Unleashing the Power of AI in Legal Tech — How Ready Is the Sector?
This article takes a look at whether or not the legal sector is ready for AI in legal tech.
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The rise of artificial intelligence is one of the most disruptive developments of this age. Already of rising importance, AI is considered a make-or-break technology for companies across the board, with 75% of C-level executives believing that employing AI will decide if their business will prosper or fail. However, while the mantra that deploying AI is going to become the decisive competitive advantage is considered a truism, one profession has been slower to embrace the new tech: lawyers
The legal sector is an industry that is rich in documents but poor in data — a stark contrast to many other business sectors, where data is at the heart of everything. This means that most AI solutions thus far are not adapted to a law practice’s kind of work, which mostly consists of sifting through thousands of documents relevant to a specific case, with specialized teams hired particularly for this purpose. No surprise then, that law firms have been slow to embrace new tech such as AI.
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The Rise of “Legal Tech”
However, recent innovations in AI have been tailored exclusively to the needs of the legal sector, which has caused a renewed interest in using artificial intelligence for the benefit of the legal profession. The reason for that is simple: instead of sorting through endless stacks of documents and court decisions manually, having AI search and sorting information when needed is a crucial advantage that leaves lawyers more space for thinking and planning — and adding actual value to their clients.
Recent developments in the industry are hinting at a rapidly turning tide that will change the way legal practitioners operate. The fact that legal is a $300 billion industry has been incentive enough to create new, specialized legal tech solutions, and with Thomson Reuters CEO James Smith having recently snatched collaboration platform HighQ, more and more law firms are paying attention.
Special emphasis is placed on legal search engines utilizing AI, which are capable of cutting down the time used for manual browsing of numerous and complex files. Building an archive of court decisions is a tough task and attempts have been made to align the data and make it available for search results. French legal tech start-up Doctrine.fr, for example, is doing exactly that.
Doctrine.fr’s developers seek to turn their product into the “Google of law”, allowing law firms to search millions of court decisions to make legal research more efficient. Based on data processing technologies applied to legal research, Doctrine.fr is capable of searching more precisely and display information up to 180 times faster than other legal research tools such as Legifrance and LexisNexis. In light of this, investors recently pumped $11.6 million into the start-up in order to allow Doctrine.fr to expand with data from different countries.
Contract Reviews Made Easy
Beyond finding the necessary court decisions for a case, AI is also on the verge of leaving its mark on other parts of the legal industry. Law firms dedicate many hours to contract reviewing, given that they have to identify potential risks and redline loopholes while writing deeds for clients. Not only does this require reading between the lines, but also making critical edits and ultimately guide the client in detail before making any signatory confirmations.
AI tools have been designed to read through hundreds — or more — such contracts at once, filter possible issues, and do the sorting faster and with fewer errors. A frontrunner in providing AI-based solutions in this regard is Tel Aviv-based startup Lawgeex, which promises to provide AI solutions that complete legal review and approval within an hour.
According to the founders, clients get spared the waste of time incurred by reviewing problem-free contracts and only a few minutes looking over those with issues. The idea has been well-received, with the company raising $12 million in additional funding in 2018.
Lawyers’ initial hesitation notwithstanding, it is becoming clear that AI will revolutionize the way law firms function as automation is gaining ever more speed in this field. Consequently, investments into legal tech research have been rising steadily, and the $1 billion mark at the end of last year. And while it is true that AI may not be a match for the abstract reasoning skills of a human lawyer, it could be of greater significance in studying previous trends in judgments.
What will these developments spell for the law profession? Does that mean more job losses in the near future? According to Deloitte, this is a matter of perspective. In a report, the accounting firm found that although technology has cut down 31,000 jobs in the law sector, it resulted in a rising demand for 80,000 highly skilled professionals. Furthermore, up to 100,000 roles could be automated in the next 20 years.
Even though complete replacement of humans is nearly impossible, AI will greatly impact decision making at different levels. And ultimately, law firms’ embrace of AI technology will empower lawyers to stay ahead of the curve. Indeed, considering the immense research undertaken in legal tech start-ups at the moment, it is clear that the revolution has already begun.
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