Legal technology, commonly known as LegalTech, refers to software that enable lawyers to do their jobs more efficiently and cost-effectively. Though very much an emerging sector, LegalTech already comprises a $16 billion market in the U.S and is growing. Undoubtedly the biggest change in this burgeoning market --taking lawyers by storm--is the rapid rise of artificial intelligence technologies. Here we look at how AI is transforming the everyday practice of law, changing the profession and skills required by lawyers. More than 40 companies are offering solutions--from removing arduous contract reviews, to eDiscovery, or even providing intelligence on where best to try a case.
When we're asked, "What is artificial intelligence?" Perhaps it's a sassy-talking technology like Siri from Apple, or helpful humanoid counterparts like those depicted in The Jetsons. Nowadays, there are as many definitions of AI as there are companies trying to pitch AI solutions. So, how do law firms know how to incorporate artificial intelligence? When is the right time to use legal AI? Think of AI as computers performing tasks previously thought to require human intelligence. As computers do amazing feats, we tend to get less amazed over time – and we see those things as natural components of technology.
The current applications of AI in legal work includes drafting and reviewing contracts, mining documents in discovery and due diligence, answering routine questions or sifting data to predict outcomes. AI is a human-like legal issues spotter providing relevant information on contract terms, therefore allowing lawyers to focus their review on the relevant segments of each contract, saving countless lawyer-hours. The tools are simple to use, making litigation document management easier and more efficient, allowing companies to manage more of this work in-house without resorting to outside counsel. Predictive technology analyzes past legal reference data to provide insights into future outcomes, powered by advances in machine learning.
Plenty of media attention has been devoted to robots replacing lawyers. Conversely, some industry players claim that artificial intelligence (AI) is simply a buzzword used to sell software to law firms. "Are many AI-badged products just rule-based decision-making tools?" asks Alex Smith, platform innovation lead at LexisNexis UK. "What counts as AI?" AI in business has moved beyond process automation to include natural language processing and machine-learning, whereby computers are trained to interpret information and adjust their processes to user feedback. Rather than searching for keywords or strings of words, the software reads and understands information, so its findings and recommendations are based on contextual elements. Gerard Frith, chief executive of AI consultancy Matter, explains how AI adds value by modelling and reapplying expert knowledge in a fast, scalable way.