AI As Disruptive Innovation In The Legal Sector: Why Established Legal Vendors Should Embrace AI

by | Sep 14, 2018 | Artificial Intelligence, Case Management | 0 comments

established legal vendors should embrace AI

Being present in the Legal world for so many years, you have probably witnessed a number of buzzes.

“Something new, innovative and life-changing has occurred.”

“A new technology, an innovation that will change the industry forever.”

You’ve been probably hearing the buzz of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for years now. And as the time passes by, you may have noticed that, besides the big claims, nothing big has come out of it yet.

AI is here, making enormous changes in the Legal sector, and most importantly, AI is here to stay.

Maybe it’s time to accept the fact that AI is not just a buzzword, but rather a real disruptor that has already made revolutionary changes in the Legal Sector and will continue to do so.

Let’s see why.

AI in the Legal Sector: Industry Disruptor or Buzzword?

AI as industry disruptor

Last year, the newspaper ‘Lawyers Weekly’ wrote about an Australian tax lawyer that opened a ‘Law Firm Without Lawyers’.

As Lawyers Weekly reported, the law firm offers Last Will and Testament services, assistance with business structuring, and asset protection.

This law firm is expected to include a suite of options to support victims of domestic violence in the future.

Adrian Cartland, the owner of the law firm, explains:

The difference is that where one would expect to find a lawyer sitting behind a large mahogany desk, there is a computer that clients can use to consult.”

He explains that AI is able to answer questions related to Wills and help the clients generate a perfectly legal Last Will and Testament. And for customers who require support, a member of their team is available at the click of a button…

“This is true Artificial Intelligence that is being applied to make everyday life easier,” says Adrian Cartland.

He adds: “The current process to write up a Will can be very time to consume and expensive…Making a Will should be as easy as popping to the shops for a carton of milk. Artificial Intelligence makes the process cheap, fast and legally binding.”

As we can see, AI is definitely much more than just a buzzword in the Legal Sector. But, it is also important to point out that although the power of AI in the Legal Sector is not to be undermined, there is no need to worry that AI will replace a legal professional.

As the behavioral scientist and senior research fellow for Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and the Harvard Kennedy School, Dr.Paola, says:

“Indeed, I think this is where we often hear that misconception that AI, machine learning and deep learning will replace human beings — especially lawyers. Instead, the way to look at it, I think, is that AI, machine learning and deep learning will be a way of complimenting people’s decision-making, allowing us to make the most interesting work our priority.

We will be able to answer very complicated questions — key strategic questions — and having more fun doing it. AI can free up lawyers to focus on the more analytical and strategic thinking aspect of tasks − because, despite AI’s ability to locate, distill and organize any quantity of data for the needed information, the interpretation of the information still needs to be done by a human being.”

Dr. Paola makes some great points. Let’s see why.

Why Established Vendors Should Embrace AI-Powered Solutions

“With AI, lawyers will shift their focus from routine activities to much more high-value work involved in shaping strategies and navigating complex legal problems.”   Gillian K. Hadfield, a law professor at the University of Southern California.

Every day, the helping hand of AI finds its way to reach deeper into the Legal Sector and help to solve difficult tasks. With much faster pace and better accuracy than any legal worker can… in more than just one Legal area.

Let’s take a look:

AI in legal sector

1.  Image Analysis

A.   Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

One of the oldest usages of computer software and images is recognizing texts on images. Basically, it’s the process of recognizing texts on scanned documents.

Using AI in OCR is the process of taking a scanned set of documents, and applying training and dictionaries in order to recognize as much text as possible, with as high of reliability as possible.

The Legal sector benefits greatly from AI in OCR. All the forms, documents, archive materials etc. get digitized by scanning and text extraction. With legal forms, things get easier as you can train the system to understand what sort of documents are being processed, and what vocabulary is used throughout the documents. That way, even if the scanned image is of a lower quality, the computer can recognize a certain word based on a dictionary it uses in the legal sector.

This kind of image processing helps legal organizations digitize large archives of documents, and extract text from them with a high-reliability score, with minimal human intervention.

B. Objects Recognition (Image Taxonomy)

Unlike text recognition, object recognition is a much more challenging technical problem.

One of the best representatives of this problem is the famous “dog or a muffin” problem, and there are plenty of texts dealing with the technicalities of coding in the software that will be able to tell the difference

is it dog or a muffin

Image Source:

This type of a problem also happens with recognizing actual objects in an image, from patterns that appear to have the same geometrical structure. Is it a person, or a graphite. Is it a car, or a box and two trash cans?

Using AI and machine learning to properly identify objects is very important for legal case files. Imagine a use case where a legal worker needs to find an image where there is a photo of a crime scene with a gun and a wallet. Instead of sifting through photos manually, the legal worker can run a search for these two objects, and get a list of images where these two objects are found.

C. Computer Vision (Scene Description)

Scene description is, at least for now, the holy grail of image recognition. And AI is making this attainable, soon.

For people, it’s very easy to see a scene and quickly identify the objects, their relationships, and deduct/explain what the picture represents.

Take a look at this example

object detection program output with horse, person and two potted plant detected and also percentages of precision

Image Source:

The software here is accurately recognizing the objects in the image. One step further from this is to deduct the relationship between these objects. We can see that in the image, the software has recognized that there is a fence, a few pots of flowers, a horse, and a person.

But to fully explain the image, we’d want the software to be able to recognize that the horse has jumped. And the person riding it is on it. And that the fence is below the horse.

So the full description of the image to (eventually) be as succinct as: “A jockey successfully jumping over an obstacle.”

Such scene description capability can be very helpful in documenting and identifying car accidents, people interacting at a crime scene, or even recognize acts of violence in real time.

2.  Textual Analysis

A. Contract Analysis

Contract analysis is a Legal area which can easily be covered by AI. The process requires reviewing, analyzing, deriving value, and checking legal agreements against current laws and rules.

Although the workflow of this process varies in each case, the basis is always the same. And thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP), all of these functions can be easily done by AI technologies.

NLP is much faster and accurate than humans, and that’s why AI technologies supported by NLP can easily and quickly free up lawyers from time-consuming tasks such as:

  • Financing/OTC derivative agreement review,
  • Sales/procurement contract review,
  • Employment contract review,
  • Compliance and risk review,
  • Some types of eDiscovery,
  • Due diligence,
  • Lease review.

B. Legal Data Research

Legal Data Research is another Legal area where AI-powered solutions can help your employees speed up the process.

Compared to other enterprise search or a database trawl, AI technologies are much faster and effective. These technologies do not only search for the best answer, but they also learn from the questions asked. They isolate the information needed from a mass of data instead of bringing upon hundreds of documents that contain the same keyword.

In addition to this basic legal research, AI can do predictive legal research based on a comparison between previous case records relevant to the current case. For instance, comparisons between previous actions of lawyers, available court documents, rulings made by judges on similar matters, etc.

Based on these comparisons, AI provides information on the likelihood for success and the possible damages that could appear in the case.

C. Intelligent Interfaces

intelligent interfaces

The third main branch of Legal AI is the development of intelligent interfaces.

Intelligent interfaces are interactive, web-based, Q&A systems. They either guide users in completing basic legal documents and forms or enable them to gain legal information via text input.

These systems use NLP to understand the input from the dialogue box and Machine Learning (ML) to help the system provide the right answer.

Intelligent interfaces are usually based on drop-down menus and checkboxes to quickly move the user through a series of steps.

The presence of AI in all of these areas helps lawyers to finally get rid of the time-consuming and repetitive tasks and focus on solving more important and complex problems.

3. Voice Systems (AWS Transcribe)

Recognizing characters on a piece of paper is relatively straightforward. Recognizing objects, not so easy, but still doable.

Recognizing speech from a recorded video is a lot more challenging. The ability of systems to clear out ambient noise, and recognize two people dialoguing, and then extract that dialogue into a text file, is quite the achievement.

AI and Machine Learning make this possible. And not only possible, but doable, and useful.

Systems that can read an audio or video file, and return a timestamped transcript of the dialogue are commercially available.

We’re actually using the Amazon Transcribe service in our Armedia Legal Case Management module for ArkCase.

I’ve covered this subject in a recent blog post on how AI helps the legal sector with multimedia transcription capabilities, but just to quickly summarize it here: AWS is allowing us to process legal hearing recordings, recognize different people talking in the video, and then return a neatly indexed, timestamped transcript of the video conversation.

If Bill and Harry are talking, Amazon Transcribe will be able to know who said what, when, and offer a neat transcription file of that conversation.

This technology is making the life of legal workers much easier, as they can search in a video recording just as easily as if it was a Word document.

Final Thoughts

Over the last decade, the impressive benefits of AI ensured its place in multiple industries. Improving their operational performance in many small, but significant ways.

One of these industries is the Legal Sector.

And yes, industry disruptors can be risky, but only for those who decide to ignore them.

So far, AI has made significant changes in the Legal Sector, especially in the 3 areas we discussed earlier:

  • Image Analysis,
  • Textual Analysis, and
  • Voice Systems.

The added benefit for most of us is to understand that AI will NOT replace people. It will rather help us focus on helping more people with their cases.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

And don’t forget to share this blog post with your colleagues on your social media.


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