Save the Lawyer: AI technology accelerates and augments legal work

By and Aisha Walcott | 4 minute read | August 7, 2018

judge with gavel

Law firms are under tremendous pressure to innovate to provide better value to their clients, who demand more value for their legal dollars. Providing higher-value services in turn boosts firms’ competitiveness.

However, much of the day-to-day work of any legal office – whether it’s in-house counsel, a boutique firm or one of the largest legal power houses – is the tedious, repetitive work of reading and preparing answers to complaints. Larger firms may have armies of junior associates do much of this necessary but mundane case-preparation work. At smaller firms, partners and senior associates are often involved in all stages of litigation. Preparing responses is time-consuming. It can take several hours to a full day to complete. Those are hours that both attorneys and firms would prefer to use tackling more strategic legal work.

We asked ourselves, what if, instead of taking hours, those high-volume, repetitive tasks could take a couple of minutes?

The legal profession: ripe for disruption

At LegalMation, we envision a future where every legal professional can provide more value, in less time and with powerful outcomes for their firm and clients – thanks to help from artificial intelligence. As owners of a small legal firm, we already knew that technology can be the great equalizer between small firms with only a few employees and large ones with deep pockets and more resources. We also had a feeling that AI could not only further alter that playing field—it could turn the industry on its head to everyone’s benefit.

We decided to explore these ideas by teaming with AI technology leader IBM. AI and machine learning are perfectly suited for high-volume, repetitive processing tasks such as drafting responses and completing initial discovery requests, which typically take six to eight hours or more to complete.

AI accelerates value-creation for legal professionals

Tapping the power of IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding, which can quickly comprehend and analyze structured and unstructured information in legal documents, we created the LegalMation AI solution for the legal profession. Augmented by our own neural network, Legalmation uses simple drag-and-drop functionality to create early-phase response documentation to draft responses to claims in just two minutes, letting attorneys spend more time on work that adds value to client relationships.

Because the legal industry has its own jargon, its own vernacular, all the big data processing and natural language processing in the world will ultimately fail if the AI solution doesn’t understand legalese. Watson Knowledge Studio allowed our legal subject matter experts to teach Watson the language of the legal profession with no coding required. We then uploaded thousands of lawsuit complaints and responses and taught Watson to analyze, understand and draw upon relationships and concepts to formulate early-phase documentation. We’ve done the heavy lifting so that anyone from in-house counsel to the largest firms can harness the power of AI in their practices.

Creating legal documentation at jaw-dropping speed

We’re rolling out our LegalMation solution, and it’s a big hit so far. It quite literally creates a jaw-dropping effect when users see that a day’s work can take less than two minutes. This speed translates into cost savings – up to 80 percent when compared with the typical cost of creating this documentation. And our consistency and accuracy are on par or even better than what an associate can produce.

Faster results, lower costs and improved accuracy provide significant benefits to companies that pay for outside counsel. Recently, Walmart licensed our product to draft responses and initial discovery requests for employment and slip-and-fall suits filed in California, with plans to expand it into all 50 states. We’re able to work with giants like Walmart to extend the scope and reach of the Legalmation solution thanks to our membership in the select IBM With Watson program, which gives us exclusive and fast access to select Watson technology experts at IBM.

AI disruption – boosting firms, and attorneys, to the top of the profession

Automating one of the legal field’s more tedious, time-consuming assignments has enormous transformational potential for individual firms. It also comes with entirely new ways of thinking about revenue and value within the entire industry. While legal firms compete on the value they provide to clients, they also rely on a range of traditional revenue streams and services. What we’ve done with the Legalmation solution is turn some of those traditional revenue streams on their head.

Legalmation makes it so much simpler and cost-effective to respond to briefs, that firms are now faced with the challenge – and opportunity – of redirecting their junior resources away from one workstream to others that deliver greater value to clients. Furthermore, because firms also compete for the best talent coming out of top-tier law schools, implementing AI tools that reduce the repetitive work traditionally given to new graduates will make firms more attractive to the best, new legal talent. As they adopt the Legalmation solution, some firms may fear a loss of billable time. However, with associates at all levels concentrating on more complex, higher-value work and leaving the repetitive, data-intensive work to AI, firms can also take on more work, and thus increase revenue, without unduly overburdening their staff.

We believe AI is the greatest technology disruptor the legal field has seen. The firms that adopt it are going to rise to the top of a very crowded field of professional legal options. Ultimately, firms that don’t embrace tools like this to become more efficient and cost-effective are not going to be around for very long.