The legal profession is not known for its enthusiastic acceptance of new technology. The pace of evolution in legal technology was at a standstill until recently when artificial intelligence (AI) started to make legal headlines. In the past few years, there has been everything from significant advancements in AI technology to an ongoing ethics debate about the use of technology in the legal profession.
One of the reasons technology has been slow to take foot in the legal professional is the lack of users willing to invest research funds into finding better solutions. In Britain, the idea of AI is gaining momentum and that momentum is reaching across the ocean into several aspects of the industry in the United States.
Electronic Discovery Is The Primary Target
When we talk about technology becoming more popular in the legal industry, it will help some people to know that we do not mean that you will start seeing robots taking dictation or putting away files. The primary activity that is receiving high-tech attention right now is electronic discovery (e-discovery).
Law firms often have to go through thousands of documents to find one or two pieces of information that can make or break a case. For years, law firms would contract out to companies that would capture that information and put it into a database that the lawyers could use to do research. It was necessary to use human labor to capture the information because of the variables that occurred when capturing data. But as e-discovery has started to evolve, the idea of integrating AI into the e-discovery process is gaining traction. New e-discovery software can learn how language is structured and accurately pull out pieces of information based on the specific needs of attorneys. This use of AI saves attorneys a lot of time, and it will also save legal firms a lot of money.
Perhaps one of the most time-consuming parts of the discovery process is trying to pull meaning from unstructured data. When there are pages of handwritten notes or digital data not placed into any type of format, then even having a human scan those pages to find pertinent data can be frustrating.
Fortunately, with AI, the software can learn how to read unstructured data and pull information attorney’s need almost instantly. The idea of using AI software for unstructured data is still being investigated, but it is becoming a very popular topic in the legal industry.
Saving Money On Litigation
One area where AI is being used that is not making every attorney happy is in helping clients to determine if they have a legal issue or not. Many large corporations automatically turn over boxes of information to their legal firms because they fear that there may be an issue that needs to be addressed. However, with increasingly advanced AI discovery software, a small legal department can now quickly analyze any kind of data and determine whether or not it is necessary to pay money to a law firm for the full complement of legal services.
Ethics Is The Biggest Obstacle
The rules, and unwritten rules, for discovery, were created long before AI software was being developed. As more firms invest in advancing AI software, many other legal professionals are warning against the potential for an ethics disaster. The concept of AI software is not infallible, and if AI software chooses the wrong information or misinterprets information that a human would be able to identify, then the consequences could be significant. For example, if data regarding an estate is incorrectly interpreted by AI software, then the end result could be that the estate owner would lose everything.
Law firms are starting to take an interest in automating much of what they do. Along with e-discovery and unstructured data, tasks such as properly translating business contracts and patent awards into a conversational form of English is also being researched. Many legal experts are sounding the trumpets at the advent of AI technology. But others are recommending a slower pace at incorporating software into an industry that is based primarily on the accuracy of the written word.
Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.