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AI for Lawyers: Right Here; Right Now

AI has shifted from being experimental technology to the mainstream. Here are six areas where AI is impacting the legal industry right now.

“This kills the billable hour dead.”

Announced Michael Pattison, the founder of ContractProbe – a tool that reviews legal contracts in matter of seconds, powered by artificial intelligence.

The thing is: Michael is a life-long veteran of selling billable hours. A career that served him well as the former Head of Allens' TMT practice group.

But after 30+ years of selling time, he dusted off his Masters thesis on the application of artificial intelligence to law (completed in the early ‘90s), and joined the growing ranks of AI-powered startups disrupting the legal industry.

And he is not alone.

In a short space of time, AI has shifted from being experimental technology to the mainstream, at both the enterprise level and for everyday consumers.

Here are six areas where AI is impacting the legal industry right now:

1. Contract review/due diligence

The lion’s share of AI applications have zeroed in on AI doc review. This technology can be quickly ‘trained’ on a sample data set and then unleashed to review millions of documents and flag issues. While the technology is still young, it’s fast becoming standard among large firms, particularly for M&A due diligence.

So how accurate is it? Well, in some controlled experiments, the AI has beaten human review. While in the real world, results tend to be varied. But the technology is only getting better.

2. Case prediction/litigation analytics

Can machines predict the outcomes of cases better than humans?

Turns out they can, even if in limited-scope, human vs. machine battles over specifically defined issues. But as the theory goes: even the most experienced lawyers simply can’t match the processing power of computers to detect patterns across entire bodies of law. Machines can learn, and they never lose their memory.

If anything, it will soon become a non-brainer (pun intended) for litigators to supplement their litigation strategy with predictive analytics. It’s no wonder that this has been another standout focus in AI.

3. E-discovery

The pioneering application applying AI to large datasets – e-discovery companies  have long been slashing review times and improving accuracy with Technology Assisted Review (TAR) and predictive coding.

Even the courts are coming on board, with the Supreme Court of Victoria becoming the first court in Australia to order the use of TAR to reduce the mind numbing task of discovering documents in civil litigation. We can expect this technology to quickly become mainstream.

4. Legal research

Gone are the days of using boolean (what is that anyway..?!) and keyword search terms. Now we can search using natural language expressions (i.e. normal sentences) that can be read by a new generation of legal research tools.

5. Expert systems

Expert systems are a form of AI that lawyers, or any subject matter expert, can use to automate decision making for their clients (or themselves).

Now, everyday lawyers can use software to create applications that deliver a ‘declarative’ answer to a legal question or generate documents based on a combination of Q&A responses. For example, does my company qualify as an early stage innovation company (ESIC)? Or, letting clients self-serve the creation compliant T&Cs for their competitions and trade promotions.

6. Bots

Legal chatbots went viral when Donotpay made global headlines by helping drivers across the U.S. and the U.K. squash more than 450,000 parking tickets. That’s about $13 million in parking fines successfully overturned, for free.

It served as a proof of concept; that consumers will readily engage with chatbots to solve their legal problems.

A flurry of new startups have now entered the market that allow lawyers to build their very own chatbot to answer legal questions, triage enquiries and automate legal documents. All with zero training.

Experiment. Adapt. Disrupt.

If there is one takeaway, it is this:

AI technology is now accessible to every lawyer. It’s not just hype, it is very much real.

Check out some of the tools in this article, sign up for some free trials or product demos, and let your own disruptive ideas come to life.

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