The practice of law is rooted in tradition and is well known for being slow to embrace technological innovation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has acted as an accelerant, forcing legal practitioners to rapidly adopt new tech-based solutions, including online hearings and virtual commissioning. With the continued growth of artificial intelligence (“AI”), there is likely much more disruption to come. This blog will look at some of the emerging AI technologies in the field of law.
Due diligence is vital to mergers, acquisitions and other major transactions. At the same time, due diligence can be an arduous and labour-intensive task. A number of corporations, such as Kira and iManage, are looking to take advantage of AI-based technologies to increase the efficiency of this process.
Using AI, these tools can search through contracts to extract and summarize essential information for the lawyer’s review. This is just what a human working on the transaction would do, but these AI tools do this much faster, saving lawyers hours of time and effort.
Using traditional research tools, lawyers can find themselves combing through hundreds of judicial decisions to track down cases that support their position. Similar to the due diligence tools described above, tools are being developed to improve the efficiency of legal research. These tools, such as Alexsei, are able to read through and highlight helpful cases in a fraction of the time it would take a person without missing a decision, taking a break, or getting hungry. Not only will these tools save lawyers time, their use may soon be expected in an effort to reduce legal fees.
In a recent decision, a judge questioned the reasonableness of certain legal fees and disbursements associated with legal research stating that, “[i]f artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.”1 While it is unclear exactly what AI tools the judge is referring to, this could be foreshadowing things to come.
One of the first questions that many clients ask when seeking legal advice is, “how likely am I to win?” The answer to this question has historically been based on a deep understanding of the legal issues and years of legal experience. However, there are several teams working to answer this question using AI.
For example, Toronto-based Blue J Legal offers AI-powered litigation prediction for various income tax issues, such as residency, employee v. independent contractor and tax on split income. Blue J boasts that it can predict the outcome of these issues with greater than 90% accuracy.
Use of tools like Blue J may allow lawyers to more effectively plan their litigation strategies and may serve to expedite settlement negotiations.
While a “robot lawyer” may not yet be a reality, the use of AI in the practice of law will improve efficiency, saving lawyers’ time and potentially decreasing costs for clients. It will allow lawyers to focus less on the mundane, time-consuming tasks and more on developing innovative, effective legal strategies to better serve their clients.
Joshua Murray is a graduate from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia.