Of all the branches of machine and AI, text and language analysis is likely the most relevant to the legal industry. In a world where the currency is contracts, court rulings, case law, written evidence – it makes sense that advances in understanding large volumes of text creates exciting possibilities.

Google has been a pioneer in the space. From making sense of search queries, to ensuring spam emails don’t get through to your inbox – text and language analysis has been one of the key ways Google has shaped our interactions with the web.

But the technologies have filtered down to a wide range of industries including legal. There are now hundreds of ways for both law firms and legal departments to improve the way they work through using software to understand text at scale.

I have boiled the impact down to three key areas, but there are more:

1. Discovery:

Discovery was the low-hanging fruit when it came to text analysis. Up to recently the process required junior lawyers or paralegals to manually review text documents, correspondence, email trails with a view to judging if the evidence was relevant to a case.

Think of how quickly the FBI could examine Hillary Clinton’s 650,000 emails when they arose in another investigation prior to the US election. It only took a couple of days. This would have been unheard of until recently.

What drove this was TAR, or technology assisted review. This concept has been around for a couple of decades now – but has really been driven by recent advances in what text analysis can do.

In this case, text analysis could read the emails and determine what was relevant and what wasn’t – and when the machine wasn’t sure, give them to a human to review more closely and determine the relevance.

Everlaw and Logikcull are two interesting companies in this space.

2. Contract Analysis & Due Diligence:

A follow-on from advances in Discovery is contract analysis. Legal departments and law firms can now use text analysis to read and extract key business terms in contracts. This has huge implications for how they store and track key dates, key parties and other important information across the organization. Previously this was manual work – now it’s automated. More advances language analysis can also examine the legal content of the documents – identifying key clauses that may be not be in line with a company’s standards.

Due Diligence also benefits from this area – again using TAR to look for provisions that matter in a corporate transaction.

Kira are one of the more interesting companies in this space.

3. Spend Management:

At Brightflag, we are advancing the use of language analysis for both in-house cost control and to help law firms better understand their pricing. Our technology is reading and categorizing lawyer time entries so you can understand where exactly the time has been spent.

It categorizes lines like this:

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So you have an output like this:

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By understanding exactly where the time has been spent on a matter you can derive a lot of insights about how the work has been resourced. Legal departments use this technology to review invoices, track their external spending, arrive at AFAs and enhance vendor negotiations. Law firms use it to understand exactly what their cost base is for certain kinds of matters so they can price and negotiate future work more effectively.

Our language analysis technology represents a jump forward like those of eDiscovery and contract analysis – using the latest methodologies to enable a machine to do what was previously only possible manually.