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AI and the impact of digitalization on the legal profession and legal technology

Systems thinking, artificial intelligence (AI) and scientific advances can address many problems traditionally left to the legislator. Traditional ways of legislating are thus being challenged and the legal sector is being affected in a profound way. What are the requirements for future legislation and is there a risk that democracy will be replaced by technocracy?

Peter Wahlgren, Professor of Legal Informatics at Stockholm University, and holder of the Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Professorship in Legal Science 2019-2023, studies these challenges. Within the framework of the professorship, he has explored how legal technology is affected in a digital environment increasingly characterized by AI.

Two events in the course of the project show that the development has entered a new phase and that the conditions for the legal sector are irrevocably changing: the EU's proposal for legislation on AI in 2021 and the company Open AI's launch of Chat GTP in 2022. AI in the legal sector is no longer a matter of academic speculation or technical experimentation. It is a practical phenomenon that everyone has to deal with, and an overarching aim of the project is to explore the extent to which law and AI can be fruitfully linked. Can the emergence of an AI-enabled law improve efficiency and quality? How is such synergy achieved and what are the risks and difficulties involved? The work, which is by nature ongoing, analyzes the technical and legal context in detail. At an overarching level, four parallel and interacting change processes are identified.

  • Laws are moving from being essentially tools for reacting to and dealing with problems to becoming tools for regulating the systems that are expected to take care of the problems. Reactive control and problem-solving, which are the traditional functions of law, are being replaced by proactive mechanisms.
  • New legislation is expected to be digitization- and automation-friendly. For decision-making, this means that data collection becomes interactive and legal decisions are made without human intervention. This is shrinking the market for traditional legal services while increasing the demand for digitized interactive services and apps.
  • Digitization means increased opportunities to collect monitoring data, which means a strengthened ability to analyse the impact of legislation. In the long run, this paves the way for systematic knowledge building that allows tailoring regulations to achieve optimal impact.
  • The lawyers of the future must be equipped for these developments. In addition to an awareness of the processes of change brought about by increased digitization and AI, lawyers must understand, make demands on and be able to evaluate technological solutions. This requires training that integrates risk analysis, legal, computer science and sociological methods.

Peter Wahlgren's research also shows that the change processes described in the study are beyond the control of the legal sector. The development is technology-driven and the opportunities for increased efficiency, cost savings and improved quality are significant. Equally clear is that AI challenges fundamental legal principles and affects the integrity of the justice system. The pace of change is high and the adaptation of the legal profession, courts and legal education is urgent.

Read more about the study at Stockholm University