This article was originally published on Attorney At Law and has been republished.

Today’s lawyers don’t need to fear being replaced—at least not by robots. They should, however, fear being outpaced (and eventually replaced) by peers who have effectively harnessed and deployed AI-powered legal tech.

Early adopters of AI legal technology stand to benefit by reducing less productive research time, leveraging data-backed insights, and outmaneuvering opponents who are content to rely on heuristics and informed guesswork.

The laggards of the industry? They won’t be leveraging the emerging legal tech tools. They will probably find themselves struggling to keep clients happy and to bring new ones in. They will increasingly face prospective clients who want to know just what efforts the firm is making to remain competitive with respect to fees and quality of advice and representation.

Two of the most significant trends affecting the industry include clients demanding more cost-effective services and the main-streaming of alternative legal service providers (ALSPs). A recent study found that the price of hiring a law firm lawyer increased by 131% between 1996 and 2018, outpacing inflation. The rising cost of hiring a law firm lawyer is cited as one of the main reasons for the significant growth of in-sourcing that took place after 2010. ALSPs are on the rise and are providing clients with more sophisticated offerings—and a significant number of them are using AI to help facilitate their growth.

Even in the face of a real need to innovate, firms may find the task of innovation to be daunting and cumbersome—but the benefits of innovating in a timely way are many and the costs of sitting out while competitors ramp up are apt to be increasingly significant. There is a goldilocks zone—that I would argue that we are in now—in which it’s not too late to begin to adopt the market leading innovations and not too soon to be taking too much risk in adopting insufficiently developed solutions.

Innovation is a commitment, not a checkbox

Facing demands from clients and a changing competitive landscape, forward-thinking law firms are rising to the challenge and solving it by innovating and embracing the change.

What sets them apart from firms who don’t innovate at all, or firms who innovate ineffectively, is a genuine commitment to innovation as a means of providing better service to clients. As the leading firms realized, when assessed carefully and deployed thoughtfully, legal tech can delight clients—leading to a stickier relationship and high satisfaction with your services.

Your clients stand to benefit—here’s how

Legal tech, especially technology powered by AI, is elevating the professional standard across the industry. This has significant impacts for the professionals working in the industry, and legal technology changes the game for clients, too.

Clients gain quality, cost-effective advice.

Clients are seeking better results with lower costs when it comes to paying for legal advice. Amidst the changing trends of the legal services industry, including the rise of in-sourcing and ALSPs, law firms have a real incentive to drive efficiency in how they provide legal services to their clients.

It should come as no surprise that AI plays a significant role in realizing efficiencies. From automated contract analysis to natural language processing-enabled searches to using machine learning to gain insights into how your case would be decided on its merits, legal technology is generating a rich array of solutions to help professionals serve their clients in a more cost-efficient way.

Clients gain data-backed advice.

Legal technology isn’t limited to taking care of the tedious routine tasks that plague first and second-year associates. AI is actively making professionals better at their jobs by enabling them to leverage data-backed insights hand-in-hand with their professional instincts.

Firms may well find themselves staring at a dizzying number of legal technology companies purporting to give them a competitive edge when it comes time to litigate. The technology may rely on a judge’s or opposing counsel’s identity or which court will address their case.

There are also a number of leading firms that are leveraging AI technology to gain unparalleled insights into specific areas of law and make highly accurate predictions as to how those scenarios would be resolved if they were to go to court. This technology makes more substantial predictions and can help lawyers quantify risks and cover all of their bases when providing their clients with advice.

Clients get the best from their lawyers.

When AI-powered legal tech can accurately resolve low-impact, routine tasks and it has developed enough to meaningfully bolster a professional’s legal expertise, it’s understandable that some lawyers begin to feel curious about what’s left for them to solve.

After AI, what is left for the expert lawyer? For the next few decades (at least), the core role for lawyers will be shifting even more in the direction of the novel, interesting, high-impact, and challenging problems that only humans can excel at—the elements that led them to practice law in the first place. AI is far from replacing lawyers. It frees them up to focus their energy on the expertise-driven work that clients truly value. One thing about the end game we can be certain about is this: lawyers who choose to use AI will replace lawyers who are not using AI.