Artificial intelligence can improve law firms

Lawyers are uncertain of the impact of artificial intelligence on their profession, but it can improve service to clients and help with conflict checking, says Dennis Kennedy


What could be the impact of artificial intelligence on your firm? It´s a topic that is currently being discussed by lawyers in Spain and there is a great deal of uncertainty among the profession about what effect it could have. However, there are a number of ways in which artificial intelligence

 could be of use to law firms and one of these is in relation to conflict checking.
Conflict chec

king is an area of difficulty for many law firms, especially as the number of clients increases and as companies enter into more joint ventures and combinations. While traditional databases can be of great assistance, often potential conflicts can only be seen by lawyers who a

re personally familiar with the relationships between a variety of companies and people.
There is one artificial intelligence tool that is based on research that was done on communications between dolphins and then applied to the assessment of data and information. It can be described as a “fuzzy” method of searching because it is based on pattern recognition rather than a t

op-down, rules-based artificial intelligence approach. As a result, it can recognise connections between documents, clients and other information and retrieve relevant information with striking results. This ability to use the prog

choose discrete rather than global projectsram as a way to identify connections between information has significant promise in the area of conflict checking.
But the most exciting area of potential development for artificial intelligence and knowledge management systems is in the area of delivery of legal services to clients. This delivery of services might occur through traditional means or over the internet. The application of technology to the delivery of legal services is especially attractive in the area of what is sometimes referred to as the “latent market for legal services” or the segment of the market where people cannot afford traditional legal services. From document preparation to delivery of relevant legal information to decision tree approaches to transactions, there is a world of opportunity and law firms are only beginning to tap the potential.
Lawyers, like many others, are fighting to gain some degree of control over the overwhelming amount of information they receive on a daily basis. Through the use of intelligent agents and other knowledge management and artificial techniques, it is gradually becoming possible to manage that flow of information. Techniques, such as creating daily electronic newspapers, personalised resources, and “push” technologies to deliver specific information, updates and other information of interest can all be highly effective with very tangible benefits.
There are a number of ways in which you can improve the chances of an artificial intelligence project at your firm being a success:

  • use methods that process existing pools of data rather than require large amounts of upfront coding, organisation or tagging
  • identify appropriate tools and get those tools into the hands of the people who will actually use them
  • choose committed, enthusiastic volunteers for pilot projects
  • stay up-to-date about new tools and improvements to existing tools
  • achieve buy-in from top levels of management
  • develop appropriate incentive structures for attorneys participating in projects
  • set goals, supply necessary resources and determine from the beginning a method of measuring the success or failure of a project – in part, this involves the ability to answer the two following questions: How will you determine whether a project is successful and who will determine whether it is a successful?
  • determine whether a chief knowledge officer level position is required – it is difficult to have success for large projects without such a person
  • stay aware of developments, talk to others involved in successful projects and keep current with initiatives at other firms
  • listen to your clients and try to anticipate their needs as a driving force in your projects
  • maintain a high degree of flexibility and willingness to change direction
  • try to get as thorough an understanding of the information flows and the information cultures within your firm
  • attempt several pilot projects at a time – diversify your risk
  • be innovative and courageous.

While the past history of knowledge management and artificial intelligence in the legal profession does not show a lot of successes or adoption of these projects, a number of factors, economic and otherwise, are coming into play and suggest that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Most important, there are others working on similar projects who are willing to share information and provide assistance. The future looks promising.

Dennis Kennedy is senior counsel at Mastercard and a legal technology author in St. Louis, Missouri, USA