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LegalWeek Panel 2021: AI is the future of the legal industry

19 February 2021 | Luminance

This year’s virtual LegalWeek event was one to be remembered, and one stand-out session was the panel hosted by Luminance’s General Manager, Eleanor Weaver, alongside world-leading legal professionals Heidi Stenberg, Principal at Ernst & Young (EY) Law USA, Tanja Podinic, Assistant General Counsel at Dentons, and Andrew J. Stanger, a Professional Support Lawyer at Mayer Brown. Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Ever-increasing data volumes means that AI is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but a necessity

One thing that the lawyers were all in agreement on was the challenge of exponentially increasing volumes of data. Lawyers are now expected to review hundreds - sometimes thousands - of documents for a single review. AI technology has therefore emerged as a real gamechanger for legal professionals, allowing them to analyse and provide insights on vast amounts of data at rapid speeds. As Andrew J. Stanger from ‘Global Top 100’ law firm, Mayer Brown, put it, “we have mountains of documents that we must review - AI allows us to access and tap that information.”

Faced with 190,000 documents to review for a recent due diligence exercise, Heidi Stenberg went on to explain that Luminance’s AI, which uses a unique blend of supervised and unsupervised machine learning to immediately read and form an understanding of datasets, proved vital for EY USA. Stenberg, Principal at the Big Four firm explained during the panel, “We had a global pharmaceutical client who was facing an upcoming merger and the deadline was rapidly (approaching)...we had no other choice but to use automation. Using Luminance, we reviewed the whole document set in just 10 days.” Heidi explained that conducting this review manually “would have taken months, not days” but more importantly, helped EY’s legal team to open their “client’s eyes to the art of possible.”

Deliver value to clients with pioneering technology

Indeed, a key discussion point during the panel was the value that AI is bringing to clients, with Andrew J. Stanger from Mayer Brown noting, “We aspire to offer world-class services to our clients and that requires a serious involvement with technology.” Andrew continued to reel the benefits of using AI platforms, noting: “AI helps save time and costs whilst also helping our lawyers work better and more efficiently.” Using Luminance, firms have consistently reported time savings of up to 90% in a review, freeing up lawyers’ time to focus on more meaningful work like critical thinking and analysis.

Tanja Podinic, Assistant GC at Dentons, touched on this when she examined how the client-lawyer relationship has evolved and, alongside that, the adoption of technology: “There is a correlation between the relationship legal service providers have with their clients and their adoption of AI technology.” Tanja argued that lawyers are not just expected to deliver advice on ‘specific issues’ but must be ‘strategic business advisors’ to their clients. As a result, Tanja explained that “firms must look internally at how they can provide clients with efficient and effective advice - AI can help implement these efficiencies.” One such example is the Dutch office of Dentons who were recently tasked with a complex due diligence review by a client at the ‘eleventh hour’. Tanja noted: “Luminance helped create a ‘logical data room’ for the team and saved them hours of time”, in turn helping them to deliver fast and decisive legal advice to their client.

The pandemic has been accelerant for AI adoption- easy-to-use technology has never been so critical for firms

There was little doubt amongst the panellists that the Covid-19 pandemic has propelled the legal industry’s digital transformation. In particular, Andrew J. Stanger from Mayer Brown noted that one of the ‘biggest struggles’ during the pandemic was “finding ways to collaborate.” He explained: “Due diligence reviews are very labour-intensive, and we have a lot of documents coming in. On top of that, there is the logistical problem of getting everyone’s input and managing this. This is even more difficult when working from home.” Andrew praised Luminance’s collaboration tools, which include the ability to allocate tasks and documents, share findings and track working progression, ensuring that there is no duplication of work product amongst teams.

Not all AI is created equal

It is clear that the last twelve months have marked a turning point in the legal industry’s adoption of AI. Nonetheless, Andrew J. Stanger from Mayer Brown was quick to point out that “not all vendors and products are created equal”, explaining that the firm had to conduct some ‘rigorous’ testing before selecting Luminance’s powerful AI tool.

One thing was clear amongst the lawyers, that in this new, tech-enhanced era, AI like Luminance is very much part of the future. As Tanja, Assistant GC at Dentons put it, “we need to be adopting technology like Luminance because the upcoming generation are expecting it.”

To see a full recording of the LegalWeek panel hosted by Luminance’s General Manager, Eleanor Weaver, click here.