AI: How Will It Change the Business of Law in 2018?

The robots are coming. While lawyers like to believe they are coming for them last, artificial intelligence is already having a significant impact on the business of law. Here Lawyer Monthly hears from James Touzel, Partner at TLT, explains the effect we’re likely to see AI have on the legal sphere, in terms of firms, professionals and clients, throughout 2018.

Effects on clients

GCs are under significant pressure to deliver more for less. In many cases, this means analysing how they can improve the efficiency of their legal operations.

At the same time, they are listening to the business and finding ways to add strategic value – not just mitigate risk. This is only possible if the right resource is allocated to the right task.

These symbiotic objectives are increasingly being met by technology. AI is well known for its ability to tackle less strategic, repetitive tasks where decisions are often binary. It can process huge amounts of data in record time, is accurate and learns as it works. More junior lawyers – or even non-lawyers – can manage these processes without the need for expensive senior involvement, freeing up senior staff to focus on more strategically important tasks.

A lot of the early AI inventions for GCs focused on document management. They read and “triage” large numbers of documents based on pre-determined criteria into shorter lists for lawyers to review, increasing speed and accuracy and reducing costs.

The future of AI is where things get really exciting. To date, technology has struggled to get to the heart of what a lawyer does: read, think and write. However, today’s technology is smart enough to power what you might call “combined intelligence” – solutions that combine AI-backed technology with in-built legal advice and ad hoc legal support so that clients can enjoy the speed, efficiency and accuracy of AI, but with seamless advice at a low price point.

Contract negotiation is one area that is particularly ripe for this kind of digital disruption, and is the area that TLT has focused on and is now working with clients to adopt.

Clients will always face a challenge of deciding when they are ready for AI. They need to make sure that any investments are right for their business, but they cannot afford to lose the significant value of being an early adopter of a groundbreaking solution, including bespoke adaptation and competitive advantage. A lot of this comes down to trust and understanding and combined intelligence will be spurred on by the bonds between client and law firm, and law firm and technology partner, as well as early adopter success stories and market growth.

Effects on law firms

Law firms are increasingly providing more than just legal advice to their clients, with value added services including innovative approaches that help to address the need for more for less. Law firms need to adopt a different way of thinking and overcome their scepticism of new technology. In the case of AI and combined intelligence, law firms need to believe that this technology can bring about a positive change.

We are heading for a watershed moment as law firms become increasingly aware of the rich data sets at their disposal – and critically, how this can work together with AI. They have a deep understanding of multiple industries, clients, transactions and disputes that creates a unique perspective on trends and opportunities. Making this knowledge more readily available can only make us better lawyers and will enable clients to make more informed business decisions.

Not only will 2018 be the year of big data in law; this year, AI will develop beyond repetitive binary decision making into more nuanced areas, creating a rapidly broadening market of AI opportunities for law firms to consider as part of their service innovation strategies.

Taking contract negotiation as example, AI can already read, review and report on the risks in contracts. In 2018, combined intelligence will enable law firms to help clients deal with the last mile, providing in-built guidance on how to mitigate risks and alternative clauses to support negotiations. With more law firms offering “self-help” solutions, even commercial managers and procurement executives will be able to progress contract reviews and negotiations, quickly, accurately and consistently across the business.

Technology is a fast-evolving business and law firms may learn this the hard way. It is no longer enough to have innovation partners and labs; innovation programmes will need to be constantly reviewed and updated to stay relevant. Law firms will need to learn to identify client needs, run change programmes, manage projects, develop and test client facing software, run proof of concepts, develop new pricing and support models and bring new solutions to market.

AI will enable individuals who are looking for challenging careers in law to get closer to the commercial decision both in-house and in law firms. Wherever you work, the business of law will no longer be just about giving desk-based legal advice.

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