How AI Will Change the Practice of Law

A lot has been written in recent months about “robot lawyers” and their potential to replace attorneys at all levels of the profession, decimating the demand for flesh and blood lawyers in the process. What’s the truth behind the hype? Will artificial intelligence (AI) have a profound affect on the legal industry and in what ways?

Certainly, all signs point to AI being the next big legal technology trend, but what remains to be seen is where automation and analytics software will have the most impact on the practice of law and how fast the rate of adoption will be. AI software will undoubtedly supplement some aspects of lawyering, but most likely it will do so by allowing machines to do much of the tedious drudgery so common in some aspects of the practice of law, allowing lawyers to focus on higher level analytical work.

For example, the bane of existence for many lawyers is tracking and billing time. AI can be built into a timekeeping solution to streamline and simplify the process of tracking billable hours, as exemplified by Intapp Time, a new timekeeping product with built-in AI analysis that was recently announced by Intapp, a company that develops enterprise-level software for large law firms, Intapp Time captures time across all devices, including desktops, laptops, and mobile. The software then provides a daily summary which utilizes AI-type analytics to suggest relevant connections using other firm databases, such as names of contacts and cases based on the documents, etc. with which the user was interacting when the billable time was entered.

AI can also be used for contract review. LawGeex is one of the more well-known legal software products designed to assist lawyers with contract review using AI. The software constantly “learns” from new contracts as they are uploaded into its database and then applies this knowledge to contracts submitted by users, comparing them to multitude of similar documents contained in its database. Next, the software provides an interactive report that provides recommended fixes drawn from its analysis of the components of similar contracts.

Another similar software product that uses AI is eBrevia. This software uses machine learning and natural language processing tools to streamline contract review, lease abstraction, and the mergers and acquisitions due diligence process. eBrevia extracts relevant provisions from documents submitted based on the parameters set by the user. Next, it analyzes the data and provides a report that includes a summary of all suggested relevant provisions recommended for that specific document based on comparisons to provisions contained in similar documents in the system that the user can then review and approve.

One of the earliest AI entrants into the legal software space was Lex Machina, which was acquired by LexisNexis earlier this year. Originally targeted primarily at the IP sector, it is now available for securities litigation as well. Lex Machina provides legal analytics drawn from millions of pages of litigation data on a number of different categories, including litigation data on judges, lawyers, law firms, parties, and patents. For example, users can use data comparing specific judges and specific district courts to help ascertain where to file a case or where to transfer a case.

So, regardless of your law firm’s focus, AI will no doubt affect at least one aspect of your firm’s day-to-day practice in the near future. Whether it’s timekeeping, contract review, due diligence analysis, or legal analytics for litigation, machine learning and analytics will have an impact, particularly on reducing the need for lawyers to perform rote, tedious document review and low-level analysis. Most lawyers would agree that this will be a welcome change, bur for some, the jury is still out. AI is the future, but whether the legal profession will welcome it with open arms or begrudgingly accept it remains to be seen.

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