This article is written by Suryansh Verma from RMLNLU and Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.
Technological trends these days are experienced globally. Almost nothing has been left unchanged. Digital transformation is the name of the game in every industry.
However, the legal industry has been very slow to adopt new technology. There is a difference in speed even within the industry itself.
In-house legal departments welcome technology faster than everyone else.
A lot of law firms also are talking about technology and doing a few things, but we do not know how much of that is just lip service and how much is real.
Litigators have been generally very resistant to technology and judiciary is behaving like dinosaurs as far as adoption of new technology is concerned.
However, technology does find its ways into our professional lives one way or the other. You would notice that a lot of 21st century lawyers are using electronic gadgets instead of those bulky hard copies of their case files. They also have scanned copies of all the documents and annexures required for the case stored in their tablets or mobile phones.
However, let’s not just be satisfied with such primitive technology and discuss a bit about the major legal tech trends that are going to transform the legal industry, one way or the other, in the coming decade itself!
Artificial intelligence trends that will affect the legal industry
The term “AI” was coined by John McCarthy in 1955. From playing songs to switching on/off the lights for you, AI holds the promise of revolutionising our world.
It is still in its nascent stage and in development for the legal field. Still, AI devices are being used by a lot of legal practitioners and law firms. CAM is one Indian law firm that claims to implement AI in doing legal research, document review and summarization, due diligence etc. Friends at CAM do claim that the AI software is effective and have reduced junior level jobs in the firm.
That’s a very interesting situation indeed.
From chatbots that advise about whether you have to pay your parking ticket, to an algorithm that predicts US Supreme Court decisions, consumer-facing applications using artificial intelligence in tandem with legal service are mushrooming. However, we know much less about AI or machine learning technology that targets legal practitioners.
There are also a bunch of other technologies that are making a big difference.
Reviewing documents and legal research
One of the major areas where a legal practitioner spends most of their time is “legal research”.
New Lawyers take a lot of time to learn how to do legal research. They have troubles in finding case laws and other legal authorities that might help them in making their argument stronger.
Software such as “ROSS INTELLIGENCE” can be used by lawyers for making their legal research more efficient and authoritative. Ross Intelligence is a legal research engine that uses artificial intelligence to automate legal processes making them efficient and less expensive.
BakerHostetler, one of the US’s biggest law firms has hired the robot lawyer named “ROSS”. It is the “world’s first artificially intelligent attorney”. ROSS uses machine learning technology to tune its research methods.
An AI-powered software increases the efficiency of document analysis for legal use and machines can review these documents. These machines mark these documents as relevant to a particular case. Once a certain document is flagged as relevant, machine learning algorithms can get to work to find other documents which are similarly relevant. “ROSS Intelligence” along with providing legal research services also provides their customers to process and analyse legal documents.
Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas signed an agreement with Kira Systems, a Canada based machine learning software provider. This agreement was entered into to improve the efficiency, accuracy and speed of the firm’s delivery model for legal services. Kira is a tool that uses artificial intelligence to identify, evaluate and derive clauses and other information from contracts and other types of legal documents. It also has integrated machine learning models for different transaction requirements across practice areas.
Several international firms such as Clifford Chance also use Kira software.
Chatbots that give pre-stored legal advice
Chatbots are basically AI-based robots which are filled up with a database of knowledge and can simulate a conversation with the user.
They can understand a question and then identify what information or answer which must be already programmed into them is relevant and serve the same very quickly.
Chatbots have been drawing attention in the legal industry and are aimed at improving all the work. Moreover, legal bots do not require sleep or any day-offs. They work 24/7 for providing legal help to the clients. These bots are a great way to save time and money. In-house legal teams have been most enthusiastic about this software because they can automate a lot of routine queries through such chatbots while being able to dedicate their time to the novel and genuinely tricky questions.
Another AI, DoNotPay, offers an AI-powered legal counsel which can be used to sue anyone by pressing a button. Its main focus though is on suing corporations and also bureaucracies that stand in between the people and their rights.
For avoiding tiring hours of typing, lawyers these days make use of voice typing assistants as to record their submissions in a document.
Earlier, lawyers used to have secretaries who used to do the typing work for them. Eventually, with the advent of computers, most lawyers typed their own documents. They usually spend many hours in a day typing documents. It can be quite tiring.
No more, as now they can use voice typing assistants to make their work easier and faster. Voice typing assistants also point out grammatical and language errors which a human mind cannot sometimes. Thus, it helps the lawyers to make their submissions and documents more efficiently and also provides an error-free experience.
Voice typing is a very complicated technology, but it is easily available on Google. This technology is revolutionizing the productivity of many lawyers.
Prediction of legal strategy and outcomes
An AI-based software has the ability to analyse data to help it make predictions about the results of the legal proceedings better than humans.
There are instances where quite often the clients ask their lawyers the questions such as – “If we go to trial, how likely will it be that I win?” or “Should I settle?”
Using such software which has access to years of trial data will be able to answer such questions with quite an ease to a degree of accuracy. Human beings still apply their mind and not rely on such predictions blindly, but knowing the data and the AI prediction can help even the most confident lawyers to take a more informed decision.
Technology assisted due diligence
These tools use Artificial Intelligence to extensively classify documents and identify the common due diligence issues such as change of control, assignment and termination. They extract out the applicable clauses so that it can be reviewed by lawyers across a large number of documents easily. Artificial intelligence is quite good at these tasks, and its advantage is that the human mind cannot be 100 percent accurate but AI can be relentlessly accurate. AI-based due diligence is likely to become a norm and kill a lot of entry-level jobs for lawyers.
Client information is available all over the internet and also may be contained in millions of pages of documents, hours of video recordings etc shared by clients.
Such data can sometimes give staggering insights and important information which can change the fate of a case or a negotiation. Yes, data mining can help lawyers to discover the most ideal approach to serve clients.
Data mining can enable your firm to comprehend clients better, opening up opportunities that wouldn’t have been accessible previously.
For an instance, a Litify customer generates 200 cases per month with data mining. The firm uses technology to uncover possibilities for mass tort cases by cross-referencing single-event personal injury cases with other medical records.
Applications of data mining will be varied and wide-ranging in the legal industry, though we cannot even imagine the scope of most such technologies.
Blockchain technology transforming the legal sector
Blockchain Technology is apparently being seen as the backbone of a new type of internet. It basically allows digital information to be distributed online, but not corrupted or hacked.
It allows for transactions to be kept on a digital ledger which is shared by everyone in that network. Blockchain is also intricately connected with another concept called smart contracts. Smart contracts allow us to build Decentralised Automated Organizations (DAOs) which can change the face of law and governance and concepts like corporate governance in times to come.
Blockchain and smart contracts technology are now being used to build tools and infrastructure that helps to automatically execute contracts, collect data about disputes for quicker resolutions, record commercial transactions and verify legal documents. Many industries like shipping and derivatives may have far fewer disputes if such technology becomes reality and gets implemented.
OpenLaw allows lawyers to automatically generate legal agreements and embed smart contracts that can be executed on the blockchain. Integra Ledger provides permission blockchain to increase the integrity of legal documents.
This technology is already making its way in the day-to-day functions of major law firms such as K&L Gates.
Primavera De Filippi, a researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research in Paris and faculty associate at Harvard University, says “Blockchain technology can affect the legal practice in two significant ways.”
First: it has the potential to act as a secure database where documents, such as evidence, can be stored and then referenced later on if arguments arise. An evidence management company CaseLines is making an attempt to patent the use of blockchain technology for handling legal documents. In China, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled that evidence that has been verified on the blockchain is admissible in local court proceedings.
The second potential application, De Filippi says, is in creating a way for contracts to be created and transferred digitally, reducing the need for legal instruments.
“Blockchain definitely has the power to create more efficiency, with secure and transparent transactions,” – Richard Anderson, product management director, legal risk, at Thomson Reuters Legal.
Blockchain provides transparency as well around the document sender and the creator within such applications which may also help banks prevent fraud.
Blockchain can prevent unnecessary legal battles
The technology that can have the greatest impact on the legal sector is perhaps blockchain. Blockchain’s ability to store information is highly reliable and can help legal processes. In many cases, it can also help eliminate the need for litigation.
Blockchain has various purposes such as to record financial transactions but also to maintain ownership records ownership assets. Having a transparent and secure database of transactions and asset ownership eliminates the possibility of illegal transfer and accumulation of wealth, preventing financial crimes. Blockchain’s ability to execute smart contracts can also be highly valuable for the legal industry, as it ensures that there is no room for foul play and non-compliance.
Automated contract drafting platforms
Contract drafting takes away a lot of the working time of lawyers. Automated contract drafting tools that assist lawyers to draft contracts faster and more accurately can cut hours of time and make them more productive. Such platforms basically have a lot of variations of different clauses for different purposes and high-quality templates.
OpenLaw provides templates for lawyers to generate legal documents. In the contracting arena, it is including a function that would allow parties to enter into a contract by marking up previous drafts. Once the contract is complete, it takes the signature of the signatories and stores in on the blockchain.
Blockchain-based records are also admissible as evidence to the court in Vermont. Recently, in 2017, Arizona also enacted a law in 2017 that acknowledged the legality of signatures and contracts which were secured on Blockchain. We are not sure yet as to what position our Indian courts may take with respect to such evidence for a contract, but experience suggests that Indian courts have usually been open to accepting new technology which introduces more fairness and transparency in the process.
There are various contract drafting tools available in the market such as – Contract Express which allows the lawyers to automate and update their legal templates as well.
HotDocs allows companies to transform their frequently used documents into intelligent templates that help them produce a super-fast custom document.
There are companies like Signzy that just work towards digital signing and record keeping with respect to legal contracts. There are also companies like spot draft that focus on contract management instead.
Big data analytics and data visualization
The amount of data created, stored and distributed these days is growing at a tremendous rate.
The legal sector has also been touched by big data, just like almost all other professions.
Automated data analysis has made waves in the legal sector. The legal system generates a huge and increasing amount of data too.
Every case that is brought in to the court increases the data of knowledge. Judicial rulings, case laws and the interpretations of legislation create more and more data. The statement of witnesses, court logs are certain hidden facts and insights that help in winning legal arguments.
The first of Big Data tools to be made available to the legal professionals focussed on billing, time management, marketing and customer relation functions.
Companies developing these tools for the profession are starting to think about how this technology can be applied to legal research and case preparation. One company which is attempting to apply more sophisticated technology to this vast and arcane body of knowledge is Ravel Law.
Established in 2012 by two lawyers with backgrounds in analytics, they provide services designed to help legal professionals draw insights and connections using advanced analytical algorithms.
One of their services – Judges Analytics – lets lawyers search through every decision made by particular judges to find those which most likely support their arguments.
Data which has been created through the legal process is in the process of being digitalized and combined with other technology. It is claimed that it has the potential to make the jobs of lawyers more straightforward. Wolfgang Alschner, an assistant professor in common law at the University of Ottawa says, “We will be able to find pertinent cases more easily through better recommender systems that leverage machine learning. Another area is document and compliance review, where computers can find patterns in large amounts of texts more reliably and quickly.”
Everlaw, a legal tech start-up that has raised more than $25m from Silicon Valley investors, is applying AI to historic legal reports to help lawyers prioritise and analyse documents. It is using computer science to visualise data from documents and predict the most relevant cases for lawyers to inspect.
Knowing whether to take a case or not
One of the benefits that data analytics provide is the ability to spot trends. Legal professionals could use data analytics to figure out when to take the case and when to recommend their clients to not pursue it.
They will have the chances to look at previously decided similar cases and whether that client has a chance to succeed in that particular case.
Why did one lose a case?
Data analytics can help a lawyer know as to how he lost that case. A lawyer is always inquisitive of the reasons due to which he lost the case.
Data analytics provides the lawyer such opportunities where he/she could analyse thousands of cases and discover a pattern. This pattern can reveal something about which way certain judges commonly prefer to rule. It also provides a specific pattern of reasoning as well.
After the analysation process, the lawyers will be able to figure out where they went wrong and how they could have gotten a better verdict for their clients.
Although, James Roger, a solicitor at Norton Rose Fulbright said, “The biggest impact will not be caused by big data alone – rather it will be the combination of big data with other innovations, such as artificial intelligence or distributed ledger technologies.”
Digital transformation practices
Digital transformation is impacting almost every major industry, which is creating opportunities for growth. Initially, the legal industry was slow to adopt digital changes brought about by the digital transformation. This is due to the fact that they deal with highly confidential information.
Information needs to be secure for the welfare of the client.
However, cybersecurity has made great strides and most of the law firms are now beginning to embrace various digital trends.
Setting aside trivial cases without going to trial
Digitization can help in minimizing the need for trials in minor non-criminal cases such as vehicle parking tickets. Applications have been developed using technologies like AI to help citizens contest parking tickets by determining whether the parking infraction was justified or not. This application has not only saved time but also minimized the problems faced by civilians in clearing off their tickets. As mentioned earlier. DoNotPay is such a software which is AI-based and is used by people for such a legal issue.
Online education these days is being preferred by a lot of law students and especially working lawyers who need cutting edge advanced knowledge but do not have too much time to invest. Online education makes highly desirable knowledge easily accessible as one can learn from the very best, without any location limits.
Law schools these days do not provide sufficient practical training. They are simply using the age-old education system of graduating thousands of students by making them memorize some sections and case laws. The law graduates find themselves totally unprepared to succeed in any kind of law practice after graduation and have to be extensively trained by employers. Even practicing lawyers do not have much resources available with them to upgrade their knowledge and acquire new skills that can help them in their career. Online education providers like LawSikho can be really helpful for these purposes and have been game changer as far as learning opportunities for lawyers are concerned.
Virtual data rooms
Data rooms are spaces which are used for storing data, usually of a secure nature, usually required during due diligence. An online data room or virtual data room is an online store which is basically the warehouse of the key documents of the company. Such virtual data rooms are frequently used in Merger and Acquisition transactions.
The online data room is filled up with the company’s crucial documents. The digital data room allows the company to provide information in a controlled manner and in such a way as to help preserve confidentiality. By maintaining an online data room, the need for a physical data room where the documents are kept goes out of the picture.
Searching through online materials is easier as compared to looking into physical copies. An online data room can be created to allow access to documents or only to a particular document, and only to a particular set of individuals. As access to the online data room is password based, it also ensures the privacy and security of the documents. The online data room provides the benefit of cost savings over traditional physical data rooms.
There are several private companies which have the ability to protect the information in the virtual data rooms. A professional VDR provider has an obligation to ensure client information is safe in all respects.
Social media data and electronic devices for research and evidence
The term “social media evidence” simply means any data housed within a social platform, like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, that needs to be preserved to support litigation. Evidence can be found anywhere in these social media platforms. Comments, replies, even videos and photo albums can be used as admissible online evidence. You could use an affidavit to verify the authenticity of the online data.
Lawyers these days take into account the evidence that they find online on social media and also discredit the witnesses. In a case I am familiar with, the advocate had used several personal conversations between his client and the accused to prove that the accused had been assaulting his wife mentally and sexually and was also making demands for dowry.
In Germany, prosecutors in a case presented a court with data from an iPhone suggesting a suspect was climbing stairs when it was alleged, he had been dragging a body down a steep bank.
It isn’t the only case of its kind: pacemaker data has been used in US courts as evidence against a wearer and data from fitness trackers has been used to indicate how, for example, a person’s lifestyle has changed after an injury.
eDiscovery or electronic discovery refers to the process of collecting and processing electronic material for the use in litigation. The collection can be as simple as seeking a USB Drive that contains data or more complex processing of forensically acquiring data from a company’s entire network.
e-Discovery can be done offline as well on a particular computer. Court-ordered or government sanctioned hacking for the purpose of obtaining certain critical evidence is also a type of e-discovery.
Digital data can be searched with ease, whereas paper documents need a lot of labour to scrutinize carefully. Digital data is difficult to destroy if protected with a firewall and other security measures.
The only reliable way to destroy online data is to destroy a hard drive physically. With blockchain, even this is becoming impossible.
Email can be an especially valuable source of evidence in civil or criminal litigation because people are often less careful in these exchanges than in hard copy correspondence such as written memos and postal letters.
Such a platform is provided by a company namely Law in Order which offers a flexible, scalable eDiscovery service that empowers clients to reduce the time, cost and scope of discoveries.
In India, eDiscovery is yet to be introduced in any meaningful way. However, this indeed gives an amazing opportunity to Indian lawyers and entrepreneurs to make large strides in this aspect.
What are the other trends?
There are indeed many other technology trends that are likely to impact the legal industry in various ways in the next 10 years. Do you have anything in mind that we missed? Please reply and let us know!
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