Will Artificial Intelligence become the ‘new normal’ in Indian legal sector

Legal sector is the latest frontier for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to knock down. According to Fei Fei Li, director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, AI has become the new normal and has made seismic moves in possibly every aspect of our life, from media to retail and now self-driving vehicles.  “The world is changing incredibly fast and some say we are living in the 4th industrial revolution, and much of it is propelled by the phenomenal force of computing, and the biggest driver of change is AI” Li, an AI visionary shared at a talk.

How does AI work in legal sector?      

Legal sector is the latest outpost for AI to tear down. Termed as one of the least technologically advanced sectors, legal (dominated by copious paperwork) is now embracing AI wholeheartedly. According to Fox Rodney & Search, global legal recruitment company, AI doesn’t change the nature of legal work. Instead, it assists by automating tasks such as due diligence, document drafting and performing legal research. Artificial Intelligence is the future of law and it works by applying sample data to a cognitive system that then helps in analyzing large amount of data and delivers an accurate outcome.

According to experts, AI will reshape how firms’ work law and their organizational structure by automating tasks usually assigned to junior assistants and paralegals. On the bright side, it will increase the efficiency of the firms, allowing lawyers to focus on high value work thereby reducing rote work and increasing bottomline revenue. For the client, it means the number of billable hours will come down significantly.

UK takes AI challenge seriously

In what could mark a landmark moment for the legal sector, scientists from University College London and the University of Sheffield had developed an AI software that predicted outcome with 79% accuracy by identifying patterns in text and categorizing each case under “violation” and “non-violation”.

The algorithm was put to work on a whopping 584 humans rights cases. And the result was – predicting outcome with 79% accuracy. Lead researcher from UCL’s department of computer science, Dr Nikolaos Aletras shared in a news report that he didn’t envision AI replacing judges or lawyers, but it will identify patterns that can lead to certain outcomes. It can also serve as a tool to identify cases that violate the law.

Will AI will soon replace judges, or serve legal aid?

The answer is a resounding no. Judicial decisions rely on legal reasoning and draw on the judge’s empathy and humanity and an innate common sense when it comes to dispensing justice.  Just like other public sectors, taxation, AI comes to the rescue by rendering legal aid. AI’s integration into legal is majorly for identifying patterns in cases that can lead to speedy outcome. The scientists cited AI can be used as a tool for highlighting cases that are most likely in violation of law.

Meet ROSS, the new AI attorney: IBM Watson, the tool that has edited movie trailers in the past and fought cyberbullies for Twitter has now donned a new role – legal assistant.  One of America’s biggest law firms, BakerHostetler adopted ROSS Intelligence’s AI legal research product, ROSS that is built upon IBM’s Watson. So how does ROSS assist lawyers in mining information from tomes of legal paperwork? Watson’s cognitive computing and natural language processing capabilities, ROSS can research question in natural language, read through the law, collect evidence, draw conclusions and give evidence-based answers. It also keeps a tab on the law, notifying users about new court decisions that can affect a case. And it keeps on gaining inputs from the lawyers that betters it future results.

Baker Hostetler is not alone, other international law firms such as Salazar Jackson, K & L Gates have also deployed the IBM Watson powered ROSS as their AI assistant.  Meanwhile, eminent law firms Linklaters and Pinsent Masons have ploughed lots of dollars to develop AI tools to dispense with mundane tasks.

Turning the spotlight on home front – can Indian legal sector be reformed with AI

Let’s face it. Indian judiciary landscape is marked by slow moving cases and long delays in verdict that stretch to a decade, this is the harsh reality of Indian judicial sector. With European and American courts embracing big data to fix logjams, it is time for Indian legal sector to reimagine the legal process. AI has been employed to automate certain tasks such as contract analysis, give reduce costs and enhance accuracy through the use of data.  

Cyril Shroff, managing partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas embraces AI: The global legal industry has undergone a massive transformation on the technological front, with the sector transitioning to a digitized environment backed by virtual capabilities in the practice of law. To stay ahead of the AI curve, Indian elite law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas made the first mover advantage in AI space by partnering with Toronto-headquartered Kira Systems.

One of India’s leading full service law firm, Mumbai-headquartered Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas has reportedly become Asia’s first law firm to embrace AI earlier this year. Canada-based Kira Systems, machine learning software provider revealed in their blog that the move was spurred to improve the delivery model of legal services.

What sets apart Kira from other technologies that can tag terms within legal documents?  According to the company, whose award-winning software has been deployed for knowledge management, contract search and analytics among other cases for businesses across the globe, specializes at searching and analyzing contract text. For the Indian law firm, the software will be used to analyse and extract clauses from a large volume of legal documents, with greater accuracy, thereby speeding up identification of clauses. The machine learning models will be used for a range of transactions across the law firm.

Cyril Shroff, managing partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas said in a statement about the tie-up with Kira, “Our clients expect us to be at the cutting edge of the practice of law, and of the business of law. For us the business challenges of our clients come first, and to tackle that we need a suite of different tools and advanced skills.”

AI’s true applications and future in the Indian legal industry

What does this mean for Indian legal process? Will AI become a norm in legal sector? According to DSK Legal, an Indian law firm headquartered in Mumbai, there is still a significant emphasis on human intervention and processes since Indian law firms are still in a nascent stages of development and growth, Jayesh Kothari, Corporate Lawyer and Senior Associate with DSK Legal, Mumbai cited in an article.

What could spur the use of AI is clients raising questions about the billable hours spent by law firms, Kothari noted in the article. “Clients have started to expect a degree of transparency and accuracy in terms of work and the fee charged so that they can better manage the overall legal expenses and make necessary annual budgets for legal,” he suggested in the article.

So, what necessitates the migration to AI in legal sector?

Greater transparency, price predictability and an accurate analytics if work done will largely affect law firms to make AI the new normal. Besides, the need to offer value added services and compete with global law firms will necessitate the shift to AI. The onset of AI globally was also in parts to meet the demands of savvy, sophisticated clients, cites Kothari.  According to Kothari, what would be interesting to watch is how Indian law firms upgrade or reshape their existing business models to offset the impact caused due to AI on revenues.

Here’s how AI is expected to play out in legal sector:

Document review: One of the most common uses of AI in legal, customized software or machine learning models from leading AI firms are used for contract analysis, identification of clauses and other related data. End result, it automates task usually assigned to junior lawyers/assistants and brings down the client’s billable hours. It also improve accuracy of extraction of data.

Case predictions: Can AI predict case outcomes? Even as we mull over the ethics of AI leveraging predictive models in serving outcomes, London law firm  Hodge Jones & Allen teamed up with researchers from worked University College London to develop a software that measures the merits of personal injury cases.

Advisory services: Can AI software assist clients with legal questions? It’s a thought that could become a reality soon. AI tools and solutions could power a new breed of legal web advisors who would use AI to analyze problems and assist with complex legal queries.

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Richa Bhatia
Richa Bhatia is a seasoned journalist with six-years experience in reportage and news coverage and has had stints at Times of India and The Indian Express. She is an avid reader, mum to a feisty two-year-old and loves writing about the next-gen technology that is shaping our world.

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