New applications for cognitive computing are on the horizon to help attorneys address evolving business challenges and make more intelligent, strategic decisions.
The world of the data-driven lawyer is no longer just a futuristic vision. Leading attorneys are routinely leveraging a variety of advanced technologies to gain data insights that were not previously knowable.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has already been used to do things like help run factories, fly planes, fine-tune Uber pricing algorithms and optimize professional workflows. Now, next-generation technologies such as machine learning, advanced natural language processing (NLP), data analytics and data visualization are poised to extend these capabilities. In the legal profession, AI is helping attorneys manage data-intensive tasks more productively and efficiently, allowing them to focus on high-value strategic activities and initiatives that will benefit their clients and grow their business.
In the days before computer technology, lawyers prepared for litigation by reading and re-reading case law in search of precedents, sifting through piles of hard copy evidence and consulting with colleagues about strategy. Some attorneys still rely wholly or partly on pre-computer methods, but next-generation technology is beginning to yield next-generation lawyers.
That is not to say that next-generation lawyers don’t read or perform research. Far from it. Technology simply helps them do it much more effectively and efficiently. Today, advanced technology is being seamlessly integrated into every aspect of a busy attorney’s practice, including research, case assessment and preparation, case management, budgeting and transactional tasks. With AI, including powerful machine learning and data analysis tools, work that used to take a lawyer days, weeks or even months can now be successfully achieved in minutes. AI technology is being deployed to transform massive amounts of raw litigation data into easily searchable, usable information that reveals patterns and provides insights that would be difficult, if not impossible to expose otherwise.
For example, legal professionals are now using AI-based data analytics technologies to detect trends and patterns in litigation data so that their decision-making and legal strategies are based on facts rather than instinct or conjecture. AI is also being deployed to quickly uncover potential issues within contracts, legal briefs or motions and help lawyers find appropriate solutions. Advanced search technologies incorporating AI continue to evolve, allowing users to search using natural language instead of keywords and Boolean logic, analyze context to identify and rank the most relevant results, and pinpoint specific relevant passages within very large documents.
But, of course, technological advances never cease. New applications for machine learning and cognitive computing are always on the horizon to help attorneys streamline workflows, address evolving business challenges and make more intelligent, strategic decisions.
The Future of AI
The age of the “data-driven lawyer” is upon us. The data-driven lawyer uses AI-based tools to search through and organize massive stores of litigation data that reveal insights and information that has never before been available. For example, lawyers can now look at comprehensive data from similar cases to identify key legal issues, analyze outcomes and make facts-based predictions about their prospects for success. They can quickly identify the behavior patterns of specific judges, opposing parties, lawyers and legal teams. They mine data to predict factors like probable time to resolution and budget accordingly. The possibilities are virtually endless.
Lawyers can gather data-sights to help them understand the value of a case. In-house counsel can benchmark the performance of their law firms and assess various timing events in litigation. Rich data and advanced machine learning techniques can make that process much more precise by identifying and organizing detailed information from previous, similar cases, including outcomes, remedies and awarded damages.
Researching and drafting are at the core of the legal professional’s work. An AI-based system will soon be able to search for key fact patterns or case concepts based on natural language questions input by an attorney. The AI technology will identify all of the recent and relevant cases that support and refute specific arguments and help the attorney assemble the appropriate research and arguments for the brief.
How Clients Benefit
Technological advances will undoubtedly benefit consumers of legal services. In fact, much of the impetus behind advanced AI technology is driven by clients, who are accustomed to deploying technology in a wide range of business processes to streamline operations and reduce costs. Natural language processing, machine learning, analytics and cognitive computing improve the efficiency with which lawyers and legal teams perform complex tasks, putting law firms and companies on stronger competitive footing, and allowing highly skilled, productive attorneys to have more bandwidth for client-centered initiatives.
Despite the potential for cost savings, competitive advantage and enhanced client service, many in the legal industry fret that an age of “robolawyers” is upon us, and lawyers will eventually be replaced.
This unfounded hyperbole does a disservice to the discussion. While it is likely that certain data-intensive functions and repetitive, high-volume tasks will soon be automated, lawyers and law firms will continue to be needed to perform complex legal tasks and apply human judgement based on extensive training and experience. AI will assist in this skilled practice by bringing valuable and previously unattainable information to the forefront, perhaps with new perspectives, unseen details and in more usable formats to maximize decision making and strategies.
No Turning Back
There will likely be naysayers, but the exponential growth in the volume of legal data is leaving little choice but to embrace a new ‘data-driven’ legal frontier. Next-generation technologies are essential—not just to archive, manage and cull massive data sets for the purposes of discovery, but also to conduct legal research, perform case analysis and prepare legal strategy in a timely, cost-effective manner.
The numbers are staggering: There are more than 14 million legal case decisions, tens of millions of legislative bills and hundreds of millions of regulations on record in the U.S.—with millions more being added every month.
These court and government documents are only one stream of data. Corporations amass incredible amounts. In litigation, for example, searching for a few gigabytes of relevant data is akin to finding a needle in a multi-terabyte haystack. Machine learning, NLP, data analytics, cognitive computing and other technologies simplify this type of searching and at last make it possible to manage and draw knowledge from vast amounts of documents. Applying technology to these and so many other tasks saves money and allows attorneys to better serve their clients.
Not surprisingly, many clients are aware of the new possibilities. Legal professionals are likely to feel immense pressure to deliver exceptional results much faster and cheaper than ever before. AI-enhanced technology is on the cusp of driving new contributions to value-added workflows for the data-driven lawyer of the future.