Blog Post

AI and Legal – Where Are We Now?

October 9, 2020

AI & Legal. Today, even the smaller law firms and departments are embracing technology and harnessing the power of AI and machine learning.

How’s your AI strategy going?

Not a common sentence heard three years or even 12 months ago in legal circles. And yet in our new world, the adoption of technology has accelerated across the globe, blurring the lines between our home and work lives, and penetrating even the most conservative and traditional law firm.

But while remote working and accessing client information from offsite might be a new thing for some, the forward-thinking firms have set their eyes on a bigger prize; AI and machine learning.

According to PwC’s Law Firms’ survey 2019, 38% of the Top 100 law firms predicted that AI will be the most disruptive technology in the sector over the next 5 years. This compares with process automation at 16%, blockchain, and smart contracts at 9%. AI has also started to mature the most in Top 10 firms with 50% established, 50% piloting – a natural consequence of big budgets and the big-name branding to attract the right technology employees.

But AI in legal isn’t new news.

We’ve been talking about it for a while, and smart attorneys have been considering how it will impact their roles and their law firms for almost a decade. What is new is the pace of acceleration. Anecdotally, according to the GCs and law firms, we’re speaking to daily, this trajectory of adoption isn’t just among the bigger firms – it’s the smaller, more nimble law firms and legal departments that are deploying AI.

But why now, and why AI?

Why now has a multitude of answers. Pre-COVID, the growing accuracy of the technology, the increased level of publicity about it, the new generation of tech-savvy lawyers who have grown up with AI – these factors will have all influenced why law firms and departments have been considering AI.

But in a post-pandemic world, with law courts online, office-based GCs, and attorneys working remotely for the first time and the trust we’ve all had to have in technology, the conversation has been driven down the chain to smaller law firms looking to take advantage of the benefits AI delivers.

What many have pointed out is that, ironically, legal has much in common with AI/machine learning.  Both disciplines use historical examples to set rules that can then be applied to new situations. Machine learning and the legal sector apply logic to set precedents, and at a very primitive, offer a similar programming formula too if this, then that.

Of course, the law and AI are much more nuanced than this, but this level of logic and methodology, means machine learning and AI are wholly appropriate for helping attorneys and GCs with some specific areas of legal practice.

Contract Review

As we mentioned in our recent article, lawyers don’t become lawyers to sit and read contracts all day. Except that’s what most corporate GCs and attorneys are doing – contract review work. And yet this is one of the most applicable uses for AI and machine learning.

Natural language processing (NLP), which is one element of AI, can automatically process and interpret words based not just on the actual word itself but on the context around that word. NLP is therefore especially useful when it comes to analyzing contracts and terms for specific details. Other elements of AI are designed specifically to locate anomalies in huge swathes of data, again making it highly applicable to contract review.

AI not only streamlines and expedites the review process, but it removes the possibility of human error, ensuring greater accuracy which could save clients and law firms thousands of dollars in litigation cases. And, as contracts become more standardized, using AI to create and review contracts will become more common, freeing up attorney time to spend on negotiation and improving client service.


E-Discovery is a laborious and tedious job in many cases. It is prone to human error, missed facts, and inconsistency.  Not with AI. When e-Discovery and AI are combined, it creates a powerful solution that alleviates many of these challenges. At one level it can simply just prioritize documents for the human eye to sort through, but taken deeper AI can change the nature of an entire case.

The sheer quantity of data that is required to be digested as part of the e-discovery process in many instances means information is dispersed and often links between factors misunderstood or missed entirely. AI can identify correlations between seemingly inconsequential facts in hundreds of terabytes of data – something human brains are unable to accomplish.

Contract Analytics

The goldmine within most law firms – apart from the legal brains – is the data within the contracts it holds. This data is not only valuable in preventing revenue leakage, but in driving bottom-line benefits to the organization.

With thousands if not millions of contracts, corporations struggle to keep track of terms and obligations, effectively leaking money daily. Using AI to organize, understand, and keep tabs on these clauses results in commercial value across the organization.

It means expensive auto-renew contracts can be monitored, sales teams can check when customer renewals dates are due and upsell new offerings, and legal teams can ensure all SLAs are being met. Most vitally given the level of fines and repercussions, compliance regulations can also be monitored and adhered to, further lowering company risk.

Predicting outcomes

At the University of Liverpool in the UK, the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics, and Computer Science has been working with AI in the legal sector since the 1980s. They have been modeling legal reasoning and arguments, feeding their AI thousands of previous cases and precedents. The system is now able to replicate the outcome of closed court cases with almost 100% accuracy.

What this means is that the model they use could be deployed to offer law firms a prediction on the outcome of their cases, and therefore the best defensive stance to take to drive certain outcomes. According to an article in New Statesman, the Dean at the School said: “The AI tools that we have developed at Liverpool provide decision support that can advise on outcomes while displaying the arguments and justification process, assisting legal professionals to take informed actions.” And while this technology isn’t yet commonplace, it’s probably closer than you think.

This could prove indispensable, especially for litigation cases. Law firms could have sight of which cases were likely to win or lose, and advise their clients accordingly – saving them huge amounts of wasted time and money, and giving the law firm unprecedented competitive advantage.

AI offers huge opportunities for increasing efficiencies, gaining actionable insights, and creating real competitive advantage. Lawyers are being asked to better understand and develop the commercial value they offer to the business – beyond mitigating risk and reviewing contracts. And this C-level desire for greater value will only become more pronounced as the financial ramifications of the pandemic are felt across the world.

AI and machine learning are no silver bullet, but the technology is now established enough to offer wide-ranging benefits to even the smallest players. The legal sector is overdue for digital transformation and it’s time that objections to AI were overruled.

Contact us to learn more about our AI Powered Contract Management Solution, so you can start making better decisions with your data.