LegalTech: How to survive in the era of automation

30. April 2018 | Drooms Global

The demand for legal services has remained steady in the last decade. At the same time, technological progress and the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) are already having an impact on efficiency in the legal sector.

Frank Levy, an MIT labour economist and co-author of Can Robots Be Lawyers, has suggested that current technology is replacing around 2% of a lawyer’s total workload each year. Technology is nibbling away certain tasks, as law firms continue to experiment and innovate software.

Robotics can now solve your parking ticket problems and websites like wevorce can sort out your divorce without the need to have a lawyer involved. Corporations have the likes of Lex Machina, to analyse and sort data for court cases and Apperio, to deal with matter management.

AI is everywhere and preparing for the changes it brings is crucial for the industry’s survival.

Moving from laborious tasks to instant results

The most obvious way AI is entering the legal industry is via automation. Lawyers used to spend hours browsing documents for litigation, reviewing and creating documents, and raising red flags during due diligence.

But the automation of the legal industry means the tasks can be performed by AI software. Platforms like the LawGeex use big data and automated learning to compare and analyse contracts, pointing out problem areas for lawyers to fix.

While the software solutions started off as an aid, analysing and comparing text, the sophistication of AI means many can now learn from past mistakes, focus on the tone of the text, as well as take into account the context.

The international law firm, Reed Smith, recently compared the work of lawyers to software and found AI to match in quality and efficiency, if not to be better than human input. According to chief knowledge officer Lucy Dillon the RAVN platform “had high levels of accuracy and it was a great tool to use”.

Cutting costs, while bringing in more work

The legal sector’s adoption of AI technology doesn’t just create more efficiency, but it can also cut costs and change industry norms as we know them.

The obvious cost cutting is a result of enhanced efficiency. Since analysis of documentation is much faster and can happen at any time, the cost of labour decreases. Running AI software for litigation purposes takes a fraction of the time and cost than would a group of lawyers.

However, increased automation is not putting lawyers out of business. Not only is AI software still behind when it comes to emotional intelligence and human judgment, but the use of AI will relieve lawyers from repetitive tasks enabling them to shift their focus to other more thought provoking duties.

The industry is often seen as expensive and corporations can end up spending a lot of money on due diligence and litigation. But automation cuts the cost, allowing a wider access to legal help. The lawyers of the future won’t need to charge quite as much because they are freed from some of the laborious work. This allows law firms to take on more clients.

One example built with exactly this in mind and to significantly enhance the vendor- and buy-side due diligence process is the Drooms NXG Findings Manager, which, among other things, helps to automate the assessment of potential risks and opportunities of a transaction.

The legal sector has started to embrace technology and it must continue to do so in the future. The industry still needs to be at the centre of setting up the framework in which AI works. What is needed is the adoption of a growth mindset that understands the basics of AI and the benefits it can provide.

Adaptation is speeding up – and it’s necessary

The introduction of AI to the legal industry has been nothing short of disruptive. However, the conversation has been going on for decades. In 1970, Bruce G. Buchanan and Thomas Headrick explored the idea of modelling legal research and reasoning. The International Conference of AI and Law has taken place annually since 1987.

The introduction of AI has presented the legal sector with fantastic opportunities. Due to the benefits of AI, major law firms are starting to implement more technology and universities are considering ways to teach technology to future lawyers. The Deloitte Insight report from 2016 suggests nearly 40% of jobs in the sector might become automated. However, technology is more likely to create new jobs and make the sector more affordable.