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Legal Pacesetters Begin Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Posted by Erin Harrison on Oct 19, 2017 11:04:00 AM

Perhaps the most ubiquitous term in the legal services industry today is “artificial intelligence,” known more commonly as AI. Indeed, we see AI everywhere – from the daily headlines in our news feeds to splashy marketing campaigns and social media calls to action. Yet the term itself is far from self-explanatory and the uninformed use of it, both within the media and by legal service providers, only exacerbates the confusion around what AI means to the practice of law.

Artificial intelligence – true AI-backed legal technology – “has the power to automate certain key tasks which we previously thought had to be done by humans, giving users more time to focus on the tasks that do require complex analysis and creative thinking,” Jake Heller, founder and CEO of Casetext, explained in a recent Above the Law article.

Sounds simple enough, but, truth be told, there are tech companies (both in legal and beyond) that are capitalizing on this wave of innovation by preying on the ignorant, exploiting “artificial intelligence” as a campaign slogan, even when their platforms use little or no actual AI-based technology. Law firms are swimming in a sea of Big Data, and therefore must be discerning regarding what technologies truly add value.

Legal data without actionable insights is just information. However, as Rick Merrill, founder and CEO of Gavelytics, explained in a recent blog post, legitimate AI-based technologies hold the potential to be true game-changers within the legal industry.

“Insights are generated by comparatively analyzing data, identifying statistically significant information and developing appropriate conclusions,” wrote Merrill, emphasizing that unless an AI-supported product helps attorneys draw significant conclusions, it may not actually aid a law firm in serving its clients.

True AI technology has the ability, like a human, to learn about an array of topics, but far faster than any human ever could. For litigators, this translates into greater efficiency, increased profits — and a clear competitive edge.

While law firms are beginning to test and implement such tools, in-house legal departments have helped pave the way for adoption. For example, Julie Sullivan, head of legal operations at Rimini Street, said her law department leverages AI tools including legal spend analytics platform Brightflag, which has enabled the organization to save more than 5% of its budget over 12 months.

This type of tangible benefit is resonating within the law firm community. Corporate law departments value innovation, efficiency and transparency. If a firm lacks an AI strategy, it may be falling behind the pace of its competitors, and it is time to reconsider its technology investment for 2018.

Artificial intelligence represents uncharted waters for many of us. But we have reached an inflection point that calls for both law firms and in-house legal operations to come together to agree on what AI is – and what it is not. Importantly, it is incumbent upon law firm CIOs, knowledge management leaders and managing partners alike to fully understand the benefits that true AI can bring. The machines are here to help, if (and only if) we can articulate the help we need.

Topics: AI, artificial intelligence, Big Data, law firms