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Technology predictions for 2020 – the impact of AI in the legal sector

(Image credit: Image Credit: John Williams RUS / Shutterstock)

The legal sector is quickly moving to embrace digital transformation and leaning towards innovation as it recognises the opportunity to improve customer services, drive productivity and adhere to the raft of compliance checks that all law firms have to meet. In fact, in feedback from legal professionals in our recent Advanced Trends Survey Report 2019/2020, only 40 per cent felt their law firm wasn’t acting fast enough to keep up with the pace of technology innovation – so that means 60 per cent are acting with pace and are certainly well ahead on that journey.

To encourage greater innovation, one technology that we predict will have a transformative effect on the industry is Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Although AI is still in its relative infancy, it is already helping to change the way many industries operate and the legal sector is increasingly recognising its potential benefits. For example, a recent Deloitte study estimated 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036, leaving legal professionals to concentrate on higher value, client facing tasks. 

Our recent Advanced Trends Survey Report 2019/2020, which gathered the views of over 1,000 senior decision makers working in UK organisations with more than 100 employees, revealed that 77 per cent would be happy to work alongside robotic technology if it meant fewer manual processes, up from 65 per cent last year. Admittedly, the responses rates from legal professionals alone was a  little lower at 60 per cent - but, nevertheless, it shows there is growing appetite for getting rid of the mundane and low-value time consuming manual processes.

And already, AI software is increasingly being used within the legal industry to streamline administrative tasks and repetitive processes. Lawyers and barristers, as well as the teams that operate behind them, are beginning to be able to change the focus of their work, to gain more time for the kind of activities that require human analysis, expertise and experience.  Examples of this higher value activity includes working directly with clients to provide advice and guidance, through to increased time representing clients in court and negotiating deals.

So how is AI being used in a practical example? One type of innovation has been showcased in a collaborative and award-winning project that Advanced completed with two major players in the legal services market. As a software innovator, the importance of partnering with law firms to expand their use of digital technology is a critical area of our work. In this instance, partnering with Keoghs Solicitors and our long-standing customer St John’s Buildings barristers’ chambers, where together we created what has been described as “the first truly automated end-to-end digital solution for insurers, solicitors and counsel using AI.” In practice, this means that AI is now being used to enable Road Traffic Accident (RTA) personal injury cases to be litigated electronically or identified as requiring a barrister without the need for human intervention, speeding up client service and reducing costs. Particularly interesting is the fact that these two organisations chose to partner to create a system that would work smoothly, or interoperate, across the solicitor-barrister process. This is an industry first and is delivering significant efficiencies – both time and cost savings - across the legal network and as a consequence delivering a better customer experience to claimant. Recently the value in this innovative solution was recognised as St John’s Buildings barristers’ chambers won Technology Venture of the Year at the British Legal Technology Awards 2019, for creating the first truly automated end-to-end digital solution for insurers, solicitors and counsel using AI. 

But there are many areas that law firms can be and should be considering when looking at whether to start embracing AI.

Compliance

The emphasis on compliance across the legal industry, and a continued pressure on costs and pricing, means that AI provides an important opportunity to increase efficiency and drive down unnecessary overheads. From automating business processes such as billing and time-recording, AI

enables teams to manage billing and diaries remotely and collaborate on cases via the Cloud. Solicitors and barristers can be more responsive to clients and more accurate and transparent in their working practices. Nearly half (47 per cent) of legal professionals who responded to our Annual Trends Survey 2019-2020 believed they will benefit from improved compliance when adopting new and innovative technologies.

Research

AI software can use machine learning algorithms to accurately and quickly review and analyse documents relevant for specific cases. AI software can apply this learning to recognise trends or other documents that have similar attributes that make them similarly relevant.

Although skilled lawyers will continue to oversee the role in validating findings, the increasing use of AI software can directly reduce the quantity of time spent on such activities, leaving the lawyers time to focus on analysis and decision making.

Due diligence

Using AI to support due diligence - the confirmation of facts and figures and analysis of legal precedents – helps to increase the speed at which this can be carried out as well as eradicate the risk of errors.

The need to create and review contracts are an integral part of the legal processes, taking up considerable time and effort to ensure any issues or risks are identified. AI is able to support this work, introducing new levels of automation around the creation of basic legal documents and contracts, as well as carrying out the laborious task of checking contracts for missing terms or clauses. Increasingly, we are even seeing the power of AI being applied to activities such as analysing contracts in bulk, allowing law firms to process work faster, improving client service and increasing profit levels.

Although the examples above are simply a select few to show the breadth of opportunity that AI and software innovation can deliver, we predict that this is just the start of the exciting journey ahead and that AI will leap ahead in 2020. AI has the potential to truly transform the legal industry and how those within it work.

At a time when the UK judicial system is under more pressure than ever,  with millions of cases brought to the courts each year, and each new case increasing the body of knowledge that a lawyer must get to grips with to be effective, AI presents both a timely and critical opportunity for the legal industry. To compete and stay relevant, we predict that legal firms must not only accept, but actively embrace this type of disruptive yet innovative technology.

Doug Hargrove, Managing Director - Legal, Advanced