It is easy to highlight the success from the major verticals; hospitality, aviation and retail when highlighting the growth of automation and bots. However, even in the stuffy corridors of law and the courts, automation is helping pick up some of the hefty workloads across all parts of the overloaded system.

The legal profession has a big problem. Mention the words discovery, compliance and governance, and while their eyes light up at the billable hours involved, the practicalities of researching and finding supporting evidence in the big data era can prove a nightmare. They are key issues, even large law firms with an army of paralegals and recent graduates to do the leg work.

Which makes the rise of lawtech applications a hot topic for both legal firms and any company with a need for legal services (pretty much all of them).

An age of e-discovery

Ediscovery tools have long been a useful tool on the market for firms that need to know what data they store on people, products, services that can be spread across years-old emails, documents and other records. They may be pertinent to any legal claim or case, and failure to find them could have expensive consequences. 

The rise of AI in e-discovery will make that process quicker and more reliable. It is already slipping into the accepted electronic discovery reference model (EDRM), that helps firms identify, preserve, collect, process and analyse relevant data.

There is also a growing use in the number of e-discovery chatbots that can work in favour of companies with high volumes of queries. When it comes to any rush of queries, that affects a high volume of customers, be it from a class-action case, or one that generates lots of press interest.

The chatbot can act as a time-saving gateway for the business or legal company, taking the load from filling in forms or transcribing emails or phone calls into a database. GSK’s e-discovery lead Francine French in an online interview ahead of the recent LegalWeek 2020 show highlighted their benefits.

“We look to use chatbots internally to answer frequently asked questions related to the area of information governance. The key idea around chatbots are to make “work life” easier overall and also run the legal organization like a business. There has been great success to chatbots in other areas of the company, and we have been able to gain better understandings from their experiences, thus bolstering ours and many other chatbots in the process.”

Automated, smart documents and business

However modern it gets, the legal profession still relies on huge amounts of paperwork. This can be a huge time sink for any business, but automation is helping here too. Technology is great at helping to automate regular processes and the legal business has plenty of them.

Consider the production of non-disclosure agreements, a staple of any product or IP business. Bots can produce them faster in bulk or on-spec for any need. There are also the highly-repeatable legal processes that many firms go through. In the age of big data, robotic process automation and data-led processes, there are plenty of automated solutions for the legal market to help boost efficiency, scalability and to make these processes standard to improve the flow of the business.

Many firms are still bogged down in manual admin tools or old-style spreadsheets and legal documentation. As they move to modern services, either out-of-the-box or custom tools, they will find AI a part of the package to help when it comes to building in-house or client-specific legal tools.

Legal prediction on the rise

Leaving the office and heading to court, one of the most interesting areas is the rise of legal prediction, looking at cases and case history to establish what the chances of winning a case are. For all the legal dramas we see on TV fiction or in the news, most cases are settled out of sight, based on the simple odds of winning.

AI systems can consider more factors than a single lawyer or team can, and while it might seem mechanical, brutal or unfair to the defendants or the accusor, in industry terms, saving the huge costs of a trial.

Some systems can identify and analyze data by extracting pertinent information like clauses and concepts from contracts, helping find trends and patterns between documents to weigh up the merits of a case. Others help organise and summarise complex documents, helping bring relevant facts to the surface and make it easier to present a case, while reducing the risk of missing something.

AI in a police or security uniform

Related to how legal use of AI will change is its use on the streets by law enforcement, security businesses and government. The rise in AI-powered CCTV face recognition might be a popular bogey-man among the tabloids and a staple of repressive regimes, but if it helps capture criminals, prevent crimes or terrorist events from taking place, acceptance will grow and lawyers will start using it to help prove client guilt or innocence in more cases.

As discussed in the 2019’s Artificial Intelligence in Legal Services Summit, use of AI is also growing in other areas, including:

  • photographic and video analysis, including facial recognition
  • DNA profiling
  • individual risk assessment and prediction
  • predictive crime mapping
  • mobile phone data extraction tools
  • data mining and social media intelligence

With this growth and growing concerns that use come worries about bias in the AI and these will be areas that the legal profession needs to get to grips with, using specialists and experts to cast doubt on digital or other evidence obtained through black-box AI systems.

Finally, when we reach the year in which AI drones are patrolling the streets and skies, citizens’ and legal confidence in their powers to observe and act within the law will need to be rock solid. And as AI use widens we will expect to be protected from possible abuse, as with Clearview’s early exploits, and legal teams must develop a type of sign language that all people understand when they are out in public or in a business, to define if they are being scanned and what is happening to that data. 

Chatbots for the little guy

Artificial intelligence isn’t all about big brother though. Chatbots aren’t just a tool for the legal giants, they can also help the little guy, with several examples of chatbots being used to help overturn 160,000 parking tickets and other daily hassles in bulk. The founder of that bot has expanded to help people get compensation for poor WiFi service on flights, with his latest effort a new U.S.-only bot, Robo Revenge, that can help get people compensation when they are harassed by robo-callers.

Bots will also become common to help people fight local or widespread oppression or injustice and enable rapid spread of information when there are fast-moving legal events or situations.

Legal summary

In the big scheme of things, the legal profession is a business just like any other, seeking efficiency and order from a mountain of traditions and complex processes. Dedicated tools for this segment are flowing fast as both generalist AI vendors apply their smarts to new use cases, while legal specialists look to build their brand in this niche.

Whatever the product, from an in-house training bot to some vast statistical number cruncher, AI is helping to shake up the legal profession and provide useful automation not too dissimilar to any other. Yes, there will be high-profile moments where an AI has a major positive or negative outcome on a legal case, or perhaps even gets the law changed, but for most the use of bots, robotic services and AI are just another step on the road to more orderly business.