Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around in commercial applications for a few years. But only the recent past has seen an explosion of AI tools across industries, including the legal field.
Commercial AI is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 37% every year until 2030. The reason: 83% of businesses across industries expect this technology to become a top strategic priority in the near future.
That rapid growth has implications for the legal industry, as well. The right tools and implementation can help to improve productivity and business efficiencies, all while improving the client experience.
But that does not mean implementing artificial intelligence tools will automatically lead to success in attracting new clients and successfully bringing cases to conclusion. Join us for a discussion of the different types of AI used in the legal industry today. We’ll help you assess the different tools your law firm can use to achieve its business goals.
The Different Types of AI Used in the Legal Industry Today
Don’t think of artificial intelligence as a single type of tool. Instead, it’s a broad subset of technologies that share the ability to perform autonomous tasks without human input.
The legal industry, in particular, has found consistent use for four types of AI technology:
Of course, these types of AI can overlap, as well. The much-publicized ChatGPT, for example, combines two. It uses machine learning to research potential answers for any queries in its database. Then, it moves to NLP and conversational AI to output the answer to the query in an engaging tone that matches the conversational needs and past chat history of the user.
6 Effective Uses of AI Tools for Lawyers (and the Best Tools for the Job)
So far, our discussion of artificial intelligence in the legal field has been largely theoretical. However, the core fields within the broader concept actually have an increasingly wide range of practical implications, as well. Consider, for example, how these five processes can be improved through the implementation and management of legal AI tools:
1. Client Communication
Generative AI is a current marketing buzzword, and for good reason. The combination of conversational AI and natural language processing enables law firms to create automated communications with clients. As a result, they can have positive implications long into the future.
Consider, for example, the benefits of a legal chatbot on your website for future clients. They’ll likely come to your site looking for legal help. However, they are increasingly unwilling to call businesses. In fact, one study found that 74% of consumers would rather leave a text query for a business than call for an instant answer.
Through an AI-enabled chatbot, you can offer both. Now, your potential clients can ask initial legal questions through the chatbot. It is trained to answer using a database of potential responses you’ve built. But through machine learning and NLP, the bot also learns over time, creating more comprehensive and helpful answer structures for website visitors in the future.
AI can also improve client communication through more straightforward means. NLP now powers a wide variety of text editors, with tools like ChatGPT, Grammarly, and Buffer, all allowing users to automatically create relevant content for emails, social media, and more. As a result, you can both automate and improve your client communications, ultimately driving more conversions.
Best AI Tool for Client Communications
Smith.AI is an AI-powered chatbot that lawyers can use as a virtual receptionist. The platform will answer and route calls for law firms. It uses machine learning and natural language processing to identify a caller’s wishes and direct their call.
2. Document Management and E-Discovery
Managing, analyzing, and categorizing legal documents is one of the most time-consuming activities in a law firm’s average day. A number of AI tools now help to streamline that process, creating more effective document management systems and abilities in the process.
AI can accomplish that automatization goal in a few central ways:
- Processing large, sometimes unstructured pieces of data to focus on the most relevant pieces of information
- Dynamically tagging documents and pieces of information within those documents according to their core categories and sections
- Creating a categorized, searchable database of legal documents that lawyers and their staff can refer to when looking for specific pieces of information
The process is especially relevant early in the legal process. Consider, for example, how much AI-optimized document management can help in the e-discovery process.
The right tools in this area can use machine learning to search and sort through emails, financial statements, and other business documentation, communication, and data. Processing, tagging, categorizing, and producing key insights can all be automated based on machine learning and natural language processing. That simplifies and streamlines the e-discovery process, allowing your legal team to focus more on strategic insights and less on the busy work of document management.
Best AI Tool for Document Management
Checkbox.AI allows lawyers to automate their workflows and streamline internal processes. It also enables law firms to automate documents using information intake, conditional content, bulk processing, and e-signatures. The platform is a one-stop shop for managing all workflows and intakes.
3. Legal Research
No software can completely take legal research out of the hands of legal experts needing to find relevant case law, statutes, or regulations. But once again, and similar to document management, the right legal AI tools can go a long way toward increasing the efficiency and speed with which you can perform this.
Consider, for example, the ability of intelligent legal research software to comb even the largest legal databases quickly and find trends within the results. Thanks to the effective use of machine learning concepts, the right software can help your lawyers not just find the relevant information, but estimate its relevance to the specific case on which they’re working.
Advanced legal research software can go even further, as well. By adding relevant case details, tools like casetext can narrow their search and provide high-level analyses and summaries of their findings. In some cases, this type of software can even propose outlines for depositions based on their dynamic research findings.
Of course, legal research still depends largely on case-specific and jurisdiction-specific nuances that are difficult to generalize. Still, AI software can take the first step in finding the relevant supporting documentation, providing sources for all its findings that enable lawyers to dig deeper as needed, as well.
Best AI Tool for Legal Research
Casetext is one of the leading legal research platforms. It incorporates AI to assist lawyers in finding the case law, statutes, and government regulations they need to support their clients. It also has a legal assistant feature called CoCounsel. Powered by GPT-4, CoCounsel can perform legal research, document prep, and other key tasks.
4. Contract Review
Contract law is so complex in part because it relies on getting all the details right. It’s why, according to one survey, 40% of corporate legal professionals spend at least half of their workday just reviewing contracts to ensure their validity and relevance in a given situation.
Fortunately, AI tools have emerged in the legal industry to streamline this necessary but time-consuming process. The right tool can perform initial draft contract scans to ensure all relevant areas are covered or analyze existing contracts for their situation-specific relevance.
These scans can help to find inconsistencies, identify language that may be vague or misleading, summarize the key terms of a contract, or even compare it with other industry-standard contracts for potential discrepancies.
There’s a reason that according to one study, legal contract review software increased productivity on this task by more than 50%. It helps to not just analyze existing contracts, but build stronger new contracts that eliminate weak points that could potentially be exploited in the future.
Best AI Tool for Contract Review
Harvey AI utilizes natural language processing and machine learning to assist lawyers with tasks like contract review and regulatory compliance. It is also capable of sifting through large amounts of data and making observations and recommendations based on its review. The platform is built on Open.AI’s GPT and uses general legal data to support its work. However, it can also use a law firm’s specific work product as part of its machine-learning process.
5. Drafting and Editing Legal Documents
Finally, and perhaps most precariously, generative AI and NLP tools can help lawyers draft and edit legal documents. They will use information from existing sources and backgrounds to build the content or check existing content against that context to ensure accuracy and consistency.
According to a 2020 study, 84% of litigators identified writing legal briefs as the single most time-consuming part of their average work week. The right AI tool won’t eliminate that task, but can significantly reduce the time spent on it thanks to NLP tools designed to take care of the bulk of the work.
Through NLP legal software, law firms can automatically create first drafts of briefs and other legal documents, or edit existing documents according to specific style preferences. The same tools can also help to ensure formatting consistency across a single or even multiple documents in the editing process.
Best AI Tool for Drafting and Editing Legal Documents
ChatGPT is, of course, one of the most well-known generative AI tools in the world. Many industries have turned to ChatGPT to write articles, content, and other documents, including lawyers. ChatGPT can be useful for generating a first draft of legal documents, such as memos, briefs, pleadings, and more. However, getting the kind of document you want will require you to learn how to input the right prompts.
Of course, you will need to review and improve any outputs from ChatGPT. But using the generative AI tool can help speed up drafting and editing of legal documents — and leave you with more time for other tasks.
The Drawbacks and Limitations of Legal AI
Combine all of the above opportunities, and the immense potential of AI tools for the legal industry becomes clear. At the same time, the limitations of using AI in your legal practice are just as important to keep in mind as its undeniable potential advantages.
To begin, legal AI analysis tools are not yet foolproof. As an analysis by the American Bar Association found the following:
In addition, AI tools may become problematic when their success requires sharing privileged information with a non-secure database like ChatGPT. Lawyers will need to be careful of just what tools they use while remaining within the ethical and legal boundaries of privileged information.
These limitations are a major reason why legal AI tools, despite their undeniable advantages, cannot currently replace the work of lawyers and their teams. To do so, or even attempt to do so, could bring (and has brought) serious legal jeopardy. Instead, the tools are best served to assist and augment existing work, streamlining processes but still requiring a professional and human eye on any outputs of their work.
The Ethics of AI For Lawyers
The ABA Rules of Professional Conduct require lawyers to provide competent representation to clients. Competent representation requires:
- Legal knowledge,
- Thoroughness, and
- Preparation reasonably necessary for representation.
Moreover, many states have added to this rule and require lawyers to be “technologically competent.” This rule requires lawyers to stay abreast of changes related to technology in the legal field. The map below shows which states have adopted technology competency rules.
Lawyers could run afoul of this competency requirement if they over rely on AI in representing a client. AI tools cannot provide competent representation; only experienced human lawyers can. Therefore, when lawyers use AI in client communication, document management, legal research, contract review, and drafting and editing legal documents, they must double-check their work to ensure that it reflects competency.
Confidentiality and AI
Competency isn’t the only ethics rule implicated by AI use. Rule 1.6 prohibits lawyers from revealing confidential information related to the representation of a client. Although many AI tools have built-in security measures, lawyers should perform due diligence before using them. Some AI tools and platforms may not have adequate security features to protect confidential client information.
5 Steps To Choose the Right AI Tools for Your Law Firm
As the number of AI tools continues to expand, and especially considering the potential drawbacks of the technology despite its benefits, finding the right option for your law firm becomes essential. These five steps can be a checklist to ensure that any tool you implement will benefit your operations in both the short term and long term:
- Define Your Legal AI Need. Because the concept of artificial intelligence is so broad, this has to be your first step. Based on guides like this, outline exactly where AI could help your law firm before looking for tools that serve this specific need.
- Prioritize Data Security. Regardless of the type of tool you look for, it will need to handle at least some sensitive information. That means you can only consider tools that keep the information secure and encrypted, without any danger of violating attorney-client privilege or confidentiality agreements.
- Review the Tool’s Legal Applications. Are you looking at general AI tools, or tools designed specifically for the legal industry? The former can present issues or may simply not be as relevant for the unique needs you will have.
- Consider the Onboarding Process. How intuitive is the tool’s interface, and how easily can your team train on it? Even the best legal AI tool matters little if it’s not user-friendly enough to save time soon after implementation.
- Avoid ‘Hype’ Tools. The rapid rise of AI tools means that there are plenty of startups just looking to jump in on the hype. Avoid those tools, instead look for options that have established themselves in the legal industry and can back up their claims and promises with tangible evidence and past histories of success.
And of course, you need to make sure that the tool you choose can naturally integrate with your processes. For example, a chatbot can help to better engage your clients at their first touchpoint with your practice, but it needs to integrate with your website and digital marketing efforts.
Need a Partner to Help Manage Your Marketing?
AI has many applications in the legal industry. While it can be used for some marketing tasks, such as generating content, it cannot replace the human effort and personal approach required for legal marketing — just as it cannot replace lawyers who provide legal services. If you want to increase your brand awareness and rank on the first pages of search engines, you need a marketing partner with experience in Legal SEO.
LawRank has helped law firms rank for the most competitive keyword terms in the most competitive geographic markets. We can help you increase your online presence and generate more leads coming through your doors. Ready to get started? Contact us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help.