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New AI shines in unlikely field — the law

Many Americans look at the promise of A.I. with a healthy mix of excitement and trepidation. Better recommendation engines for video viewing online? More accurate health diagnoses from doctors? Sign us up. Taking away all our jobs? Not so much… And while we don’t think A.I. is going to put everyone out of a job any time soon, that doesn’t mean these technologies aren’t going to have major impacts on industries moving forward, and soon.

One such field it could have a large and positive impact on now-ish?

The law.

Probably not what you were thinking, but A.I. shows real promise here.

Contrary to the media’s depiction of lawyers, the vast majority of law professionals don’t spend most of their days in court trying cases. The vast majority of big-money law is based on research, research, research followed by negotiations and contracts only very rarely rising to the level of an actual court battle. Many practitioners of the various sectors of the law try in earnest to avoid court at all costs — why leave the result of thousands or hundreds of thousands of hours to the interpretation of a few non-experts? There’s just too many variables there.

With that being the case (no pun intended), a huge percentage of many lawyer’s careers are spent pouring over documents instead of analyzing their respective legal position, strategizing how to argue their case, or how to negotiate from a position of strength. And to top it all off, most lawyers hate reading through countless droll documents that are hardly different from one another. It’s tedious, time consuming, usually boring and ultimately expensive for their clients paying their hourly rate. It’s a lose/lose for basically everyone but the law firm’s bottom line.

So how could A.I. help in this? Turns out, it does a better job at some types of document research than human lawyers themselves, believe it or not.

According to a study by the A.I. company LawGeex (which is a biased source, I realize, but it’s still worth examining), as reported by Inverse, LawGeex’s A.I. engine beat 20 experienced contract lawyers when examining non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for legal landmines:

“The participating lawyers came from a wide variety of legal backgrounds; some worked in prestigious law firms, like Alston & Bird, and others worked as in-house lawyers for companies including Goldman Sachs and Cisco. They were all thoroughly vetted to ensure they had ample experience in reviewing NDAs.

Participants were given five different NDAs to evaluate, and were awarded points for flagging potential legal issues in the contracts. The algorithm outperformed the average human score on all of the NDAs — and it wasn’t even particularly close.

This could be a huge development for the legal profession. According to a participating attorney quoted in Inverse, “Having a tool that could automate this process would free up skilled attorneys to spend their time on higher-level tasks without having to hire paralegal support,” Grant Gulveson, the participating attorney, said.

Inverse makes the important point that this doesn’t mean LawGeex is coming for lawyers’ jobs just yet:

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that robots are coming to take lawyers’ jobs — although paralegals might be in some trouble. Advances in A.I. offer a future where attorneys work with computers in concert, like a pilot using an autopilot system. “The reality of this powerful technology is that it is not meant to be, nor indeed is it currently capable of being, used as a standalone tool,” the study said.

What it does mean, though, is that lawyers have a powerful and useful new tool in their arsenal that could be wielded to great and efficient effect.

Now that’s A.I. we can get behind.



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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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