Jake Kelly, Senior Consultant and expert in all matters Compliance & Legal, explores how artificial intelligence (AI) can affect the legal sector
AI is the theory and development of computer software to perform tasks normally requiring human thought and intellect. At a business level, it can be thought of as a computer program which can make useful decisions using a range of technologies that support day-to-day practices.
AI-powered processes can also ease the routine admin burden and dispense with laborious manual processes by streamlining and digitalising traditional methods of working. For example, it allows employees to be more productive, while concentrating on the more fulfilling aspects of their role, such as critical thinking and driving innovation.
As a result, lawyers in particular are increasingly appreciating how this technology could change their working lives, allowing them to deliver high quality legal work and client services. In fact, almost every aspect of the Legal sector bears the opportunity for transformation, thanks to AI’s ability to search and repurpose complex information, often within seconds.
AI tools can be used to reduce time spent on more draining tasks, such as comparing contracts for key clauses which would, in turn, fast-track negotiations. It can also be deployed to ensure compliance with billing guidelines, rewrite complex regulations and transform long standing legal concepts, like billable hours. Added to this are its capabilities when it comes to researching legal precedents, drafting written arguments and contracts or carrying out repetitive due diligence checks.
The benefits are seemingly endless and this means that when considering implementing AI technology, each Legal firm should assess its own specific needs to get the best out of it. Factors to bear in mind include a firm’s structure - both from a financial and operational perspective - its client base and the services it offers.
Here, we explore what to bear in mind when introducing AI across the Legal sector.
Managing industry changes
Any AI integration needs to be as frictionless as possible to avoid service disruption. This should be a collaborative effort so that the business’s holistic requirements may be ascertained and AI applied to them accordingly.
This is because not all teams and individuals have the same needs, so it’s important to consider whether the technology can be customised to ensure that it works in the best way possible for everyone involved. This enables firms to be more focused on their own targeted input and outcomes, rather than applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
To do this, it’s important to get all teams across the business on board, so that they get the chance to communicate their goals, objectives and any subsequent challenges that might stem from this. Appointing dedicated mentors can help when it comes to processing any questions or ideas the employees might have and implementing the necessary changes.
Law firms need the right tools in place to deliver Legal services in a modern and efficient way as this is what will help them to grow their business and deliver quality client services.
Workflows and template management can automate processes to help teams work as efficiently as possible. These can free lawyers’ invaluable time and allow them to focus on other key drivers, such as business or personal development and improving their overall work-life balance.
When considering introducing new systems, many firms want to know how a framework can co-exist alongside other existing solutions to enhance the client offering. This, for example, could be by using e-bundle software for what were previously paper heavy court hearings, as well as signing documents electronically.
Balancing risk and compliance
Many AI systems can be customised to meet regulatory obligations and mitigate risk in a simple, cost-effective way. One key approach includes creating an electronic review of matter files and supervision forms, creating and managing breach registers and other central registers.
Many systems will integrate with other software solutions to enable firms to comply with the requirements of anti-money laundering and customer due diligence to obtain initial payments on account and to chase outstanding invoices.
Workflow processes can also be implemented to ensure there is supervision at relevant points in time, focusing particularly on those areas of law, such as conveyancing, which are more commonly seen as high risk.
Exception reporting and dashboards can tell the relevant people what needs looking at. For example, whether a file is missing customer due diligence documentation, a risk assessment has not been completed on these matters or if there has been a lack of activity or movement on a case in recent weeks.
Law firms manage and deal with many issues, particularly around regulations, so it makes sense to invest in technology that will help to satisfactorily move these processes along.
Enhancing financial management and reporting
Data is vital to how law firms operate, so it is crucial to be able to create visibility around insights and measure performance. It’s also important to have a suite of reports to measure a law firm’s key performance indicators. Examples include the gross profit margins of teams, recovery rates and lock-up, all of which are key to identifying the areas where improvement and focus are needed.
Some AI systems will produce dashboard reporting, which creates a visual source of information to aid lawyers and their teams understand their performance, both at a team and an individual level. The resulting information and presentation may be part of a practice management system (PMS) and there are many suppliers who will provide additional software for business intelligence to sit on top of a PMS and extract the data, in turn presenting it back in a user-friendly and intelligible way.
Evolving client service provision
It’s important to consider who precisely comprises a client base and how they prefer to receive legal services. The majority of people currently digest information via their smartphones and tablets and appreciate the ease and convenience they offer.
This is why AI tech should be compatible with such devices, as communicating in this way can enhance the service that clients receive and be agilely adapted to meet their changing expectations. For example, firms can consider using secure client portals to share sensitive or confidential information and quickly obtain electronic signatures on appropriate documentation.
Jake concludes: “It’s clear to see that AI and automated processes are helping lawyers when it comes to simplifying workflows, all while meeting demands with speed and efficiency and rendering more old-fashioned and time-consuming tasks obsolete. This comes with the added bonus of elevating the overall client experience.
“However, it will never replace the human touch that comes with liaising with a senior partner or Legal practitioner. They are the professionals that still command a premium. This won’t change because clients still want and need the trust that comes with a more personal approach to settling their affairs.”
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