Despite all the hype around artificial intelligence, legal professionals have been slow to adopt and deploy the technology in-house. According to legal industry analysts, there is really only one area where AI is catching on quicker than others: document review. In e-discovery, for instance, AI is being utilized in technology-assisted review, comprising a large part of many of today’s contract review and analytics platforms.
But while many are still getting their AI document review processes up to par, some forward-looking firms and legal departments are starting to apply AI beyond these two initial areas. Such a move represents an expansion of AI into not just more legal processes, but administrative ones as well.
Contracts’ Big Law Break
Erin Hichman, senior analyst at ALM Legal Intelligence, notes that “the majority of firms right now are within the investigation, pilot and initial adoption phases” with AI to use it mainly for e-discovery and contracts.
Hichman, who co-authored a recent report on AI in law firms, added that most are focused on automating document review processes because “it’s a huge timesaver” that has an obvious return on investment. “I think it makes the most sense to start low complexity, high impact, and with e-discovery and contracts. That is where the opportunity is.”
While many firms use e-discovery platforms that have included TAR tools for years, they have recently also been turning to AI contract platforms. In 2016, for example, Slaughter and May invested in AI contract review platform Luminance, which it also began using internally. Since then, other firms have signed on to bring the Luminance in-house, including Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Australian firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
What’s more, over the past three years, DLA Piper and UK-based firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Clifford Chance have brought in AI contract review technology provided by Kira Systems. Meanwhile, Baker McKenzie has turned to an AI contract analytics tool provided by eBrevia, and UK-based Travis Smith has started using RAVN Systems.
Similarly, Fenwick & West was an earlier adopter of AI contract tech, bringing aboard Kira Systems in 2015 to help automate mergers and acquisitions contract review. But, unlike others, Fenwick is now taking its AI deployment further.
“Obviously we brought Kira in for a purpose-built use case, which is M&A due diligence, and we’ve been using it for that and having good results,” said Alicia Ryan, Fenwick’s knowledge and innovation delivery manager. “But because Kira has the ability to train on your own [data] you’re not limited” to just using it for contract review.
Dabbing With Data: Machines and Management
From contracts, Fenwick set off leveraging the AI technology to help expand its knowledge management database. The database features news about the latest legal precedents and case law in specific practice areas, as well as internal surveys and work resources provided by the firm. Ryan said her team keeps the database up to date by running large tranches of legal documents through Kira’s AI technology, which reviews the documents to highlight provisions that are pertinent to Fenwick’s attorneys. In a way, then, Kira is being used to help automate content curation in finding only the most relevant data.
Helping automate knowledge management processes, however, might just be the beginning of Fenwick’s AI experimentation. Camille Reynolds, Fenwick’s senior director of knowledge & innovation delivery, noted that the law firm’s information governance team is starting a pilot with RAVN to help automate document management and data management processes.
In other corners of the legal industry, AI also is being deployed to processes that are more administrative than legal. In 2017, for instance, Yahoo’s legal department announced it had begun using an AI-powered legal spend analytics platform named Brightflag to help automatically review and categorize the department’s invoices. Brightflag is one of several AI legal spend platforms, including Bodhala and Wolters Kluwer’s LegalVIEW BillAnalyzer, in the market, underscoring a demand for AI in managing legal’s finances.
While using AI in novel ways, those in the legal world are also looking to become more hands-on with how they deploy the technology in-house as well. While AI has long played a role in legal research and intelligence, such as in platforms like Westlaw and LexisNexis, law firms have begun leveraging AI to power their own custom intelligence as well.
Robins Kaplan recently used AI to develop Pinpoint IP, a patent analysis and management platform that reviews a client’s patent portfolio to show its strengths and how it compares to competitors. The law firm also developed Sentinel IP, a tool designed to help clients protect their trade secrets by monitoring patent filings around the world.
While both tools are used for clients, they are only deployed internally. But other firms are using AI in platforms they offer out to the broader legal and compliance market. Irish law firm McCann FitzGerald’s GDPR assessment tool, for instance, was developed by AI technology provider Neota Logic.
To be sure, those in the legal world are steadily realizing that a technology that can revolutionize document review has the ability to transform almost every facet of their work. AI’s core ability to understand and “read” data means law firms can potentially automate any manual process that is based on interpreting information. The questions now are just how far law firms are willing to take AI, and how fast they will get there.