Individual lawyers often spend hundreds of hours on tasks such as document review, legal research, diligence, contract drafting, and assessing the probability of a lawsuit’s success. Significant portions of such work are susceptible to automation and thus are being, and will increasingly continue to be, streamlined by natural language processing artificial intelligence (AI). As is often the case with technological change, it is partially inevitable.
However, the legal industry is notorious for accepting new practices at a glacial pace. Indeed, the legal profession, along with the government, is still among the least likely to incorporate big data and AI into its business models. Ultimately, though, as legal technology improves, the efficiencies new products provide will be undeniable and the legal industry will be pressured to adopt them.
Applications of Artificial Intelligence in the Law
AI technology directed at categorizing and contextualizing language in documents can turn work that once took hours into work that takes minutes. Part of what tasks such as document review and due diligence require is the ability to scour huge sets of documents in search of particular information. AI that actively analyzes the language in such documents accelerates this process. Imagine an attorney is asked to confirm that none of the vendor contracts binding on a given company are governed by California law. AI-powered software is capable of rapidly identifying types of provisions and their key terms, thus the attorney could run a single, simple search on the platform to complete such a check.
AI also helps with the contract drafting process. For example, if an attorney identifies that a certain provision appears to be consistently in need of negotiation relative to a template, this may be a signal that the underlying template should be revised. AI platforms can analyze large sets of negotiated agreements to identify how often specific provisions deviate from a particular template. An attorney will be in a far better position to propose changing the template when the change is substantiated by the software’s data-driven analysis.
Upon a single scan, this new technology is capable of identifying over 30 different types of risks in an instant. Features such as this will also make drafting a more efficient process. With immediate risk analysis, which previously may have only been available when an experienced attorney reviewed a document, less experienced lawyers will now be able to craft more effective document drafts.
AI is also becoming a powerful tool in litigation. Computer scientists at the University College London developed software that analyzed case information and provided its own verdict. In 79% of legal cases, the software reached the same verdict as judges on the European Court of
Human Rights. Essentially, then, AI technology will be able to help lawyers in nearly all aspects of their work – tasks will be done with high accuracy and less labor than before.
Why the Legal Industry Is Slow to Change and How Technology Will Break Through
The legal profession is slow to change and adopt new methods of doing things, but technological progress will be difficult to stop. The current legal industry environment is such that many people have made large amounts of money in the status quo. Additionally, risks associated with new technologies are accentuated in the law relative to other industries. This has made it more difficult to break through with innovations. Although the industry is less willing to take risks on change, when legal technology is sufficiently advanced so as to make its benefits undeniable, then legal practitioners will have little choice but to embrace it.
There is a multitude of factors which contribute to the legal industry’s slow pace of change. One straightforward reason is that the legal industry is dominated by law firms and in-house counsel which have very little incentive to change as the current system has served them well over the years. Top law firms rake in profits of several millions of dollars per partner. The law firm business model is based on charging for hours of work, thus the incentive to decrease the input of hours, even if that results in greater output of work product, is not strong.
There is also an incentive to guard the status quo for in-house counsel because legal departments are already cost centers for companies. From a business perspective, this means that increased productivity on a legal team caused by new technology could mean lost human lawyer jobs which, naturally, lawyers seek to protect.
The legal profession is also slow to change because it is heavily regulated and the work can often involve high stakes. As a result, adopting untested technologies exposes lawyers to significant risks (which as lawyers they are trained to avoid risk in the first place) and nobody wants to be the guinea pig for new technology. If the AI a lawyer relies on getting something wrong, then the lawyer’s job may be on the line, or in some cases, they could lose their right to practice. The fear of such risks is likely an immutable characteristic of the legal industry. But this barrier to change will resolve itself as it becomes clear that AI is more consistent and accurate than a human lawyer can be in certain tasks.
Eventually, economics will pressure lawyers to change and adopt new technologies. For one, clients will further push law firms to change. Given that clients often pay high fees, as the legal technology markets grow in size and influence, they will question why firms are not making their processes more efficient. Similarly, company management teams may begin to question their legal department’s approaches. When companies are faced with relatively low-risk and accurate technology, it will become financially unjustifiable to pay additional labor costs to accomplish the same work.
Evisort as the Solution
Evisort is precisely the sort of AI technology that is so accurate and powerful that the legal industry will have no choice but to recognize its value. Evisort’s AI can rapidly identify types of provisions, identify contract trends and risks, and even provide data analytics that can help draft new document language. The platform will not only save legal teams hours of manual, tedious labor, but it will provide improved accuracy and better work product. Once they see such technology in action, clients and companies will demand that their lawyers adopt it.