The legal sector has a general reputation for being conservative when it comes to technology. Not anymore. The landscape is rapidly changing. Digital legal tools have gone beyond the days of Westlaw and LexisNexis, the two companies that pioneered online legal research. Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing how attorneys practice law. Keep reading to understand what artificial intelligence is and how it’s transforming the legal profession.
AI Partners with Lawyers
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a term used for a computer-based algorithm that can analyze, strategize, and draw conclusions to complete tasks typically performed by humans. Although AI is new, people have dreamed of harnessing the capability of computers to assist in legal tasks for hundreds of years. In the late 1600s, the German attorney G.W. Leibniz theorized that machines would someday use a binary logic system to calculate numbers, and he envisioned a partnership between artificial intelligence and lawyers. Despite never seeing anything resembling a computer, he accurately described the benefits that AI now provides to the legal profession: “It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used.”
AI-based software allows law firms to automate lower-level tasks, freeing time for attorneys to focus on complex analysis and client interaction. AI greatly enhances an attorney’s ability to research, advise, and serve their clients. Some large firms already use AI-based tools to enhance their practices. According to the 2018 Technology Survey by the International Legal Technology Association, 100 percent of law firms with 700 or more lawyers use AI tools or are pursuing AI projects. Firms, particularly larger businesses, that don’t adapt to changing technology, will soon struggle to compete.
Eventually, artificial intelligence will automate even more aspects of legal practice. According to a Deloitte Insight report, AI may automate more than 100,000 supportive roles in the legal sector within the next two decades. However, AI won’t spell the end of non-attorney legal careers. Instead, it will undoubtedly create new career paths, with boundless opportunities in AI and machine learning.
Applications of AI in the Legal Field
AI will revolutionize the following areas of the law.
LItigation Document Review
One thing all attorneys can agree on is that law practice involves a lot of paperwork. Even a simple case can involve an impressive number of documents, communications, and reports. Attorneys have a duty to review all the discovery materials associated with a case. If an attorney misses key terms or changes, it can be disastrous and even rise to the level of malpractice. Fortunately, AI streamlines eDiscovery technology, including document review.
AI eDiscovery algorithms work by learning how a firm reviews documents and sorting out relevant terms, topics, and other criteria. Once AI software knows what to look for, it can suggest important documents and areas of interest within the content. AI solves two persistent problems with discovery: it typically takes too long, and it’s expensive.
To illustrate the benefits of AI for document review, imagine that in-house counsel for Company A receives a few thousand documents relating to pending litigation regarding an order of botched goods. Company A’s attorney specifies terms of interest along with relevant documents for the company’s AI to review. The AI scans through thousands of records within seconds and provides the attorney with the necessary information to build a case. With the help of AI, Company A drastically lowers legal costs and quickly drafts a claim to recoup damages and mitigate further losses.
Attorneys have used text retrieval for legal research for decades. Companies such as Westlaw and LexisNexis provided foundational online legal research tools. AI enhances these traditional search methods.
Searching for applicable case law is tedious. General search terms can yield thousands of case results, proving useless to a busy attorney. AI improves searches because it learns what an attorney needs. The more data and information an attorney provides to narrow the scope, the more the AI tailors the information. Instead of 1,000 possible cases that could contain applicable precedent, the AI may provide the attorney with a handful of the most relevant cases. Plus, AI can continue the search even after the initial inquiry. It’s similar to having a legal assistant researching for a client day and night.
For example, imagine Company A sues a manufacturer for failure to deliver conforming goods. Attorneys for Company A provide their AI with important terms and applicable facts and request a list of relevant case law. Not only does the AI deliver past cases on the subject, but it automatically provides updates and further research as it’s published. This intuitive retrieval process is the cornerstone of how AI transforms legal research.
Artificial intelligence serves as an invaluable tool for attorneys to manage their workloads and protect the best interests of clients by being able to review more documents in less time, and with greater accuracy.
Due diligence can vary widely in its breadth and depth. Generally speaking, it’s a time-consuming process of gathering documents, relevant data, communications, and other vital information. Once assembled, attorneys must painstakingly review each document and search for language in those documents that effectively prohibit a transaction from proceeding forward, or that state that certain consents are required, among other things. Attorneys can use or customize AI to search provided documentation and information, extract key points, and organize everything for thorough review. They can cut contract review time by up to 60 percent by using AI, according to research by Kira Systems.
For attorneys who regularly deal with large volumes of contracts, contract management is a must. Artificial intelligence provides a fast and efficient method to organize, track, and negotiate contracts. AI collects data over time to help attorneys draw conclusions, create future contract strategies, and discover new insights within the contract terms. AI software provides attorneys with more confidence in contract negotiations and leads to better outcomes for clients.
For example, imagine an attorney for Company A would like to request a change to the current commission rate during the next contract renewal with Company B. The attorney provides the AI software with access to past contracts associated with Company B. The AI then provides an accurate prediction of whether Company B will approve the requested change.
AI can also help attorneys predict the amount of time it will take a counterparty to approve a contract. The timing of contract approval can significantly impact a businesses’ overall strategy. AI can provide unprecedented accurate estimations from contract creation to close.
For example, imagine Company A needs to decide whether to ask for a modification of a clause in a contract with a manufacturer. Company A’s attorney uses AI to analyze the change and provide Company A with a time estimate for approval due to the added request. The AI assigns cost values to extensions of time to allow Company A to weigh financial penalties against further negotiations. AI provides Company A with sophisticated insights to enable their attorneys and managers to assess whether additional requests would be worth the estimated delay.
Some of the most common questions clients ask attorneys are, “Do you think I would win this case if it went to trial?” and “Should we settle? How much is reasonable?” Attorneys draw conclusions based on their years of experience in litigation and their knowledge about the local judges and opposing counsel.
Artificial intelligence takes prediction to the next level. AI can analyze similar cases with similar facts and provide a statistical analysis to predict litigation outcomes accurately. This tool allows attorneys to confidently advise clients on how and if to move forward with litigation.
For example, imagine Company A is contemplating whether to settle in mediation regarding a suit against Company B. In-house counsel for Company A uses AI legal software to weigh their options. The attorney discovers that with the current facts, Company A has approximately a 55 percent chance of winning at trial. Because of the risk of a negative impact on public relations and the small chances for a win at trial, Company A accepts a settlement, which saves their business tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
But is AI accurate with litigation outcome prediction? A London law firm used the data of more than 600 cases over a year to predict the viability of several personal injury cases. And artificial intelligence beats human experts in predicting the outcomes of Supreme Court cases.
Artificial intelligence is transforming the legal profession and the practice of law. Some people fear it will eventually replace attorneys. But AI legal software produces the opposite effect. It has the potential to help lawyers fall in love with their careers all over again while saving time and money in the process.
By automating repetitive tasks, lawyers can focus on higher-thinking and more complex operations of their practice. Attorneys may be able to say goodbye to long hours spent reviewing documents. They can spend more time with clients and devote more energy to formulating arguments and strategic planning. For the legal profession, the implementation of AI is a victory for everyone involved.