Before identifying the many ways AI might be used by legal departments, it is useful to understand how companies in general are using AI. One thing to underscore for both is the stark fact as to why AI is popular with businesses: Technology doesn’t get tired, sleep in, call in sick, or take vacations, and it doesn’t need breaks for food or when nature calls. Technology just keeps working and working and working. That is a huge benefit to any company – and their legal department.
AI and e-Discovery
The AI use most in-house lawyers are familiar with is for purposes of e-discovery (though I promise you I am not going to make you read another article on e-discovery). Originally, the AI use here was pretty simple – looking for keywords in megabytes of data. Doing this saved an amazing amount of time and money that would otherwise be spent paying lawyers to find documents that might be relevant. Later, AI was used to eliminate duplicate documents and connect strings of emails, again doing in minutes what would take days if done by people. And finally, AI is now capable of searching documents for context, concepts and tone with what is known as predictive coding, going far beyond simple keyword searches. Predictive coding is even being used as a tool in internal compliance investigations – to sift through mounds of data in minutes or hours.
What else can AI do?
Use for e-discovery is great and the benefits of AI in terms of time and cost are apparent. But is that it for in-house lawyers? The short answer is no. The longer answer is definitely no. AI has tremendous possibilities in the legal field and we are seeing many advances on that front already. While a number of outside law firms are in the process of developing uses for AI, the biggest potential impact comes from how AI is used by in-house legal departments. This is because the incentive for in-house legal departments to find the lowest cost way to do things is greater than the incentive for law firms to find ways to offer lower priced services (i.e., quantity of billable hours vs. quality of a billable hour). With that in mind, here is a list of some of the things AI can do (or is coming) for in-house legal departments that will disrupt and benefit the legal market:
- Due diligence reviews. If you have ever been involved in a due diligence review for a corporate transaction you know that it typically involves a bunch of lawyers going through documents (hard copy or in an e-room) looking for litigation issues, key contract clauses (e.g., change of control, assignment, MFN, termination, etc.), corporate governance, intellectual property, etc. Generally, it takes many hands (usually outside counsel) and many hours/days to complete. There are now tools that can automate this process using AI, including finding specific legal concepts and generating written reports about what was found.