AI is saving up to 50% of lawyers’ time, say heavyweight African firms

A trio of Africa’s top law firms say their use of AI and machine learning is helping them save up to 50% of their lawyers’ time by embedding the tech in their processes.
Bowmans, Webber Wentzel and Cliff Dekker Hofmeyr have all been using the tech for some years, to a greater or lesser extent, but the cost of the tech and general market dynamics have led to slower adoption in Africa than in other regions.

Cathy Truter, head of knowledge at Bowmans, said the firm has invested a lot of time, energy and money in acquiring AI and machine learning tech and embedding it across all of its offices. “And as a firm we are pretty much on par with what the international are doing with it.”
She said there is a slightly slower uptake of these tech tools generally in other African jurisdictions, but the firm’s offices in Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania and Zambia are on a par with what the firm is doing with the tech in South Africa. “And with local and international clients, there is an expectation of that.”

Leapfrogging opportunities
Truter said African law firms have an opportunity to leapfrog what is being done internationally, in that in other regions firms have been embedding AI and machine learning tech tools for much longer. “So, African firms are starting out with the newer, faster-moving versions.
“It’s a lot of work to transition from residual tech to something new, whereas in many of our smaller offices across Africa, we give them the top-end tech and they immediately jump into it because it’s the first time they’re dealing with it.”