AI in legal services: Past, present, and future
AI in legal services: Past, present, and future

The notion of Artificial Intelligence (‘AI’) is not new — especially in the world of science fiction where depictions of robots wreaking havoc, usurping the world, and wiping out the human race are common. But getting past the dramatism, in today’s fourth industrial age, AI is becoming less fiction than actual science. AI is now a part of nearly every aspect of our lives: medicine, education, finance, defense, art, entertainment, consumer goods, infrastructure, and even law.

But before dwelling into the scope of AI, some context as to how Artificial Intelligence became a part of the modern discourse.

Evolution of AI: The Turing Test and the Imitation Game 

The two important components of the term that are ‘artificial’ and ‘intelligence’ can be used to understand the concept better. It is not difficult to define ‘artificial’ but it can be tricky to define ‘intelligence’.

Alan Turing, commonly referred to as the father of computer science, asked a very important question in the 1950s: Can machines think? This question turned the course of science forever.

In his paper, Computing Machinery and Intelligence, Turing answered this question first by not answering this question — in that he stated that this question is entirely dependent on the meaning of the terms ‘machine’ and ‘think’, neither of which is clear or unambiguous.

In Turing’s words: This attitude is dangerous. If the meaning of the words ‘machine’ and ‘think’ are to be found by examining how they are commonly used, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, ‘Can machines think?’

So, instead, Turing proposed a better version of the same question which he called the Imitation Game, the purpose of which is to test whether a computer can imitate a human so well that even a human cannot recognize that the computer is in fact not a human.

This test is basically what has come to be known as the Turing Test: the test to understand whether a machine can be intelligent. In other words, according to him, if a machine can pass the Turing test. then we have grounds to say that that machine is in fact intelligent.

In practice, the Turing test involves a human being (known as the ‘judge’) asking questions via a computer terminal to two other entities, one being human and the other being a computer. If the judge cannot distinguish the computer from the human, then the computer can be said to have passed the test.

This is how human intelligence started being the yardstick to measure and evaluate artificial intelligence.

The difficulty of defining Artificial Intelligence 

Attempts of all kinds have been made to define AI. However, there has been a large difference of opinion, mainly because of the ever-evolving nature of AI due to which the standard for intelligence also keeps shifting, and eventually has to be set higher and higher.

Further, many experts have also advocated that giving a precise definition to AI limits it.

For instance, John McCarthy defines AI as ‘the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.’ It could also be defined as cognitive technologies. “

On a basic level, a cognitive computer can perform three functions:

  • find and gather information;

  • analyze and comprehend it

  • and on its basis generate and make decisions.

Under the broad ambit of AI, multiple different technologies have also developed over the years. Examples are:

  1. Machine Learning (‘ML’) which uses computer algorithms to make assumptions and predictions about similar data sets

  2. Application Programming Interfaces (‘APIs’) which uses AI to provide a predictive output from a standardized set of outputs.

  3. Image Recognition and Speech Recognition: Cognitive Computing and Deep Learning which builds upon ML and uses pattern recognition for use cases like voice recognition and facial recognition.

IBM’s Watson and Google’s Deepmind: The Turning Points for AI 

AI has, over the past few years, developed at a fast pace. Arguably, AI became mainstream when IBM’s Watson defeated two human champions on the television show Jeopardy in 2010.

The next big breakthrough in the world of AI occurred when Google’s Deepmind defeated Lee Sedol, the world champion in Go (hailed as the hardest game ever invented).

What became perhaps the defining moment which demonstrated the promise of AI is what has become popular as Move 37. This was a move played by the AI that no machine would ever expect, and was so creative and a moment of genius that it not only shocked the human player but the whole human population.

Since that time, AI has become an important aspect of our daily lives. One of the finest examples is our Smartphones consisting of virtual assistants such as Siri and Google Play.

AI is also very prevalent among other sectors like Transportation and Manufacturing, Education, Employment, Defense, Health Care, Business Intelligence and Robotics, etc.

Artificial Intelligence in the Legal Sector

Artificial Intelligence is now also gaining popularity in the legal sector. 

AI in the legal sector debuted with IBM Watson powered robot called ROSS, the world’s first AI lawyer which solved research questions by mining data and interpreting trends and patterns. World over, AI is changing the way we work, conduct business, perform legal processes, and handle clients.

Unfortunately, in India, for reasons I will not go into in this article, most lawyers and law firms are still hesitant in using AI because of which use and acceptance of AI is still at its nascent stage.

Having said that, some law firms have started using AI for filtering and structuring legal data and information.“In 2017, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas became the first Indian law firm to deploy Kira, a software that uses AI to identify, examine, and separate provisions and other data from legal documents with a high degree of accuracy.

Such software supplants the repetitive and monotonous work done by the legal advisors and frees up their time for other important aspects. A lot of the contract drafting work can be easily done with the aid of technology, and thus the clerical work done by paralegals and lawyers can and should be reduced to a great extent. This will help the law firms in the reduction of expenses on paralegals and research assistants.

Applications of Artificial Intelligence in legal services 

The major impact of AI in Legal Services can be seen in the following ways:

1. Document discovery and review

The ability of computers to use Neuro-Linguistic Programming / Natural Language Programming (‘NLP’) and other AI tools to understand thousands of documents, mine them, and sift through case files and legal briefs in a snap is truly remarkable, and if applied widely, is quite capable of revolutionizing the way the legal sector works.

As just an example, in 2017, the Investment Banking Firm JPMorgan announced COiN for Contract Intelligence, a program which saves up to 360,000 hours of a lawyer’s time every year by interpreting commercial-loan agreements.

The purpose of technologies, such as the one developed by Ross Intelligence, is to help lawyers find cases and secondary material using natural language processing. It allows the researcher to ask the question in plain English and in return churn out relevant citations and cases from its database. As the company’s CEO explains:

ROSS pretty much mimics the human process of reading, identifies patterns in text, and provides contextualized answers with snippets from the document in question.

2. Big Data Analytics

Technologies like NLP and ML can be used to mine huge volumes of information, the results from which can be utilized by lawyers to determine possible outcomes of cases, develop techniques, and forecast litigation expenses.

One example of such platforms is Lex Machina. It provides insights into the workings of judges, lawyers, and parties by using large volumes of legal data.

Premonition AI provides another such great tool. It computes the effectiveness of litigators before a particular judge, by mining the largest litigation base in the world, so that parties can make choices based on empirical insights.

These platforms are designed to reduce the inefficiencies of litigation by enabling lawyers to develop strategies, predict outcomes, and offer data-driven actionable solutions. (also see Transforming the Legal Profession: the Impact and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence)

3. Due diligence

Due Diligence is an important function performed by law firms, but due to its comprehensiveness and need for caution human error can always creep in.

This is where AI comes in, and makes the process more efficient and accurate. It accelerates the procedure, eliminates manual errors, and allows lawyers to provide a better overall experience for their clients.

4. Contract Review

AI is also used to carry out contract reviews expeditiously and accurately (whether in bulk or individually). Kira Systems, for instance, is a popular tool used by global companies such as Deloitte to review their contracts. The tool discovers and examines data from contracts and gives the user the ability to break down trends and patterns between documents.

This can be of massive use to determine the potential challenges / conflicts that can develop over time, by contrasting the contract and large volumes of earlier amassed information, and can be used in due diligence, contract analysis, and lease abstraction.

Another such platform is iManage RAVN. It allows organizations to increase effectiveness and profitability by sorting out, investigating, and abridging documents.

5. Intellectual Property

AI can help IP law firms and lawyers in the search process by making it more accurate and faster.”

In its early days, Lex Machina dealt only with intellectual property and provided data-driven strategies and risks involved in litigation so that lawyers can make better decisions in IP management for their cases.

6. Chatbots / Lawyer bots 

Bots can be immensely useful in providing legal help and access to justice to the masses. A lawyer bot is a software that is capable of performing automated tasks that are usually carried out by lawyers. They are useful in increasing the tempo of the work and provide a better client experience by letting clients serve themselves online.

Some of the best Lawyer Bots are Ross, DoNotPay, Robot Lawyer LISA, Automio, and BillyBot among others available in the market.

Apart from these, AI is also useful for predicting the outcomes of the cases, getting documents ready by automation in seconds, preparing invoices for clients, among other things.

The future of AI in law: Debunking myths 

There are several advantages of using AI in the legal sector. But in India, AI is still a new concept as compared to the western world.

Plus, as far as the legal industry is concerned, it is commonplace to find many predispositions and unreasonable notions about the apocalyptic nature of AI and how it could take lawyers’ jobs. We must remember that the kind of AI used in the legal industry is weak / shallow AI. It has defined functions and no self-awareness. Weak AI has to be distinguished from Strong AI, which would match or exceed human intelligence, often defined as the ability “to reason, represent knowledge, plan, learn, communicate in natural language and integrate all these skills toward a common goal.

A robot or AI cannot replace a lawyer, as legal arguments tend to be case-specific and not necessarily conducive to automation, which requires human expertise or highly developed non-siloed programs like LUCI that can learn on their own and reason like a lawyer.

In spite of this, AI has gained a lot of popularity among the non-litigators and in the future, this popularity will only go up.

With the rise in AI, there is a rise in fear of unemployment among the lawyers especially the younger generation but it has created new strategic role for them as they have become the brains behind these machines and rather than just mundane research work they now have the responsibility of supervising the AI programs and therefore universities and various schools like Harvard Law School have started offering courses like Innovation in Legal Education and Practice and Programming to help trainee lawyers become proficient in modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence.

Concluding remarks 

AI is not the future; it is the present. It will not be long before it becomes a standard and an integral part of law firms and the legal sector. The technological advancement will assist lawyers in doing their work efficiently and expeditiously, making them more able to deliver quality legal services to their clients. The benefits of AI are so immense that even its costs are overwhelmed by the benefits derived by the teams and clients, and thus it becomes important for everyone to participate in evolution of their roles as the technology evolves, and then use it to the best of its abilities, while maintaining accountability.

  • Ramesh Naiknaware
    July 6, 2020 at 4:27 am

    in India, state wise several different languages are used. The AI and ML system is possible to use for legal profession for different languages.

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