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Among law firms, the topic of “artificial intelligence” (AI) technology is divisive. For some, it invokes thoughts of doomsday scenarios in which the practice of law no longer calls for the lawyer for much of the equation. At present, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and as David Cowen, president of e-discovery staffing agency The Cowen Group, puts it, the actual “rate of change” has been slow.

And yet while Cowen said that “the conventional wisdom” is that “law firms are slow to adopt” technology, this is “changing dramatically, and will continue to change drastically in the next 12 months.”

In demonstrating the ways in which AI—or, more candidly speaking, automation—technology is already impacting law, the Cowen Group held a “Shark Tank” breakfast presentation for leaders representing law firms. Here, representatives from three different vendors touting AI technologies for the modern lawyer took the stage with a simple pitch: The technology can cut costs and save, and here’s how. From the audience and moderators came questions, criticisms and insights in an effort to separate fluff from fact.

The audience and moderators asked:

• What is AI as it pertains to legal? (For example, one said, “I don’t see the legal practice equivalent of self-driving cars.”)

• How can it be applied to my practice’s workflow?

• Is this really necessary?

Here are the companies and the cases they made:

1. Neota Logic

What it does: According to Neota Logic president Matt Gillis, Neota Logic functions as a sort of “drag-and-drop builder for AI applications.” In emphasizing user-friendliness, Gillis likens his product to TurboTax, adding, “If you can use Excel competently, we can train you to build apps in our system in a month or two.”

Problems it solves: In building apps, Neota Logic promotes itself as routinizing advice a legal department wouldn’t get paid for. Gillis also noted that it opens up potential revenue streams for outside counsel while potentially allowing in-house to become “the department of know.”

In action: Gillis said that one client used the software to automate nondisclosure agreements, reducing the average cycle time of 17 days to four hours.

Further, he added that Foley & Lardner used Neota in creating its Global Risk Solutions division, which helps companies address Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance. Other implementations Gillis noted include building tools to answer client questions immediately and analysis to break down nuanced fact patterns.

What’s the AI behind this technology? Gillis underscored that Neota is reducing the number of instances in which in-house has to call outside counsel rather than eliminating them.

However, one audience member, embracing the role of a shark, did note that he wasn’t hearing anything disruptive, and that “an order of magnitude” toward AI is missing. He asked what Neota is doing to “Uberize” manual processes.

Gillis, though, was quick to note that Neota wasn’t “claiming to Uberize anything.”

What’s disruptive, he added, is giving firms a “cost-effective” way to “reach clients where they aren’t currently.” As for providing technology to a potentially-resistant law firm market, he added, “No one wants to be the turkey voting for Thanksgiving.”

2. Seal Software

What it does: Seal is one of those companies that has really pushed the AI label in recent months. But beneath the hype lies a technology proficient in contract analysis and management. As company vice president of legal services Christina Wojcik explained it, Seal basically combs through documents in search of indicators of its status as a contract (start and end dates, liabilities, etc.), then extracts information based on rules predetermined by users.

Problems it solves: At its core, Seal can be looked at as a sort of gateway to quantifiable insight on an organization’s information. This, Wojcik noted, basically puts “the information in the hands of the lawyer” so they could answer business-related questions.

“The main thing we’re really talking about is allowing legal to behave like the business,” she added.

In action: Say you get a call on Monday morning from whomever it is you report to. This person tells you that a major acquisition is under way, and that they need to know how many contracts may impact that divestment. Seal, Wojcik said, allows a user to run a query and find relevant information.

What’s the AI? Wojcik described the machine learning technology behind Seal as “a bit different than others in the market,” noting that it employs latent semantic processing, which allows computers to read contracts “very much how a human would read it.” Specifically, this would mean that the technology understands the semantics of the contract instead of just key provisions.

3. ROSS Intelligence

What it does: In legal technology circles, ROSS Intelligence is the brand perhaps most synonymous with the tag AI, surfacing in a variety of industry and mainstream publications as the sort of poster-boy for a robot lawyer. In reality, ROSS is more easily understood as a legal research tool, in which machine learning is employed to learn from previous searches to better tailor results for future queries.

At present, ROSS is used for bankruptcy law, but the company is currently working with law firm partners on technology for knowledge management.

Problems it solves: At the Cowen Group event, ROSS CEO and co-founder Andrew Arruda said that when he was a lawyer, he didn’t like doing “low-level tasks,” such as legal research. Therefore, he’d imagine that others don’t either.

Using ROSS, he explained, can help a firm cut down on billing hours, especially for something that a client may not want to pay much for in the first place.

Further, he added, “some firms don’t have the firepower to have 20 attorneys doing research around the clock. This helps with that.”

In action: ROSS is currently being used for research by Dentons, Latham & Watkins, and Baker & Hostetler. In addition to bankruptcy law and its planned entrance into knowledge management, Arruda noted that the software is now available for intellectual property.

What’s the AI? With a background in computer science and work with Y Combinator, Arruda is no stranger to the power of technology. Therefore, he said that he doesn’t see legal research as the final frontier for ROSS.

AI, he said, is good for “solving grunt-type repetitive work. That’s how AI systems learn.” By focusing on legal research first, Arruda said, ROSS can “prove [AI] right out of the box,” and continue building AI on top of it.

“The thing about AI is we overestimate where it is now and underestimate where it’s going in the future,” he added.

Among law firms, the topic of “artificial intelligence” (AI) technology is divisive. For some, it invokes thoughts of doomsday scenarios in which the practice of law no longer calls for the lawyer for much of the equation. At present, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and as David Cowen, president of e-discovery staffing agency The Cowen Group, puts it, the actual “rate of change” has been slow.

And yet while Cowen said that “the conventional wisdom” is that “law firms are slow to adopt” technology, this is “changing dramatically, and will continue to change drastically in the next 12 months.”

In demonstrating the ways in which AI—or, more candidly speaking, automation—technology is already impacting law, the Cowen Group held a “Shark Tank” breakfast presentation for leaders representing law firms. Here, representatives from three different vendors touting AI technologies for the modern lawyer took the stage with a simple pitch: The technology can cut costs and save, and here’s how. From the audience and moderators came questions, criticisms and insights in an effort to separate fluff from fact.

The audience and moderators asked:

• What is AI as it pertains to legal? (For example, one said, “I don’t see the legal practice equivalent of self-driving cars.”)

• How can it be applied to my practice’s workflow?

• Is this really necessary?

Here are the companies and the cases they made:

1. Neota Logic

What it does: According to Neota Logic president Matt Gillis, Neota Logic functions as a sort of “drag-and-drop builder for AI applications.” In emphasizing user-friendliness, Gillis likens his product to TurboTax, adding, “If you can use Excel competently, we can train you to build apps in our system in a month or two.”

Problems it solves: In building apps, Neota Logic promotes itself as routinizing advice a legal department wouldn’t get paid for. Gillis also noted that it opens up potential revenue streams for outside counsel while potentially allowing in-house to become “the department of know.”

In action: Gillis said that one client used the software to automate nondisclosure agreements, reducing the average cycle time of 17 days to four hours.

Further, he added that Foley & Lardner used Neota in creating its Global Risk Solutions division, which helps companies address Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance. Other implementations Gillis noted include building tools to answer client questions immediately and analysis to break down nuanced fact patterns.

What’s the AI behind this technology? Gillis underscored that Neota is reducing the number of instances in which in-house has to call outside counsel rather than eliminating them.

However, one audience member, embracing the role of a shark, did note that he wasn’t hearing anything disruptive, and that “an order of magnitude” toward AI is missing. He asked what Neota is doing to “Uberize” manual processes.

Gillis, though, was quick to note that Neota wasn’t “claiming to Uberize anything.”

What’s disruptive, he added, is giving firms a “cost-effective” way to “reach clients where they aren’t currently.” As for providing technology to a potentially-resistant law firm market, he added, “No one wants to be the turkey voting for Thanksgiving.”

2. Seal Software

What it does: Seal is one of those companies that has really pushed the AI label in recent months. But beneath the hype lies a technology proficient in contract analysis and management. As company vice president of legal services Christina Wojcik explained it, Seal basically combs through documents in search of indicators of its status as a contract (start and end dates, liabilities, etc.), then extracts information based on rules predetermined by users.

Problems it solves: At its core, Seal can be looked at as a sort of gateway to quantifiable insight on an organization’s information. This, Wojcik noted, basically puts “the information in the hands of the lawyer” so they could answer business-related questions.

“The main thing we’re really talking about is allowing legal to behave like the business,” she added.

In action: Say you get a call on Monday morning from whomever it is you report to. This person tells you that a major acquisition is under way, and that they need to know how many contracts may impact that divestment. Seal, Wojcik said, allows a user to run a query and find relevant information.

What’s the AI? Wojcik described the machine learning technology behind Seal as “a bit different than others in the market,” noting that it employs latent semantic processing, which allows computers to read contracts “very much how a human would read it.” Specifically, this would mean that the technology understands the semantics of the contract instead of just key provisions.

3. ROSS Intelligence

What it does: In legal technology circles, ROSS Intelligence is the brand perhaps most synonymous with the tag AI, surfacing in a variety of industry and mainstream publications as the sort of poster-boy for a robot lawyer. In reality, ROSS is more easily understood as a legal research tool, in which machine learning is employed to learn from previous searches to better tailor results for future queries.

At present, ROSS is used for bankruptcy law, but the company is currently working with law firm partners on technology for knowledge management.

Problems it solves: At the Cowen Group event, ROSS CEO and co-founder Andrew Arruda said that when he was a lawyer, he didn’t like doing “low-level tasks,” such as legal research. Therefore, he’d imagine that others don’t either.

Using ROSS, he explained, can help a firm cut down on billing hours, especially for something that a client may not want to pay much for in the first place.

Further, he added, “some firms don’t have the firepower to have 20 attorneys doing research around the clock. This helps with that.”

In action: ROSS is currently being used for research by Dentons , Latham & Watkins , and Baker & Hostetler . In addition to bankruptcy law and its planned entrance into knowledge management, Arruda noted that the software is now available for intellectual property.

What’s the AI? With a background in computer science and work with Y Combinator, Arruda is no stranger to the power of technology. Therefore, he said that he doesn’t see legal research as the final frontier for ROSS.

AI, he said, is good for “solving grunt-type repetitive work. That’s how AI systems learn.” By focusing on legal research first, Arruda said, ROSS can “prove [AI] right out of the box,” and continue building AI on top of it.

“The thing about AI is we overestimate where it is now and underestimate where it’s going in the future,” he added.