Five Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Already Helping Attorneys Work Smarter

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What do you think of when you think of artificial intelligence? If you envision some kind of futuristic world with robots running the show, you’re thinking way too far into the future. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already here. In our everyday lives – and in our professional lives. It’s prevalent in the workflows of legal professionals everywhere, not only helping automate common tasks to make our jobs easier and more efficient, but also helping us practice law more confidently, allowing us to provide better service to our clients. Here are five ways AI is being used in the legal industry today.

1. Legal research

Back in the day, finding the right answer to your legal question meant constructing a well-crafted query using Boolean terms and connectors. You had to be very specific so the system knew what you were looking for. But technology has evolved and legal research platforms, such as Thomson Reuters Westlaw™, now use natural language processing so you just have to type in your question “naturally” – like you’d say it – in order for them to understand what you’re looking for. Plus, Westlaw® has added features that answers those legal queries directly as opposed to providing a list of documents that may contain the answer.

2. Litigation strategy

If you’re like most litigators, knowing which judge is hearing your case can make a difference in your litigation strategy. It used to be that if it was a judge you or other attorneys in your firm had appeared before in the past, you could rely on your cumulative previous experience and build an argument that appealed to the judge’s tendencies. But if it was a judge you were unfamiliar with, you were kind of in the dark. But AI has changed that. By accessing dockets on legal research sites, you can find just about every filing, motion, and ruling on record from a judge. All of it is valuable data that feeds AI algorithms and helps you identify a judge’s tendencies and generate predictive outcomes.

 3. Ediscovery

It’s no surprise that ediscovery is an area where AI is really making a big impact. Everything that used to be paper (letters, documents, calendars, etc.) has gone digital. Think of all the electronically stored information (ESI) that is generated on a daily basis for any business. Heck … even for any individual! Wading through such a large volume of ESI would be nearly impossible for humans alone. Fortunately, document review software that uses machine learning helps make it all manageable, weeding out duplicate files and identifying documents with content relevant to the legal issues at hand.

4. Online legal services
Some law firms and other legal organizations are adopting client-facing automated systems that deliver answers to frequently asked legal questions. Kind of like chatbots. Clients answer questions related to their specific legal issue, and the AI system responds with a definitive answer. Of course, if it can’t come up with a definitive answer, it will suggest they talk to a human lawyer. So, have no fear … artificial intelligence will never eliminate the need for human intelligence.

5. Contract review

Contract review is another area in which it’s not surprising to see AI play a big part. Lawyers who are reviewing and analyzing a large number of contracts as part of due diligence or an M&A transaction certainly need to lean on machine learning to get the job done efficiently. It would be nearly impossible without it. Legal software helps attorneys identify common language between contracts (or find the differences) and compare contract terms to what’s market.

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