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The Robots are coming, what to expect from AI in 2018

The robots have been coming for some time it seems. From Turing to Watson, intelligent computers have sparked a mix of fear and excitement for decades

Lawyers have largely watched from the side-lines as these developments gather pace. But, we are all now paying attention as it becomes increasingly clear that AI could bring huge opportunities for the delivery of legal services. 

Those opportunities include addressing the increasing pressure to provide more for less and to improve the efficiency of how law is delivered, whether that's in-house or via private practice.

Also, to improve how teams identify and mitigate risk or efficiently search out opportunities for their business. Importantly for in-house teams and their private practice advisers, it can free up expensive resource to focus on strategic advice.

What next?

AI has to date been about tackling less strategic, repetitive tasks where decisions are more often than not binary. AI can process huge amounts of data, quickly and accurately and it learns as it works. More junior lawyers – or non-lawyers – can manage these processes without the need for expensive senior involvement.

A lot of the early AI solutions for GCs focused on document reviews. They read and "triaged" large numbers of documents based on pre-determined criteria into shorter lists for lawyers to review, increasing speed and accuracy and reducing costs.

The future of AI lies in the potential to disrupt how we deliver legal advice and to learn from the vast amounts of information we see.

To date, technology has struggled to replicate how lawyers give advice. But, that is changing. Technology is now smart enough to power what you might call 'combined intelligence'.

Combined intelligence solutions are those that mix AI-enabled technology with in-built written legal advice and ad hoc legal support from a human. This means that clients can benefit not only from the speed, efficiency and accuracy of AI, but also the seamless reassurance of a lawyer at a low price point. This is arguably a watershed moment.

Also, law firms are increasingly aware of the rich data sets at their disposal – and critically, how this can be analysed with AI. They have the potential to use the data at their disposal to understand multiple industries, clients, transactions and disputes to create a unique perspective on trends and opportunities. In-house teams can make use of this knowledge to inform business decisions.

Beyond the rise of big data, 2018 should see AI develop beyond repetitive binary decision making into more nuanced areas. This will likely create a broader market of AI opportunities for businesses and their law firm advisers to consider as part of their service innovation strategies.

One example is the area of contract negotiation. AI can already read, review and report on the risks in contracts. In 2018, the move to combined intelligence will take that one step further, providing in-built guidance on how to mitigate risks and alternative clauses to support negotiations and AI-enabled lawyers who top-up with more bespoke advice where needed.

With law firms offering more of these "self-help" solutions, commercial managers and procurement executives will be able to progress contract reviews and negotiations, quickly, accurately and consistently across the business. This is where we at TLT are focused, working with our clients.

There is potential significant value for early adopters. The market is fast moving and for all providers of legal services, getting to market quickly will be an important factor. Partnering with a technology company with an existing solution is one way of achieving this. This approach may also bring the benefit of being able to influence the development of the product in a way that delivers competitive advantage for firms and their clients.

Clients are increasingly looking to law firms, and not just LPOs, to unlock this potential for them. Success will depend on the trust and understanding between clients and their advisers. Combined intelligence platforms will only succeed, progress and deliver substantive change when clients, law firms and technology experts collaborate on practical solution design. 

The legal industry has, for some time, focused on the need to re-engineer and innovate how they deliver legal services. The annual FT Innovative Lawyers research programme is a showcase of that activity and challenges some of the established perceptions of the industry. Embracing AI and combined intelligence represents the next wave of change as we move through 2018, with the potential to significantly disrupt how we deliver legal services.

For those working in law, developing new products, entering into technology collaborations, running proofs of concepts, developing new pricing and support models and increasing speed of delivery will become an integral part of the business of law.

TLT has partnered with LegalSifter to offer what we believe is the first "combined intelligence" solution for contract negotiation for in-house legal, procurement and operations teams. It increases the speed and efficiency of contract reviews and minimises risks, while introducing greater consistency across the business. To find out how you could benefit, please contact James Touzel

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