming the bias (unconscious or otherwise) of whoever trains the AI in the first place. And, the fact that our legal and criminal justice systems are based on a system of ‘judgment by our peers’ – something AI can never live up to.

That’s not to say these things are insurmountable – DeepMind and OpenAI along with hundreds of others are working on this every day, but it’s more likely to be 2120, than 2070.


Technology moves fast but only becomes a reality once it’s been adopted. Whether we can overcome the inertia, fear, and misunderstandings about technology, and legal for any of this to become a reality is another point entirely. For now (and the foreseeable future), we have nothing to fear and everything to gain – efficiency, accuracy, insight, and more just for starters.

To bring this back to today, while you might not be able to imagine having AI as such an integrated part of your daily legal life, this time last year none of us could have imagined that we could conduct successful business from home, homeschool our kids and manage our lives in a completely new way. And yet we have. It’s amazing what we can achieve if we open our minds to it. Contact us now to find out more.