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How law firms are using AI

The promise and perils of advanced technology

April 24, 2018

Home Blog How law firms are using AI
Artificial Intelligence is transforming legal services

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has taken hold in corporate America and has already begun to transform the legal profession.

AI is a game-changer for the practice of law, not only in revolutionizing tedious legal tasks such as contract review and electronic discovery, but in trial preparation and strategy, even predicting opposing arguments and which way judges will rule.

Some of the ways that law firms and legal departments are putting AI to use now:

Contract review and due diligence

A huge share of time and resources consumed by law firms and legal departments are spent on due diligence, especially contract review. AI tools simplify and streamline that work.

Human eyes get tired and miss things. AI programs promise to reduce the time that lawyers spend on contract review by as much as 90 percent, according to their creators.

Using technology called natural language processing, AI programs now on the market can search, locate, and extract relevant data from thousands of documents in just a few seconds, compared with many thousands of hours of legal work required by human staff.

AI involves something called machine learning, where a software program continually improves its performance by processing massive amounts of data and then identifying and analyzing new data more easily.

Some examples:

  • eBrevia, a partnership with Columbia University, markets due diligence and contract abstraction software that can be customized to an organization’s specific needs and analyze 50 documents in under one minute. It includes international law firm Baker McKenzie and PwC among its clients.
  • LawGeex makes contract approval software that identifies potential issues within a contract and suggests fixes using a combination of machine learning, text analytics, statistical benchmarks and legal knowledge.
  • German-based Leverton specializes in real estate documents and its data extraction tool can reportedly read contracts at high speeds in over 20 languages.

Kira Systems, Thought River, and Legal Robot are other players in the contract review space.

All these AI applications can liberate firms and attorneys to spend more time focusing on client service and legal strategy instead of sifting through mountains of documents looking for needles in haystacks, which technology can do much faster.

Litigation prep

Researcher and attorney time both can be extended and freed-up for higher value tasks by employing the natural language search capability of AI, which operates as a virtual research assistant.

For instance, it can take many hours to search legal databases to locate court cases with facts similar to the case at hand. ROSS Intelligence markets an application that scans thousands of cases and produces an ordered list of the most relevant, allowing researchers to work more quickly and productively.

Prediction technology

AI software is being used to help forecast litigation outcomes by examining data from past case law, lawyer win/loss rates and a judge’s ruling history to reveal trends and patterns.

Some of the ways litigation analytics technology is currently used by lawyers:

  • Predicting opposing counsel’s arguments by finding court opinions cited by lawyers in similar cases to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the cases based on past court treatment.
  • Reading and analyzing legal briefs to evaluate their merits and score them based on arguments, drafting and context.
  • Finding the most-cited cases on a particular subject and how they’ve been interpreted by courts.
  • Estimating the time it will take for a case to go to trial before a specific judge.
  • Predicting an individual lawyer’s success by analyzing his or her win rate, average case duration and type and personal record before a judge or court to arrive at a likely outcome.

Among the companies marketing these tools are Casetext, Judicata, Everlaw, LexisNexis’s Lex Machina and Premonition.

Should legal staff start worrying about job security?

AI has the potential to make the lives of legal service providers a lot easier, not just practicing lawyers but law clerks, librarians and researchers, paralegals and discovery attorneys.

As to the long-term implications for legal jobs, that is the million-dollar question.

The work involved in advising clients, crafting arguments in legal briefs, negotiating with adverse parties and persuading a court requires teamwork and skills that are beyond AI’s current capabilities for the foreseeable future. And the legal profession is notorious for its sluggishness in adopting new technologies, although that trait seems to be changing as pointed out in this article on the ABA website Law Technology Today.

The promise of advanced technology like AI is to alleviate the most tedious, time-consuming aspects of legal work, freeing humans to work more efficiently and focus on analysis, judgment and nuance. That said, AI will change the nature of some legal work. It will also create new jobs and new opportunities, not only in law, but in all industries.

Perhaps the real million-dollar question is how quickly this will happen and most importantly, how we as a society will manage the profound changes that may be coming our way.

John DiGilio

John DiGilio

John DiGilio is a former employee at LAC Group. He has written for numerous regional and national publications as well as taught college and graduate courses in such topics as business ethics, e-commerce, fair employment practices, research methodology and business law.
John DiGilio

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