Decoding Artificial Intelligence: What Does It Really Mean For Lawyers?

- Decoding Artificial Intelligence: What Does It Really Mean For Lawyers?

When you mention artificial intelligence (AI), plenty of images come to mind, thanks in large part to Hollywood depictions of the rise of the machines. While robots have yet to take over the world, many less threatening examples of AI have dominated our culture, from our everyday interactions with Siri or Alexa, to Google’s self-driving car, or to Ken Jennings losing to Watson on Jeopardy!

In reality, AI has already worked its way into our lives in ways that are far less sensational or even noticeable. Today’s definition of AI is fluid, and the countless companies offering AI solutions in the market have as many different definitions for the concept as there are products. In short, the term “AI” is widely used to describe any computing function that mimics human intelligence or thinking. And while that is undoubtedly impressive, the more we grow accustomed to having aspects of AI in our daily lives, the less we tend to be impressed by it, seeing it instead as a natural part of today’s technological world.

What Is AI, Really?

AI isn’t just one thing. The universe of AI is made up of numerous technologies that perform different functions through a range of applications. You’ve probably heard terms like natural language processing, machine learning, or logical interfacing. All these technologies are AI and all are used differently, in both the world at large and in the legal world in particular.

Chances are, you’re already using these technologies in your daily life, like when Alexa answers your questions (natural language processing), or Spotify amends its playlist recommendations over time based on your listening patterns (machine learning), or Google automatically translates your search results. These technologies have become so commonplace that we hardly stop to think about them anymore. In fact, we often don’t even realize they’re there. The way your emails or newsfeed are presented to you are perfect examples – we’re so used to machines doing work for us that we only notice it when things go wrong.

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AI and the Law

AI in the legal world might not be as obvious, but it’s no less ingrained in our routines. Some of the most critical legal functions in your daily workflow are handled by AI. It should come as no surprise, then, that technology expenses at law firms are increasing at nearly double the rate of average overhead expenses. According to the 2016 Inside Legal Tech Spend Survey, law firm tech budgets have increased by 53%.

Legal AI takes many forms, and is particularly useful in tasks that involve answering standard and recurring questions from information contained in significant data sets. The following are examples of what that looks like in a real-world law firm:

  • eDiscovery. Legal AI has perhaps seen the most success in the realm of eDiscovery. Since businesses have gone digital, they’ve been producing incredible amounts of data that needs to be analyzed, quickly outpacing the capacity for human review. These high-volume data situations are where AI works best, handling the underlying analysis cheaply and accurately, and leaving humans to handle the high-level review that requires experience and judgment.
  • Contract review. As with eDiscovery, AI is well suited to assisting with large-scale contract reviews, because it involves analyzing vast quantities of data with a high level of accuracy. Whether you’re looking to identify certain provisions or get a larger sense of common market terminology, AI can do it at speeds that humans could never hope to meet.
  • Legal research. Much legal research involves discrete questions with specific answers – for example, what are the elements of X crime in Y state? Rather than calling up a list of documents that potentially answer that question, AI-based technologies like Westlaw® Answers provide concise answers with links to authority, saving precious research time. (To learn about how to use Westlaw® Answers and other AI-driven legal research tools, register for our free January 18 webinar.)
  • Litigation strategy. While predicting litigation outcomes with 100% certainty is impossible, AI allows us to do a better job of it than we ever could before. With the wealth of data that can be gleaned from court dockets, predictive tools can provide a good sense of how likely you are to succeed on a certain motion before a specific judge, which is crucial to crafting a case strategy. That data is even more useful when it’s been cleaned up and organized by publishers with legal expertise like Thomson Reuters.
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The New Normal

The pace at which AI is expanding and integrating itself into the legal landscape can seem overwhelming, but there’s no reason to panic. The time to embrace the new wave of technology is now, and Thomson Reuters is here to help. For more than 100 years, we’ve been leading the charge to help the legal industry operate more effectively, and the recent AI boom is no exception.

Thomson Reuters is combining advanced technology and intelligence with its vast base of human expertise to offer the unrivaled know-how that helps law firms and legal departments find the best solutions to meet their needs. By integrating the power of AI into our industry-leading legal solutions, we’ve managed to make the best even better. There’s no one better equipped than Thomson Reuters to give you the trusted answers you need to navigate the new world of legal innovation.

Discover the seven tips for embracing the new technology and making the most of what AI can offer your legal practice. Learn more here.

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Author: Edward Lott

Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A. is president and managing partner of Allentown-based ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, Inc., a local search and digital marketing agency that offers clients lead generation, local seo and Google Maps Domination. Ed has been a digital entrepreneur since 1994, having discovered very early the opportunities the Internet offered. After having spent over two decades helping attorneys grow their practice, Ed joined the staff of ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing as President and Managing Partner, where he is expanding the agency’s cutting-edge services to the legal market. A true marketing futurist, Ed's vast experience working directly with attorneys has given him a unique perspective on law firm marketing not found in many other digital marketing agencies. Ed has reshaped the offerings of ForLawFirmsOnly to focus on growing law firms through a holistic approach to digital marketing evident in the reformulated lead generation processes now in place. Want to learn more about ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, their lead generation programs, or just talk to Ed about his visions for helping law firms grow? Call him at 855-943-8736.

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