How AI Can Help a Lawyer Work Faster and Less Expensively

Artificial intelligence can quickly find a needle in a haystack of thousands of documents. It also remembers everything it’s read about the law.

AI in big red letters behind a judge’s gavel and bloc
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In over 40 states, attorneys are required to take a continuing legal education (CLE) course in technology and the law, which includes artificial intelligence (AI).

I had the pleasure of watching New York attorney James A. Sherer’s engaging podcast about AI on the LearnFormula platform, a provider of CLE courses. As a partner in the New York office of BakerHostetler, Sherer co-leads the Emerging Technology Team for the Digital Assets and Data Management Group and addresses clients’ questions about AI.

During our interview, he took me on a tour of AI — a look under the hood — and what it can do.

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I also discussed practical applications with Palo Alto, Calif.-based attorney Pablo Arredondo, vice president, co-counsel at Thomson Reuters and co-founder of Casetext, which has a commanding 34% market share of AI research tools for lawyers.

It is a fascinating time to be a lawyer 

“The power of AI is simply amazing,” Sherer says enthusiastically. “It can manage enormous amounts of data and, in effect, has read every book in the law library. It can also become a litigation coach — as if you are talking with an associate who has perfect recall for all of the documents in a case. 

“During a deposition, you can ask it to suggest questions that you might not have thought of — but which seem logical based on the data you have provided. Applied to a lease or a contract, it functions as a spelling and grammar check and will reduce the potential for malpractice — minimizing the chance of something important being overlooked, telling the lawyer, ‘Your contract reminds me of XYZ. Have you considered that?’”

AI can make a lawyer far more efficient

Lawsuits often create massive amounts of paperwork and exhibits to review. These can create David-and-Goliath situations where one side — in response to a discovery request — delivers hundreds of thousands of documents. 

“If one side does not have the time or personnel to go through everything,” Sherer notes, “they could miss something critical to their case. But AI reviews it all and might uncover highly valuable facts to support a position of which the attorneys were unaware before.”

He cautions, though, “While it is an amazing technology, we must maintain vigilance and need to develop systems that are self-correcting, as we have the duty to be sure AI acts in a legal and fair manner.” 

Justice delivered faster and less expensively

To learn more of how AI is being used today by lawyers and its practical benefits for clients, I also spoke with Arredondo. I asked him, “As it is often described as a game changer, what is the economic benefit of AI to both lawyers and clients?” 

“This technology helps in obtaining justice faster and less expensively,” he replied, “without a drop in quality, making it especially valuable to people who might not be able to afford top-shelf lawyers, or who rely on legal clinics to find attorneys to help them. 

“Similar to a turbocharged engine, it greatly enhances speed and makes lawyers more efficient — able to do more at a reduced cost to the client. For example, the AI can help you with your research and send it over to the word processor to be more seamlessly folded into the brief that you draft with its help.”

Finding that needle in a haystack

Historically, document review could take weeks — or even months — depending on how many documents there were and the number of associates in a law firm who were poring over them — the expense could be substantial. Often, a lawyer has a hunch that a handful of relevant emails or other evidence exists in a data dump that could contain hundreds of thousands of emails or other documents, but it is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

“In a matter of hours, AI proves its value by finding what the lawyers hoped would be there. So AI is not just helping attorneys reach the same level of quality faster, and more efficiently, it enables us do a better job and get to a better outcome and with a real savings to clients,” Arredondo underscores.

Is failure to use AI a basis for malpractice?

Arredondo is confident that AI will become something that clients expect their lawyers to use. “I envision a day when failure to use it will be malpractice, as it is catching things that humans miss. A lot of solo practitioners are getting it. So we were happy to see it being adopted, not just at the big firms but at small ones as well.”

Will AI have an impact on people wanting to enter the legal profession? I put that question to Nancy B. Rapoport, professor at William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and her writing collaborator, Joseph Tiano, founder and CEO of Legal Decoder, a legal data analytics company.

They believe AI will indeed reduce the number of people joining the legal profession, because fewer people will be needed at the lower, entry levels.

And that is something to think about when considering a career in law.

For another take on this issue, see my 2023 article Could ChatGPT and AI Change Delivery of Legal Services?

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield, Calif., and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to And be sure to visit

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."