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Legal Week 2020 panel discussion: How do lawyers really perceive AI?

12 February 2020 | Jason Brennan

On the panel, Luminance’s President of the Americas, Jason Brennan, joined US lawyer Catherine Bernard from Mayer Brown, Blickstein Group’s Principal, Brad Blickstein, Littler’s Chief Data Analytics Officer, Aaron Crews, Clark Hill’s Chief Information Officer, Joan Holman, Jeff Marple, Director of Innovation for Corporate Legal at Liberty Mututal and Jim Michalowicz from TE Connectivity.

Last week, I attended one of the biggest tech conferences of the year, Legal Week New York. The hype around legal AI is only ramping up and it is clear that lawyers are not just talking about the technology but are also using it. Still, there is a lot of AI-scepticism in the industry. Implementing a solution which lawyers can (a) trust, (b) adds value to their work, and (c), allows them to be more efficient, is crucial. This became very clear to me in a panel discussion with some of the leading LegalOps in the sector: whilst a lot of firms are investing in AI solutions, finding a platform which actually aligns with business and, of course, lawyers’ needs, is not plain sailing.

AI as a priority

To kick off the discussion, the question was posed to the group: ‘Is AI a priority to your organisation?’. Indeed, we are now at a stage where the practical benefits of AI cannot be overlooked. Legal AI can be applied to a wide array of use cases with technologies like Luminance supporting lawyers in anything from due diligence, to contract negotiation, to regulatory compliance to eDiscovery. At the same time, the rate of adoption varies from practice to practice. For instance, whilst legal tech is common for litigation purposes, using tech for M&A due diligence review has, until now, been slow on the uptake.

Nonetheless, according to panellist Brad Blickstein’s research, nearly 60% of lawyers believe that AI will be used for legal work in the next three years. One panellist raised a really interesting point here, “We get a lot of pressure from clients to be as efficient and effective as possible. As a firm, it is important to position yourself with a competitive advantage. Clients care about efficiency, effectiveness and security.”

Certainly, by accelerating legal review, AI empowers lawyers to deliver valuable and effective advice to their client. Yet, there are still some valid concerns about the adoption of tech. Another panellist added, “AI is not a priority for us but reducing spend and shortening life cycles are…We don’t think about tech as the priority, but about how these problems can be solved.”

Clearly for some in the legal world, technology is not the ‘ends’ but the ‘means’ to achieve an end goal. This highlights the fact that AI must remain subservient to the needs of the lawyer, promoting greater efficiency and enhancing understanding of documentation.

Trusting the machine

Indeed, until recently, lawyers have only had access to legacy technologies which require resource-intensive ‘pre-training’ before the review has even started. By taking the lawyer out of the process, these platforms did little to increase the efficiency of legal services.

A lawyer specialised in litigation expressed their concerns that in a litigation case, finding a tool that complements rather replaces the lawyer’s work is very important. They added, “We do too complex tasks that AI can do for us in litigation research.”

With the right technology, lawyers don’t need to lose control of their thought process, or compromise on the quality of their advice, their relationship with clients, or the confidence that drives influential decision-making. By leveraging a unique blend of both supervised and unsupervised machine learning, Luminance’s core intelligence, ‘LITE’ (Legal Inference Transformation Engine), provides lawyers with an immediate and unmatched insight into huge swathes of documents, irrespective or language or jurisdiction and with no training or configuration required. As a result, lawyers are empowered to get to the crunch of the deal with unmatched speed and confidence.

The future of tech

Tech is driving the future of the legal industry, but one participant concluded: “There has to be a reason for its adoption.” Top law firms and organisations want to be innovative, forward-thinking and known for harnessing the benefits of cutting-edge AI to keep up with an increasingly competitive environment. However, successful adoption of legal technology requires a clear and rigorous understanding of a firm’s needs, as well as an understanding of what tech platform will allow them to receive the strongest returns and increase overall efficiency. Luminance’s ground-breaking technology solution might well be the answer.