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“To support, not replace, the advice”: Demystifying Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Industry

| Written by Altlaw

On 4th March 2020, I attended a talk at the London School of Economics. This interactive discussion was taken by Damian Fleming, the Head of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s Manchester Office. His key focus is process efficiency and enhancing service delivery for key clients.

This discussion was titled ‘Demystifying Legal AI’, which follows on nicely from my last write-up. A theme throughout the talks I have been recently attending is that technology is here to assist lawyers, not replace them.

“To support, not replace the advice….”

Why use A.I?

A.I can save time, shorten the journey to success, and improve the margin. As I wrote in my previous write-up, there will always be at least 20% of every transaction needing to be done by a human.

Of course, A.I will not suffer from the same defects that humans are susceptible to in a work context such as fatigue, distraction, and of course, you won’t get a robot being distracted before lunchtime! All of this means that the drudgery of certain tasks can be avoided if handed over to technology. An idea that will be welcomed at all levels of a business, especially from the bottom up, warming the hearts of paralegals everywhere.

We will still need a quality lawyer to identify certain terms in agreements, for example.

A further definition of A.I was offered:

“Any system which can support or assist with a process which involves a series of integrated tasks”…

Interestingly, it was said that there will be jobs in ten years’ time being advertised that do not have a name now.

The conversation was then brought back to what clients want and what technology can provide. It is likely that clients won’t trust technology to make human interaction points throughout a matter. Humans will always be able to negotiate in a more effective way than A.I, for the foreseeable future, in any event.

It was also said that the current capabilities must be kept in perspective. Yes, there are very exciting advances but equally, there are still areas that cannot be filled.

Quoting Bill Gates:

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten… don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction”.

I found it to be a very interesting take on the current climate. Indeed, I look back on the technology available to that available in 2010 and the landscape is entirely different.

The 80/20 rule remains a common thread and source of argument. This 20% is what the client pays a premium for. This is the real skill of the lawyer that cannot be artificially replicated.

There is sophisticated software that gives lawyers a case manual to ensure that a process is followed consistently. This captures the time is taken and time elapsed assisting lawyers with pricing and workflow management and deal flows.

Software can provide a workflow management tool, providing real-time transaction status and allocation of tasks.

It was stressed that lawyers must know their clients and know their needs. How are they best helped? Every effort should be tailored towards revealing this. Aside from saving on transaction time (22% in some instances), software can also assist with pricing and workflow management and assist clients with deal flow.

It is expected that the next ten years will see much better integration with service providers with processing being developed that allow ‘touching in and touching out’ at clear points in the process.

We then discussed how A.I have helped in our own businesses. Clearly, a key question for all firms is when to invest in technology and how heavily. The criteria for consideration included hard and softs costs, savings, how long it will take to include this as a seamless additional/integrated service, and how long it will take for clients to accept this as the new norm and see the benefits.

“Is this the latest plaything or the next best thing”?

It is crucial that this technology retains a human element that takes our own processes and improves them.

Invariably, data ‘The world’s most valuable resource”, will be an area in which the cutting-edge technology will be piloted first give the huge amount of time that can be saved when dealing with such a large volume.

We finished the talk by discussing Richard Susskind’s book ‘The Death of Lawyers?’. A book I have recently bought and have started reading. Thankfully, the content is not as concerning as the title may seem! The question mark is a welcome inclusion for all lawyers.

My main takeaway from this talk is that, as per my previous write-up, this exciting new technology should be embraced and absorbed, in every sense. If adopted correctly and carefully, it will be able to assist us in the more mundane areas of law so that real value can be added in the areas that require human expertise. Personally, I am finding it very exciting to be at the forefront of industry developments so that Altlaw and I are up to date in a constantly evolving area.

Damian finalised his talk by reminding us not to ‘Sleepwalk into Obsolescence’ which I feel is a stark reminder that we must be ready to embrace all new ideas before they take the next leap forward. This beginning period of this technological revolution is key for us all to set a foundation for our patterns and habits moving forwards whilst simultaneously offering our clients the most efficient solutions om their matters. An exciting time indeed.

For more information on AI in eDiscovery check out our blog on what AI is and why we need it!

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