I recently had the honor of representing Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions, in a discussion with European General Counsel and other thought leaders about artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal space. The event, DII’s 10th Annual General Counsel Roundtable, took place in Geneva and was a rare opportunity for a group conversation amongst legal leaders, regulators, regulatory experts, and technology experts. The discussion was enlightening, and every participant was very forthcoming about the issues that keep them awake with worry, as well as the developments that excite them.
Among participants – who represented some of the most recognized global brands, such as Ferrari and HSBC – there was a spectrum of familiarity and comfort with AI. One company in the discussion had already extensively integrated AI applications into their legal operations, several others had begun looking into the possibilities, and one was vocally skeptical of how AI could help achieve their goals. In other words, our group was a microcosm of the corporate legal market. To help bring all of us to a common understanding, I focused on two themes: how AI can help lawyers add value for a legal organization, and the importance of a good foundation of data.
Lawyers Concentrating on Law
Some lawyers have expressed understandable concern about being replaced by legal AI systems, but they need not worry. While AI, and the machine learning subset of AI in particular, can reduce some of the burden on lawyers, it is not capable of doing their jobs. No technology currently in development, or even on the foreseeable horizon, can act as a replacement for real humans with legal expertise and experience.
Instead, what technology can do is to automate some of the necessary but mundane aspects of legal practice, giving lawyers more time to focus on the most valuable aspects of their work. Machine learning is a form of AI that is extremely well suited to gathering and searching data, activities that add little value and can prove very time-consuming for people to execute. By utilizing algorithms for these tasks, we can free up the capacity of corporate lawyers to add value based on their skill and expertise. No one spends years toiling in law school because they want to become a legal bill reviewer. And when the right AI tools are in place to handle tasks such as ensuring invoices meet billing guidelines, then lawyers can spend their time building good client relationships and truly practicing law.
A Strong Foundation of Data
The best AI algorithms in the world are only as strong as the data they’re built on. That’s why legal departments implementing AI-based solutions must be vigilant about choosing those with the most robust data to include in the feedback loops at their core.
ELM Solutions, for example, has a strong and established market position that gives us access to billions of dollars in detailed and anonymous client-permissioned legal billing data. Because of this, when we leverage AI in offerings such as LegalVIEW® BillAnalyzer, we can build algorithms that “learn” from a massive treasure trove of data. BillAnalyzer uses this huge amount of data to get very good at recognizing and flagging line items that violate billing guidelines. Some startups offer tools that look effective at first glance, but they don’t have nearly as much data standing behind their systems and therefore have trouble demonstrating any real, delivered value for clients.
The GCs I spoke with were engaged, open, and actively exploring how new technologies, such as AI, can benefit their departments. They are eager to be a part of the kind of forward-looking innovation that will help European legal departments move forward and make the most of the technologies available to them.