The legal sector is primed for disruption from AI. Here’s why… Nikolas Kairinos is the CEO and Founder of It’s hard to think of a professional industry today that does not stand to benefit from AI. From finance to healthcare and even property, business leaders and savvy entrepreneurs are jumping at the chance to capitalise on AI toolsets to improve their organisation as a whole. Yet, of all the sectors primed to benefit from AI, the legal industry certainly hasn’t been a frontrunner when it comes to AI adoption. To illustrate the point, RELX Group conducted a survey of senior executives in the US and placed the legal industry in last place when it came to the adoption of AI and machine learning (ML) technologies. Is a lack of deep-level understanding about AI hindering progress in the legal space? This is a question that we have grappled with here at Fountech, and has inspired the creation of our new and timely legal white paper, exploring the practical applications of AI within legal firms. By explaining just how this technology can drive progress and efficiency, the paper aims to arm legal professionals with the knowledge to take advantage of AI. Below I’ve outlined a few key snippets of wisdom that I hope will help legal organisations and professionals leverage AI to help them do more, do it better, and do it at a lower cost. A brief history of AI Before we jump into the practical applications of AI toolsets, let’s first cast a glance over the history of AI. After all, the industry is far older than people might think, and it has come a long way since its inception. While AI might seem like a 21st century trend, the concept was in fact debuted more than 60 years ago in 1956 at a conference in Dartmouth University. But it is only in the last decade that AI has truly taken off and achieved landmark goals with the support of private and public funding. Today, AI is being harnessed to create real world business value solutions, and we have witnessed a significant uptake of this technology across many different professional environments. Gartner recently revealed that enterprise use of AI grew 270% over the past four years, with over a third (37%) of organisations having implemented AI in some form or another. The reasons for this are wide-ranging, but largely boil down to the fact that AI is becoming increasingly more accessible, and people generally have a deeper understanding of this technology and what it can be used for. I have no doubt that the speed of its proliferation across the business world will ramp up as new solutions become available for everyday use. Having briefly considered the current state of AI in the business world as a whole, how do these trends translate into the legal space? We’ve only just scratched the surface of AI in law; indeed, AI is only just beginning to come into its own in terms of its use by lawyers and legal firms. Research by the Legal Practice Management in 2018 found that 73% of law firms in the UK were still not using AI in any way – a statistic that needs to improve if firms hope to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive. At this point, many might be wondering what kind of solutions are out there, and how they can be used. While AI may not be a magic bullet for solving all business inefficiencies, it’s certainly a good place to start. So here are a few examples of how law firms can streamline their day-to-day operations through AI toolsets… Shifting the document burden One of the key attributes of AI is that it can be taught how to complete tasks traditionally managed by people, particularly where the main focus is looking for patterns in data, testing the data, and finding or providing results. This functionality can aid in all manner of different responsibilities, but let’s consider how it can be utilised to lessen the burden of document drafting and management – a task I dare say fills few legal professionals with excitement. Needless amounts of time and effort is expended by lawyers on a daily basis as they sift through paperwork and legal documents, locating necessary information, and analysing the content in order to inform a contract or decision. Why not automate this process? After all, it’s hardly a competition; AI can scan and review swathes of data at an infinitely faster rate than any human can. To offer a practical example, let’s imagine that a lawyer is trying to locate and compile a list of all of the cases of a certain description that occurred at a specific time and place. Instead of doing this manually, he or she might instead enlist the help of an AI-powered ‘smart search’ solution. By asking the software a question they are seeking the answer to – in this case, it might be, “what are all the cases of whiplash car injuries that occurred in London 2017?” – the AI can sift through digital data stores to find documents containing relevant matches. Whereas traditional search engines would simply scan for keywords in this instance, they lack a more sophisticated function which stems from ML capabilities. At the crux of it, ML capabilities ensure that AI tools are constantly positioned to reactively learn and improve. Based on feedback from the legal professional, it can learn to refine results over time to ensure that they only revert the most relevant information. It doesn’t stop here, however. AI can even be employed to help draft professional documents. Instead of hand-crafting each contract or agreement from scratch, lawyers can simply specify what points or arguments they would like to raise in the document and leave the AI to generate legally-sound paragraphs based on previous examples. Not only does this free up countless hours of a professionals time, it also means that they’re able to direct their energy towards more valuable and higher-level assignments. Predicting the outcome of cases This might sound like a distant reality, but the fact is that AI already has the ability to predict the outcome of cases by analysing historic data and the particulars of each individual case – in effect, offering firms a form of risk-analysis. Once again, this is down to the ability of AI algorithms to spot patterns in the data, which is then used to plot possible future trends and determine the likely consequences of different scenarios. How does this work in practice? Let’s say that a firm has taken on a personal injury case, but is unsure about the likelihood of its success. The lawyers can turn to AI tools to help predict likely arguments and decisions that the case could incur by comparing it to previous cases of a similar nature. It would also be able to delve into the finer details of a defendant’s history, together with which it could determine what the likelihood of success might be. What’s more, the AI can even provide justified reasons for the case’s anticipated unsuccessful outcome. Using this information, the lawyer can decide how best to approach the case, and whether they would be better off not pursuing it. As a general point, using AI tools in an advisory capacity to support the work of legal professionals has the potential to save both the firm and the client unnecessary time and costs. Taking on tedious tasks AI doesn’t have to be employed in a complex way, however. It can even be used to resolve small problems that legal professionals face on a daily basis. We all know how frustrating it can be to spend hours trawling through files to locate one specific piece of information. A remnant from many people’s school and university days, this is a daily reality for legal professionals. And this task can take a significant toll on a professionals productivity levels. Can AI help here? The answer; most certainly. For instance, AI toolsets can summarise key points found in mammoth bodies of legal text. Researchers can then read the summaries of these documents to determine whether they are useful, and if they warrant further research. Of course, we cannot discredit the role of human intervention in this process; lawyers and legal professionals play a central role to ensure that the toolset delivers the highest quality results. To illustrate, humans are needed here to highlight any key points that are missing from the summary. Should the AI miss any central facts or ideas, the user can highlight these and teach the AI software what information it should be prioritising. This is where the ML capabilities kick in again. Over time, the AI will be able to determine the key points to summarise based on the document’s category and human feedback. So, for a researcher needing a brief overview of a sales contract, it might learn to offer a short summary of payment terms. The uses of AI to automate and simplify tedious tasks like this are endless. Another great example is the ability to review and classify legal documents to make it easier for researchers to locate them and use them for guidance. By determining patterns in data and analysing how previous documents were categorised, AI algorithms are able to sort and classify new documents that are uploaded. They can also use this store of data to return similar documents if a lawyer is looking for a particular type of document. If a lawyer is drafting an employment contract and wants to seek direction from past cases, the AI can pull up similar employee contracts from the digital library for comparison. Even better, the AI can highlight any differences between the documents to ensure the lawyer is aware of these and doesn’t miss key arguments in the process of drafting. Don’t get left behind! If utilised effectively, AI can become an indispensable assistant to practically every legal professional, and ultimately help firms deliver better, faster and more cost-efficient legal services. Those who remain reluctant to adapt and embrace the change, however, risk getting left behind. It’s important to remember that the potential of AI within the legal space goes far beyond the examples mentioned in this piece. Solutions can be tailored to fit the bill of specific organisations and their inhibitions. This often comes down to determining where time and resources are being squandered needlessly, and where this can be resolved by delegating repetitive, costly or time-consuming tasks to AI. I encourage everyone within the sector to explore the AI toolsets at their disposal, and experiment with ways that they could be integrated into their professional lives. And for those who are unsure where to begin, get in touch with Fountech to request your own personal copy of our legal white paper.
If utilised effectively, AI can become an indispensable assistant to practically every legal professional, and ultimately help firms deliver better, faster and more cost-efficient legal services