Artificial Intelligence: An Open Case For The Legal Sector

Artificial Intelligence has permeated almost every industry, either in word or deed, in the last couple of years. From financial institutions to ride-hailing services such as Uber, companies are clambering over one another to take advantage of this technology to stay ahead of the competition. However, one area which Artificial Intelligence has been unable to find a platform in, until very recently, has been the legal sector. There is a belief that the legal sector, particularly when it comes to the courtroom environment, is reserved exclusively for sharp-suited lawyers, who have trained for years to be able to build and present a case in order to persuade a jury of their peers of the validity of their argument.

However, the tide might now be turning. The legal sector has come under scrutiny in recent years, especially with the prominence of the freedom of information movement. Could Artificial Intelligence be the answer? Could a platform with no prior allegiances, no vested interests and no way of being bribed reform the legal profession? Tony Williams, of specialist consultancy Jomati, has even gone on record to say that with a large amount of data and a small amount of judgement that a platform would have to contend with, the legal profession could benefit from Artificial Intelligence even more than factories or service industries. The main obstacle to Artificial Intelligence being used in a courtroom setting at the moment is not the technology itself, but legislation. While the technology is being actively developed, it could be a number of years before it is given the all-clear to be used. That being said, we said the same about driverless cars!

While its path into the courtroom is currently blocked by a maze of red tape, Artificial Intelligence can have enormous benefits to the administrative side of the legal profession right away. Kim Technologies are an Artificial Intelligence start-up based in New Jersey. They design and develop Artificial Intelligence solutions, and were acquired by UK legal services business Riverview Law in August 2015, with the aim to build collaborative ‘Virtual Assistants’. The products were designed to “address the challenge encountered by knowledge workers everywhere – the need to quickly automate data, documents, processes and workflows” according to Kim Technologies’ Chief Customer Officer Andy Daws. “It’s ideally positioned to support the ‘Rise of the knowledge worker’ as our knowledge economy bumps into the second machine age”. The flagship product can automate the tasks that would normally take a team of paralegals and administrators hundreds of hours to complete, whilst also providing a number of dashboards to provide transparency and business insight to leaders within the legal function or the wider organisation, as well as to the individuals undertaking the work. Daws calls the Virtual Assistants “A virtual software developer AI that captures knowledge workers’ intelligence and drives dynamic case management”.

This sounds like a dream come true for businesses, who can automate the monotonous processes which used to be the bugbear of in-house legal teams, whilst also being able to monitor the status of every open case within the team, which should improve case efficiency and outcome. Are there any disadvantages to the Virtual Assistant platform over its traditional equivalent? For example, how secure is the platform, considering that it will have access to a business’ legal data? Andy points to the recent Panama Papers leak as a prime example of why security needs to be a priority for law firms. Apparently, prior to the Panama Papers debacle, there were many efforts made to hack into the world’s top law firms to hack information relating to acquisitions and mergers. He is, therefore, unequivocal about Kim’s approach to security, “We offer both public and private cloud environments, and some of our larger customers have indeed opted for an on-premise deployment to ensure that it falls within their existing security infrastructure and protocols” One must also question whether this spells the beginning of a new era of law firms, where paralegals have been the bedrock of every top firm for many years, are replaced by an unwavering autonomous equivalent, which doesn’t get tired, need paying or slow down?

Both Andy Daws and Riverview Law’s CEO Karl Chapman are insistent that the development of the Virtual Assistants will not mean the end of lawyers, but will ultimately mean fewer lawyers and an increasing focus on higher value work, calling the technology ‘Augmented Intelligence’. “Augmented Intelligence focuses on the interaction between humans and computers, and rather than potentially seeking to replace humans, seeks to support and enhance human actors (for this reason it’s sometimes also referred to as Human-Computer Interaction or HCI). It starts from a different premise and seeks a different, arguably more collaborative, outcome.” One of the most exciting things about the development of the Kim platform is that it is sector and function agnostic, meaning that the technology can be used in any industry or business. It provides knowledge workers in businesses across different industries the opportunity to streamline their workflows and improve efficiency, and while there are other legal Artificial Intelligence options, such as ROSS, Kim is already working both cross-functionally and cross-sector.

So what of the future of Artificial Intelligence in Law? Could we soon see robot lawyers take to the floor in a courtroom, addressing the jury in perfect prose, before delivering the clinching argument in the fraction of the time of their human counterpart? This seems unlikely right now, but the future might be different? However, Chapman insists that the future of AI in Law is collaborating with human lawyers, rather than entirely replacing them. “It is a brave lawyer, unless they are part way through their career and only focused on their retirement, who bets against the impact on the legal market and lawyers of machine learning, artificial intelligence, data (as opposed to rules) driven systems.” This brings us back to the idea of ‘Augmented Intelligence’. While Kim’s solution offers administrative automation capabilities, there could be a chance in the future of a lawyer using an artificial intelligence algorithm to win a court case; inputting the case material as semi-structured data and allowing the platform to devise a plan of attack and the probability of a successful outcome.

Cases which might previously have taken months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to conclude could be open and shut in a matter of days, even hours. However, are there any barriers to such a system being implemented? Firstly, legal data is completely confidential, and therefore, much as Google DeepMind came up against criticism for using NHS data to train their Deep Learning algorithms to search for disease, the case might be the same for a legal platform. Legal AI platforms would require hundreds of thousands of cases, if not millions, in order to be properly trained, and securing the sort of legislation that could make this possible could take years in itself. Furthermore, would lawyers themselves be particularly happy to collaborate with technology which makes their 7+ years of legal training somewhat redundant? Again, this is where the ‘Augmented Intelligence’ element of this technology is crucial. The future of Artificial Intelligence in the world of work, at least in the short-term, is a tool to speed up the process and reduce workload for the highly-caffeinated and overworked. This tool could provide an overview of the case material, using Natural Language Processing to summarise a particular set of documents, and then cross-reference an element of text with another segment of information to see if there is a corroboration. In essence, the future of AI in Law, and for businesses in all industries, is what Riverview and Kim, and companies like them, are offering right now, and which is likely only to grow in the years to come.

The question seems to be the same in every industry in which Artificial Intelligence is becoming more prevalent: would you trust a robot to do it for you? Whether its robot doctors, taxi drivers or police officers, many are sceptical that an autonomous technology has the compassion, emotional intelligence and drive to do the job as well as a human. Whether they would be able to or not, it realistically isn’t going to happen overnight, and not without significant testing and investment. In the meantime, the idea of a human and Artificial Intelligence working together to solve a problem might prove to actually be all we need. Augmented Intelligence might be just in the crosshairs of what we desire: technology that can do the legwork for a human in a fraction of the time and the human who works collaboratively to deliver the service in as personable a manner as possible. Certainly, in the field of Law, most participants would prefer to interact with an articulate and knowledgeable lawyer, rather than a computer. Although litigation is not the sole aspect of the legal profession, when the technology does eventually permeate the courtroom environment, it may not necessarily be suitable for delivering statements or evidence. An Artificial Intelligence platform speaking about the unequivocal guilt of a particular party might be a little too close to Ultron from ‘The Avengers’ for many people’s liking. Nevertheless, Artificial Intelligence has the potential to bring the legal profession into the twenty-first century, saving time and money, whilst making the lives of those on all sides of the legal spectrum easier.


Chris Pearson

Co-Founder, Big Cloud

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