Tech and More; Innovation in the Legal Profession


There is at least one thing CDs, Walkmans, fax machines, Gameboys, landline phones and dinosaurs have in common: They are all extinct. (Well, almost; dinos tend to live their second renaissance, don’t they?) Why would the traditional way of providing legal services be any different? Why do we think that the legal profession might remain intact in the storm of the tech revolution? Well, we had better not!

Gábor Papp, Head of Professional Development, Horváth & Partners DLA Piper

Highly ranked law firms seem to follow the new winds and have already recognized the advantages that cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI) can offer to the legal profession. Using artificial intelligence in the legal service sector is science-fiction no more. AI may be utilized in the industry in many ways, from document processing through litigation to advisory work.

The importance of cognitive technologies is the most obvious in document-heavy areas of law, such as due diligence procedures, compliance works, investigations or litigation. To take one example, KIRA™ – an integrated contract analysis platform – easily processes large amounts of documents. Besides creating an electronic data room, it is capable of preparing the backbone of a due diligence report. Clearly this can save a lot of time for law firms, and money for clients. According to one recent experience at DLA Piper, by the use of this application it was possible to process and review half a million documents by a small team in only two days.

Another potential use of AI in the legal service sector is calculating probabilities and predicting outcomes of legal disputes and proceedings. This tool heavily builds on a specific database (court dockets), and uses data mining and predictive analytic techniques to forecast outcomes of litigation. No doubt, such solutions seem to be far away from our domestic market everyday realities; nevertheless one should be aware that this is already happening in other parts of the globe.

When it comes to advisory work, AI is now ready to take away commodity works. To put it simply, AI tools can solve any legal problem, provided that such a legal problem has been solved before and uploaded to the internet.

Appealing indeed! Still, all of the above does not make AI a law professor. Cognitive technologies may ruthlessly find and adapt already existing solutions. Solutions, previously created by human lawyers. Give AI a brand new legal problem, with a blurry regulatory background, which is often the case in real life, and the cognitive technology will most probably be clueless. And this leads us to an important question:

Is it only shiny and trendy apps that are capable innovation in the legal profession?

I would doubt so. Clients expect value-for money services and high-quality work performed at the same time. And that should be governed by humans. No top-tier lawyer can afford to lose high quality assignments thanks to less effective organization or the lack of talented experts, just to name two crucial fields of innovative solutions.

It is not a surprise then, that previously unseen project management mechanisms are infiltrating to the legal service sector. Project management is also essential for planning workforce and budget, as well as ensuring you keep to the allocated budget.

Furthermore, meaningful and tailor-made learning and development (L&D) programs have the simultaneous benefits of attracting talented graduates as well as increasing the level of job satisfaction, motivation and engagement of all fee earners by providing a strong value proposition. L&D programs convey the message that fee earners do matter to the firm, and that the firm is ready to invest in them. At the same time, innovative L&D programs build reputation, brand and the promise of a consistent quality on the market.

To sum up, cognitive technologies do not make highly qualified legal professionals redundant. On the contrary, innovative tech solutions alone may be worthless. These must be seen as tools allowing legal service providers to focus on the real legal issues, instead of spending empty hours on document review and processing. Hence, sustainable innovation in the case of the legal service sector stands less for pure tech, but rather for a system run by human experts leveraging technology.

Innovation is clearly more than tech.

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