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Artificial intelligence a game changer for the practice of law


Artificial intelligence (AI) is being adopted by law firms for many different functions that can help lawyers do a better job at a lower cost, said William Painter, chief innovation officer and shareholder with Baker Donelson’s Jackson office.

“These important tools allow us to be more efficient in what we do and give us additional insights into a legal matter using concepts such as predictive analytics,” Painter said. “They allow us to make better decisions to be more efficient and effective. They lower costs for clients and provide better insight into what will be the most effective ways to advance our clients’ interests. They help us better understand the nature of the facts of the matter. They are tools that hopefully make us better and our advice to our clients better.”

Painter said AI is a game changer of the highest order. AI just started being adopted in the past four or five years, but iT’s accelerating. Painter said five years ago there were probably 20 companies providing AI legal services, and now there are hundreds.

“It is fascinating,” Painter said. “You have to get past the hype of, ‘Tomorrow robots will be taking over your job.’ At the same time, a very real thing is happening here that is augmenting a lawyer’s judgment and providing better insight. One thing with AI is the vast amount of data now available to us, plus the fact that computing power has grown incredibly fast and now we can put these tools in the cloud. That is a huge deal.”

The type of services that AI will replace are things like legal research and contract review. AI or machine learning can be used to look at a large body of data such  as federal case law.

“For example, you can use the PACER electronic database that is available to anyone,” Painter said. “All federal filings must be filed electronically. You take a large volume of filings in federal court and run it through a data algorithm. For example, if you are considering filing a certain motion in a certain kind of case in a certain court before a certain judge, the program would predict the chance of success based on historical filings before that judge and court in similar matters. You would be told the likely outcome. Your client can then make a decision on whether the cost justifies the likelihood of success. That is in the area of legal research and outcome prediction.”

Another area is contract review and analysis. AI tools can be used to analyze a large body of contracts and extract information out of those contracts. Painter said they use a cloud-based program that can read hundreds of contract or license agreements in a matter of minutes. Without AI, that kind of review often takes hundreds of hours to do.

AI can also be used to extract information out of a brief or memorandum including the legal arguments and supporting case law behind it.

“A cloud-based application like CARA lets you take a brief or memorandum and extract out of that the legal arguments being made and supporting case law behind it,” Painter said. “Then it will find and suggest additional arguments that were missed or legal arguments that are opposed or supportive of those arguments. It is actually not only looking at the citations but doing an analysis of legal arguments, which is something typically a lawyer would do. It is working as an adjunct to some things the lawyer would do. It replaces time that would have been spent by lawyers or paralegals on the case.”

Another example is the new European Union rules on privacy protection, a massive body of law the EU has enacted to safeguard privacy and security of people’s personal data.

“Many companies need to understand how the General Datat Protection Regulation affects their contracts and agreements,” Painter said. “KIRA or an AI system like KIRA, and there are others, is being used to extract out all the relevant information from a large volume of contracts.”

Another AI application is expert systems, a form of AI with systems you program or set up to mimic the lawyer’s mental process. An example might be to determine whether to form a new business as a corporation or limited liability company. There are questions and answers you would want to ask a client before finally coming to a recommendation.

“An expert system is designed to mimic the decisional process of a lawyer who is expert in the field,” Painter said. “It basically askes a series of questions, and generates a recommendation mimicking how a lawyer might make that analysis.”

Still another area AI is being used in legal is in electronic discovery. When undertaking litigation or other advocacy process, there can be a large amount of electronic data such as emails and text messages.

“The problem is you are talking about millions and millions of pieces of data a company can produce, so you have to find the needle in the hay stack,” he said. “It would take years to review it all. Tools have been developed that electronically review the data that someone produces looking for relevant types of document. You use algorithms based on parameters you set up to search and find out of the terabytes of information you have access to the relevant documents. AI is being used to short circuit what would be a lengthy process for a human being.”

Current AI is essentially replacing the lower end of the spectrum of a legal process. Painter said humans have done the work in the past, but it is not the kind of work anyone went to law school to do. No one wants to spend all day in the office reviewing a couple hundred contracts.

“AI or machine learning types of tools are being used for very low-end types of applications right now, but people are advancing the ball all the time,” Painter said. “Inevitably, AI will move up the value chain and ultimately the impact on the legal profession will be huge. It will change the nature of what we do and how we do it.”


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About Becky Gillette