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The impact of technology AI on businesses

View profile for Terri Li
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Can artificial intelligence replace my solicitor?

There is no doubt that the world is evolving, and technological advancements play a huge role in the modern society of the United Kingdom. At the time of writing, technology forms to be heavily integrated into the life of nearly every human, and most businesses. With the social media influx providing a forum for individuals to heavily document their every move, the everyday person expects to have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips. This is no different when that same individual comes into contact with businesses.

As of April 2023, there were 5.18 billion internet users worldwide, which amounted to 64.6 percent of the global population. 97.7% of UK households are expected to have internet access, it is nothing short of ordinary and expected, that most human processes and tasks are assisted by technological apparatus.

Artificial intelligence v augmentation

To augment means to improve, and technologies in this strand do just that. Augmentation is a type of artificial intelligence that is designed to enhance the human, not replace it. This type of technology is designed to make people and processes faster and smarter in what they are doing. Examples include retail businesses using data analytics to predict customer preferences and trends.

Artificial intelligence is the term that comes to the mind of most when discussing technology. Artificial intelligence is exactly what it says on the tin. The development of intelligence that is entirely artificial and machine learnt. Simply put, artificial intelligence is technology that carries out tasks in place of a human. Examples include automated responders and online customer support assistance, that may once have been manually operated by a human.

Positive change or a negative change?

The biggest, most obvious benefit to AI applications are time and costs savings. Computer systems can analyse more information, more thoroughly and in a fraction of the time. Although the systems are not always well trained and they can make errors too.

The benefits of technology are growing every day. Examples include, but are not limited to;

1. Streamlining services for the ease of both the client and the business not only increases customer satisfaction, but also brings commercial benefits to business. Quicker, and more efficient work allows time to support new and more clients. 

2. Structural business reforms, reductions in rent costs as employees are enabled to work from home or elsewhere;

3. Better employee satisfaction and work-life balance; and

4. Improved client relations.

These benefits are interconnected, with each type of benefit cultivating additional value. As businesses and their clients develop an enhanced trust and faith in legal technology, it becomes possible to delegate monotonous tasks and focus on high-level client work which of course carries a higher rebate and job satisfaction.

These developments do not only bring positive change though, and hackers, viruses, and spyware are of high commercial risk; especially for business who possess high quantities of personal data. IT departments spend considerable resources combating these and remain ever heedful of these threats and businesses are becoming more risk conscious.

Unfortunately, there is often major cost outlay in the development of new and advanced technology, making it more difficult for small businesses to remain ahead of the curve in comparison to their larger competitors.

What does this mean for the UK labour market?

A recent article by the BBC reported that artificial intelligence (AI) could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs, a finding they reached further to consideration of a report by investment bank, Goldman Sachs.

These are changes that we have already started to see, with the increase of self-scan check outs and machine operated warehouse equipment replacing the roles of humans on a large scale. 

"We want to make sure that AI is complementing the way we work in the UK, not disrupting it - making our jobs better, rather than taking them away," says Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan.

Whilst it may be true that technology is changing the way that the labour force and businesses operate, it may also give rise to new roles that wouldn’t have existed some ten years ago. Schools are now teaching students coding languages, preparing the new working world for the skills that will be required in the next generation of workers.

Technology and artificial intelligence are rapidly changing the structure of many industries. The introduction of FinTech (technology in the finance industry) is now a regular feature in the lives of many in the form of mobile banking and contactless payment using mobiles and wearables.

Likewise, legal technology, also known as LawTech, is fast disrupting the services offered, and their means of delivery, within many law firms. The growth of these changes is reflected in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses, focused on the development of LawTech now offered at places of study across the country. Businesses in their own right, LawTech Firms and businesses have introduced many useful tools to the sector; ranging from document production and contract management tools such as Zegal, due diligence tools such as Relatively and case management softwares such as Clio.

There is no doubt that this will change the delivery of legal services, with Gartner predicting that by 2024, in house legal departments will have automated 50% of legal work related to major corporate transactions. Questions are raised as to whether or not this poses risk to junior and non-legal staff in traditional law firms. Studies suggest however that the most likely outcome in the immediate future is that we will see lawyers finding more time to carry out technical work, as time consuming administrative tasks become augmented/automated. It is hoped that this will see better productivity and arguably higher quality of services for clients, and in some cases better access to justice.

Perhaps things may not be as we have known them to be, and change often does require disruption, but it may indeed by change that motivates and encourages a new working world.

Implementing new technologies

Implementing new technologies into your business can be daunting, especially when considering the cost implications and disruption to the workplace.

Introducing efficiencies and new commercial products can always carry a high initial cost outlay, and many businesses balance this by considering long term savings both from the process they are improving, but also surrounding costs. Having tools and systems in place that increase workplace efficiencies can and does reduce the need for human labour in some cases. This is an anxiety provoking topic for many workers across the country and will of course be sector specific. In their report on the topic Goldman Sachs revealed that up to 44% of tasks could become automated in the legal sector. Lawyers of course aren’t completely replaceable, and generally speaking many hold high importance to a learned and experienced legal expert advising them, and society is not quite yet confident in trusting technology for high level legal advice. Administrative tasks however, usually carried out by juniors may be more easily replaced.

The automation of many typically human lead tasks, such as administration may well become process led by artificial intelligence, freeing up the humans to carry out “expert” based work that robots cannot easily replicate and humans hold in high regard. According to Richard Susskind, The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, “The first is the notion that machines and systems will work alongside tomorrow’s professionals as partners. The challenge here is to allocate tasks, as between human beings and machines, according to their relative strengths.”

It will inevitably mean however that businesses must reconsider their corporate structures, and with less need for people, is the need for new and revised business structures. This may see an increase in redundancies in particular roles over the next ten years, but equally there will too be a rise in new positions. According to Forbes, the top new role that is likely to increase in a tech advanced world will be that of and AI Trainer And Operator, because what good would human assistive technology be if it didn't have human led input.

Research does reveal that many businesses, including the likes of IBM and British Telecoms have already cut, or plan to cut, hundreds of thousands of jobs due to AI replacements. Increased efficiencies and developments could be considered to be “some other significant reason” or even just new processes giving rise to new business structures, could potentially give rise to a fair reason for redundancies and dismissals in many cases. Employers should however always be mindful that full and fair redundancy procedures should always be carried out comprehensively.

This blog has been drafted on a mobile device (laptop), using cloud resources (internet), recorded human opinion (podcasts and e-interviews) and documented on a word management tool (Microsoft Word). A distant reality from the writing of my predecessors of merely thirty years before me who would’ve typically put pen to paper or manual typewriters.