The NZ E-Discovery Blog  Facilitating proportionate and efficient e-discovery

The AI transforming the practice of law

December 9th, 2020

The experience of COVID has demonstrated the legal profession can adapt and work differently when they have to.

Even though most became totally reliant on technology, traditionally though the legal profession has been slow to adopt new technologies, let alone artificial intelligence (AI).

One notable exception has been the adoption and success of AI used to improve the discovery process.

AI is everywhere, so why not the law?

There is no need to fear the technology as most would recognise the likes of Netflix, Spotify and Amazon – all basically giving you recommendations based on your previous choices. We all use Google which is based on an algorithm that continues to learn from our internet behaviour.

So why not embrace these tools to help the practice of law?

Adoption is not helped by some of the hype and hysteria around the role of AI.

Lawyers will not be replaced by robots anytime soon !

Crucial skills like problem solving, creative thinking and expert legal advice will continue to be in high demand. It is just that some of the technology available should help to make lawyers’ life easier and more efficient, as some tasks can be performed quicker, cheaper and more accurately through the assistance of technology. Routine and repetitive administrative tasks can be automated, freeing up lawyers to spend more time working with their clients to create better outcomes.

AI is not and will not be a panacea to solve all problems as you can make some fantastic progress with incremental change using new or existing technologies to solve practical pain points.

The legal profession is only starting to take advantage of the opportunities that technology brings – opportunities that many other industries have embraced for many years.

Why the discovery process needs this technology?

The existing discovery model is largely based on traditional practices that are no longer sustainable with the proliferation of information we have today.

Most would agree that the discovery process is vital to arguing your case – both your evidence and that of the other party’s. However, the challenges and costs can easily spiral out of control – which can be a contributing factor to access to justice and preventing many litigate.

The objective of the discovery process should be to get only what you need and do so in a way that is quick and cost effective.

You can no longer justify eyeballing every document, nor is it possible in most cases. The skill is to come up with methods and leverage the use of technology to get rid of what you don’t need so that you can devote your energies at only looking at what matters most.

Any option that helps us get to the most important information quicker and cheaper, whilst helping to isolate irrelevant material, cannot be a bad thing !

This is where the AI can be a solution!

How the AI works?

The AI is often referred to as Technology Assisted Review (TAR) or predictive coding. Very simply it is –

Subject matter experts (i.e. lawyers) train the software in areas of relevance, with the computer using algorithms to learn these calls and applying the calls to a wider set of documents. It is an iterative process that continues with the lawyer reviewing further documents until they are happy with the results.

The software does not make the final decisions on the documents but prioritises what the lawyer should look at further. Like Netflix and Google, it is making recommendations based on your prior choices – in this case how you have interpreted the relevancy of documents.

The technology is not new as it has now been around for the best part of 10 years, helping to combat the challenges of the discovery process.

Even the New Zealand High Court Rules (HCRs) since 2012, have set the framework for the acceptance and use of AI technologies like TAR, and encourage their consideration to help improve the efficiency of the discovery process.

The lawyer drives the process

The key to the success of TAR is that it puts the lawyer at the forefront of the process, relying on the human judgement and critical thinking of the lawyer. The technology is helping the lawyer make better decisions, and much earlier in the process with quicker access to the key information – all without having to spend considerable time and money.

The AI is not solely for large firms as some of the greatest successes have been enabling smaller firms compete and conduct larger scale litigation against firms that may have more resources at their disposal.

The success of AI in the discovery process can enable a better outcome, without the lawyer being weighed down by the time-consuming discovery process. The considerable money saved in the discovery process, can be used elsewhere in achieving a better outcome for your client.

Conclusion

The success of AI in the discovery process should continue to lay the foundations for further AI technology adoption that could help to transform the delivery of other legal services.

If you are not at least considering the use of AI technology like TAR, you or your clients are missing out on tools that can help move through the discovery process quicker, cheaper and more accurately.

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