The legal profession, traditionally slow to embrace technology, is now at least partly embracing the opportunities associated with algorithm driven computer technology
In the film ‘Back to the Future II’, Doc Brown tells our hero Marty McFly: “the justice system works swiftly in the future now that they've abolished all lawyers.” Doc was referencing an imagined 2015, but in 2016 lawyers are far from being abolished. The legal profession, traditionally slow to embrace technology, is now at least partly embracing the opportunities associated with algorithm driven computer technology. At either end of the opinion spectrum there are two main schools of thought: 1) AI spells the end of the legal profession versus 2) AI provides the profession with opportunities it should embrace.
Some subscribing to the latter position have suggested AI should stand for ‘Attorney Intelligence’ and I think they have a point. AI tools need input from legal experts in order to be effective. In that sense lawyers will continue to play a key role in developing AI platforms alongside the delivery of legal services via traditional legal platforms. Here are some examples.
In the discovery context AI is used as a component of a workflow rather than an end in itself. In particularly voluminous matters a lawyer reviews several seed sets of documents while the AI tool ‘observes’ and learns from the review as it is undertaken until it comes to recognise responsive and non-responsive documents. The AI tool then reviews its own seed set of documents which are quality assured by the lawyer.
This back and forth process continues until the lawyer is satisfied that the AI tool can review documents at least as accurately as the lawyer. In a case in which Law In Order was involved, the AI tool reviewed over 150,000 documents enabling the lawyer involved to meet what was otherwise an impossible discovery deadline.
Paralegal and junior lawyer tasks such as legal research are increasingly being undertaken by AI tools. This change is occurring at a rapid rate with legal research tool ROSS going to market within a year of conception. ROSS is built on IBM’s cognitive computer known as Watson and has access to an enormous amount of legal information which enables it to undertake legal research in seconds in response to almost any legal question imaginable.
The ROSS platform also enhances the user experience by adopting Google style search interface. This means that users can ask direct questions of ROSS using normal language rather than require the user to structure Boolean searches or key words for optimal results.
AI has made its way into the contracts realm with tools such as the Canadian developed, ‘Contract Beagle’ which enables users to have their contracts rapidly analysed and dissected in a secure cloud based environment. Once uploaded, the tool automatically analyses the contract, highlights key information and brings lawyers and clients together to quickly provide feedback. As the process evolves through the human expert led editing, tagging and collaboration process, Beagle learns and begins to pre-emptively highlight information it has learned is important to the user.
The lawyer’s role has already changed dramatically and depending on your perspective, is threatening or affording opportunities to the legal profession in ways never seen. In the fast moving world of AI, new tools are being designed and refined faster than most of us realise, but they will not render lawyers redundant. Instead they will act as enablers for forward thinking lawyers who recognise the gains this technology offers the profession and more importantly their clients.
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