Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the practice of law: An introduction

ROSS Intelligence
August 8, 2018
AI and The Law

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come a long way since John McCarthy, the father of AI, coined the term back in 1955. With its growing body of terms such as deep learning, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, keeping track of all the terms of art can be difficult.

For lawyers, this cutting-edge and rapidly changing field of science can be intimidating and downright befuddling.

In general terms, AI is a branch of computer science where machines mimic human intelligence. Growing at breakneck speed and transforming the way companies both large and small do business, AI, according to UBS estimates, will easily become a $12.5 billion industry by 2020.

Advances in technology blend into the existing framework of most professions, and law is no exception. Some aspects of law practice will change, such as the legal research tools lawyers use, while others won’t change as much, such as the legal system in general. However, there’s little dispute that AI solutions for the practice of law can enable firms to perform at a higher level in terms of productivity and efficiency.

AI trends and updates

Experts agree that AI will continue to have an even greater impact on business and society as a whole. Its seemingly unlimited potential for saving both time and money (besides its cool factor) has already established AI as a palpable presence only expected to expand into other areas with added capabilities and learned knowledge. Although still in its infancy, there seems to be no stopping the AI train:

  • Experts predict machines will diagnose patients by using peer-to-peer knowledge of many doctors instead of just one.
  • Autonomous self-driving vehicles will someday be the norm, driven by AI.
  • AI machines will take on tasks that are too mundane or dangerous, and perform functions too complex for humans to process.
  • AI will enable disaster response in hazardous situations.
  • AI will continue to automate warehouse operations and distribution centers.
  • Customer service representatives will be coached to speak more effectively thanks to machine-learning algorithms.
  • Publishers and media companies like CBS and USA Today will use AI to turn written content into video content with AI video production.
  • Consumers will see even more voice-based interfaces, like Apple AirPod, integrated into computers, televisions, and smartphones.
  • Almost certainly AI will make a more significant impact regarding judiciary recommendations based on vast amounts of data from complex state and federal regulations and legal decisions.

Artificial Intelligence, lawyers, and the legal sector

As with any new technology, questions arise regarding best practice use cases. Will people lose jobs to machines?; will they affect our behavior and interaction with one another?; will they make critical mistakes, and if they do, how do we learn to guard against them?

Today, we speak about machines as if they are already sentient “beings” like T-1000 from “Terminator 2,” Bishop from “Aliens” or Data from “Star Trek the Next Generation.” But instead of replacing humans, AI is meant to reinforce and enhance what humans do.

For example, AI is transforming the legal profession in many ways, freeing lawyers and legal staff to concentrate on higher-level tasks such as negotiating deals, appearing in court and advising clients. Legal research and document review can be performed using AI tools, eliminating the mundane and often monotonous tasks of searching through and analyzing multiple documents and contracts, work that paralegals, legal researchers, and litigators dread and clients no longer wish to pay for.

Also, while the ever-increasing need for speed in response to clients and the courts puts enormous strain on lawyers, AI can analyze information more thoroughly, in less time and with fewer mistakes, reducing lawyer stress and burnout. AI-powered software can efficiently and quickly:

  • Confirm facts and figures and analyze documents for missing information, errors and inconsistent language.
  • Research and evaluate holdings of prior cases and review documents for discoverable information referred to as technology-assisted review (TAR).
  • Identify risks and issues that may take a skilled attorney days to find.
  • Scour through numerous documents and determine if they are relevant to a specific case or statute.
  • Produce statistically validated results with more accuracy and speed than their human counterparts.
  • Sort through contracts quicker and with fewer errors than humans
  • With access to years of trial data, AI can make much more accurate predictions about outcomes of legal proceedings.

AI systems, like those offered by ROSS Intelligence, leverage natural language processing (NLP) to help analyze documents. This technology allows AI systems to take everyday language and spoken or written words and turn them into concepts and entities, and structured data. The advantages in terms of potential time and cost savings are enormous.

What lawyers should keep in mind when using legal AI

Although some lawyers may be hesitant to fully embrace AI, it’s a fact that disruptive technologies encourage legal professionals to change and rethink the way they provide services, usually for the better. However, the path to utilizing AI in your law practice is not quick or easy and requires forethought, planning, groundwork and often a shift in office culture.

Additionally, most lawyers tasked with making procurement and strategic decisions regarding AI have little or no formal AI training or a background in data or computer science. That’s why it’s vital to identify data sets first and determine whether AI is a necessity for your law firm. It is also essential that when using AI, you choose the correct tool for your specific task.

Current applications of AI typically fall into six broad categories:

  • Prediction technology to generate forecasts of litigation outcomes.
  • Document automation to create documents based on data input.
  • Due diligence to uncover background information, used in legal research, contract review and more.
  • Legal analytics to determine trends and patterns from past case law, judge’s history and win/loss rates.
  • Intellectual property for analyzing large IP portfolios.
  • Electronic billing for automatically computing billable hours using AI.

How to become AI-ready

AI provides opportunities as well as challenges for the legal profession, and like most new technologies, what you get out of it depends a great deal on what you put in. For the legal profession, that means relying on human legal knowledge that comes from years of education and experience, because as useful as AI is, it is the lawyers and legal professionals that do the high-level work.

When examining potential use cases for AI at your firm, here are some things to keep in mind to become AI-ready:

  • Appoint members of the firm to learn about and become experts on AI, giving them resources and opportunities to train on the technology.
  • Keep abreast of changes and developments in the AI space, which might include subscribing to newsletters and attending webinars or conferences.
  • Understand the adage “no risk no return” and how it applies when implementing AI in your practice. Recognize that the potential benefits far outweigh the possible risks.
  • Develop internal AI best practices as part of your law firm’s overall technology strategy.

AI technology is only a small part of the overall solution for most law firms. Successful integration also includes a foundation of structured and relevant data, defined processes and procedures, a willingness to interact and understand the AI system, a flexible internal culture open to change and growth, and the necessary skills and technical knowledge to support AI systems and their users.

Moreover, while AI may offer lawyers leading data-driven tools to provide efficient and impactful legal counsel to clients, generate forecasts of litigation outcomes, determine trends and patterns from past case law and more, AI is still not a substitute for a lawyer’s own instinct, judgment and personal rapport with clients. For instance, computers cannot perform tasks that require emotional intelligence, and they can’t counsel in a courtroom.

It’s also important to reiterate that AI enhances, rather than replacing the work done by lawyers, and AI and legal technology will not automate lawyers out of existence any time soon. AI’s ability to perform discrete tasks does not extend to the far-ranging skill sets that attorneys bring to their practice. The real value for law firms, lawyers and staff is in combining the efficiency of AI applications with the expertise, emotional intelligence, and creativity of lawyers.


For law firms that embrace AI, legal work will become more methodical and efficient. It is up to each firm to shepherd in new AI technology to realize the greatest benefits. Those that commit to reduced manual- and labor-intensive tasks, higher customer retention, reduced costs, and more accurate decisions and work output, will no doubt rise above law practices that choose to remain grounded in the status quo, as AI systems make it easier for law firms to gain a strategic advantage in the industry.

ROSS Intelligence

ROSS is an advanced legal research tool that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to make the research process more efficient.