Using AI to improve the efficiency of legal work


Jonathan Miller HeadShot

While more judges are assessing costs in cases where artificial intelligence (AI) could have reduced the number of billable hours, there are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding its use, says Toronto civil and commercial litigator Jonathan Miller.

“Judges are prepared to tell lawyers that AI could have been used in court preparation. They’re saying, ‘You shouldn’t be entitled to all the costs you incurred to do that research,’” Miller tells

He says there are a number of online sources, such as CanLII, that help lawyers find and compile information, but there are also companies developing AI research to make searches more efficient.

“In some cases, you can plug in a set of parameters, and it will look at case law and say, ‘Here’s your answer,’” says Miller, an associate with the Toronto office of Shibley Righton LLP.

He recently explored an AI program focusing on employment law, and while enticing, he says there are still many questions left unanswered about the new technology.

“You input certain information, and it will tell you what case law says about a reasonable notice period, for example,” he explains. “I can definitely see the use of something like that, but I have questions such as, how many variables can you add?”

There are also factual differences in various cases, Miller says.

“I wonder to what extent the facts of a case get incorporated into the research?”

He says judges have been getting more vocal about using technology to improve the speed at which cases proceed and to lessen costs.

In this case, a judge suggested AI would have reduced counsel’s bill, Miller says.

However, this was not a complex case, he says, so it’s fair for a judge to suggest that AI could have done it faster and at less expense.

Miller says there are still many factors left up to the discretion of the court that computer programs can’t take into account.

“There are a variety of things a judge would want to consider, such as the personal circumstance of an individual, or actions taken by a defendant, for example. They all factor into the decision,” he says.

Miller doesn’t believe artificial intelligence will one day replace lawyers, but it could reduce the number of their billable hours.

“The interpretations of risks and liabilities can’t be made by AI, and a layperson would still need legal assistance,” he says.

“Lawyers will still play an important role in translating the information and flagging hazards. The one thing AI can’t account for — at least at this point — is the human factor,” says Miller.

A key concern with the use of artificial intelligence for the legal profession is the confidentiality of information processed, he says.

While recently studying one company’s AI solutions, Miller noted that users were alerted that the system would endeavour to keep the client’s information confidential.

“It’s possible that based on the details you submit, someone could learn information about the user or your client,” he says. “You would then need your client to sign off on AI use or find a way to get the information needed without using someone’s name.”

Miller says there are definite pitfalls with artificial intelligence in legal work, but he believes it’s here to stay.

“I do think it’s a tool that the profession can make use of,” he says. “We’d be foolish to think it’s not going to have an impact on how we practise law.”

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