In 2011, an article in the New York Times, citing the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) applications for eDiscovery, predicted that “armies of expensive lawyers” would soon be “replaced by cheaper software.”
The piece highlighted a selling point for legal services clients: “‘From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,’ said Bill Herr, who as a lawyer at a major chemical company used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end.” With technology-assisted review (TAR) expediting eDiscovery, the previously slow and painful review process can be faster and—critically for clients—cheaper. And these benefits accrue without a sacrifice in quality. As Herr noted, “‘People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.’”
The New York Times article only considered the benefits of AI for legal clients. The good news is that it offers benefits that are just as significant for lawyers.
- More time for value-added work
There is never enough time in the day to accomplish everything that lawyers want to do for themselves and their clients. So why should they waste time on tasks that computers can do just as well, if not better, than humans? As noted above, TAR can expedite document review, freeing up lawyers to engage in tasks that computers can’t (yet) do. Lawyers can spend their valuable time identifying risk time-bombs before they lead to costly litigation or investigations, taking a more strategic, long-term view of matters, assessing exposure more confidently, and protecting their clients’ reputation more proactively. After all, lawyers went to law school to learn how to analyze the law and help their clients make better decisions—not so they could endure rote document review all day long.
- Less boredom
Let’s face it: manual document review can be mind-numbing. When you combine the tedium of manual review with the information overload that lawyers, like all of us, already suffer from in today’s turbocharged, data-driven society, it’s no surprise that lawyers are increasingly likely to find their jobs limiting and exhausting. Eliminating the friction of document review from their daily responsibilities decreases boredom and increases job satisfaction. The less irrelevant information lawyers have to sift through, thanks to the pre-sorting of well-trained TAR, the more engaged they will be with their work. That also helps free up time and brain space to quickly pinpoint the key facts that can inform the most effective legal strategies for their clients—creating a win-win situation.
- Fewer headaches
While TAR can take the burden of the middle rounds of document review off lawyers’ plates, it can also serve as a second set of eyes that confirm the results of a document review. Lawyers often lie awake at night worrying about their cases and, when it comes to discovery, whether they’ve missed the needle in the haystack that could win or lose their case. Applying TAR to large data sets can give legal teams peace of mind that they fulfilled their ethical responsibilities to their client and found every potentially responsive document. It can also be used proactively in compliance investigations to identify signs of bad behavior—such as fraud or bribery—before it would otherwise bubble to the surface.
Unfortunately, in a recent survey by business analytics firm RELX Group, only 44 percent of surveyed law firm leaders said they offer employee training on AI. That’s the lowest of any industry. Even more telling, a quarter of legal industry executives reported that they do not use AI or machine learning in their work; 12 percent “weren’t even aware of machine learning being used in their industry.” Perhaps it’s time for them to consider these benefits too.
Artificial intelligence tools are already transforming the lives of our clients. Let’s not overlook the benefits they can have for the profession of law. Lawyers who leverage tools like TAR will find themselves with a competitive advantage—more time and mental energy to do high-value work—over those who don’t. Plus, they’re more likely to actually enjoy their work with less stress.
What are you waiting for? Let’s chat about how AI solutions can improve discovery for your lawyers and clients.