virtual chatbot

Linklaters and Pinsent Masons have become the latest law firms to invest in artificial intelligence, as the legal profession tries to automate the mundane tasks that have traditionally been the preserve of junior lawyers.

Linklaters has developed Verifi, a computer program that can sift through 14 UK and European regulatory registers to check client names for banks. The company said it could process thousands of names overnight.

Edward Chan, banking partner at Linklaters, said: “Previously it would have taken a trained junior lawyer an average of 12 minutes to search a single customer name.

“AI is an indispensable tool for coping with the ever-growing amounts of data which lawyers have to handle in running complex matters. Our lawyers are not engineers or data scientists. Good solid legal skills remain what we look for in our lawyers.”

Pinsent Masons has developed a program that reads and analyses clauses in loan agreements. Its TermFrame system also helps guide lawyers through transactions and point them towards the correct precedents at each stage of a process.

Another law firm, Dentons, has set up NextLaw Labs, a virtual company which looks at the application of technology with the law. It has invested in ROSS, an IBM Watson-powered legal adviser app that streamlines legal research, saving lawyers’ time and clients’ money. ROSS is currently being pilot-tested at Dentons and approximately 20 other law firms.

Hodge, Jones & Allen, a law firm, has worked with academics from University College London to create software that assesses the merits of personal injury cases.

Professor Richard Susskind, a technology adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, has predicted radical change in the legal sector, pointing out that intelligent search systems could now outperform junior lawyers and paralegals in reviewing large sets of documents and selecting the most relevant.

He told a legal conference last month that the legal profession had five years to reinvent itself from being legal advisers to legal technologists and criticized law schools for “churning out 20th-century lawyers”.

A recent study by Deloitte suggested that technology has already contributed to a reduction of about 31,000 jobs in the legal sector, including roles such as legal secretaries and a further 39 per cent of jobs were at “high risk” of being made redundant by machines in the next two decades.

There has been speculation that law is ripe for “Uberisation”, becoming the next target of technological disruption.

One smaller firm, Riverview Law, has partnered with the computer science department at Liverpool University to work on artificial intelligence products.

Riverview is setting-up a separate technology business to exploit its software and the intellectual property that it has and is creating. It has launched a virtual assistant Kim designed to help legal teams make quicker and better decisions.

Karl Chapman, chief executive of Riverview, said Kim has three varying levels of complexity including one level where a lawyer can ask it to suggest the best order to renegotiate a series of corporate contracts.

Many believe that AI will simply automate more routine parts of legal work so that lawyers focus on more complex, high value areas of client work.

“I would liken it to mathematicians calculating sums on slide rulers before computers. Computers didn’t do away with mathematicians who are probably more highly valued now than they were before,” said Orlando Conetta, a computer scientist and head of research and development at Pinsents.

This article originally appeared on May 16, 2016

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