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In the most general terms, artificial intelligence (AI) is somewhere near the peak of the hype cycle (1). If you work in or adjacent to the legal industry (like most industries in fact), you’ll be aware that AI was one of the most talked about topics in 2017 and that looks set to continue in 2018. It has been impossible to miss – from conferences, chatbot challenges, debates and seminars to a House of Lords’ select committee. You need only look at a map of legal start-ups (#lawtech) to understand the scale of both the substance and the hyperbole of AI. Google Trends shows that AI-related searches in the UK have been steadily increasing over the last five years (2). Similarly, the search term “what is AI?” has trended upwards over the same period.
At LexisNexis, and in the wider RELX Group, we’ve been carefully considering the real impact AI will have on a number of professions – what will it mean for you, your business and your clients. It is not always easy, especially with emerging technology, to extract the realities from sensationalist headlines (3). In a technology as broad as AI, and in professions as complex and varying as legal and tax, it is a difficult task to see the proverbial wood from the trees.
People take AI to mean different things. Depending on who you speak with, AI can range from a clever Excel application, all the way to a general super-intelligence. When we refer to AI, we are broadly referring to any system capable of performing tasks utilising aspects of human intelligence such as logic, reasoning, learning and deduction. This is largely the same definition as adopted by the UK Government (4).
As a global business we have sought to use new technology to make our content more accessible and more effective to law and tax professionals around the world. We have marked the evolution from print to screens to interactive forums over our 200 year history, assessing, discarding and investing in sustainable and effective technologies. AI has the potential to play a significant part in our mission to advance legal and tax professionals over the next 200 years.
Globally, the RELX Group ingests more than 1.3m documents daily from more than 55,000 data sources, generating 20bn connections. In the legal world, LexisNexis holds three petabytes of data and more than 65bn documents, 150 times the size of Wikipedia and doubling every three years. But more than quantity, we also have quality data with decades of metadata, judicial annotations and editorial comments from legal experts.
As part of our tech portfolio, LexisNexis acquired Lex Machina, a legal analytics company, based in Silicon Valley that emerged from Stanford’s Law School and Computer Science department. Karl Harris, the COO of Lex Machina commented that success in this arena occurs when the user need is identified before anything else. Once you are addressing a proper pain point for customers, then you can start solving the issues of collecting quality data. Too many start-ups focus on the technology, rather than how it will actually help customers.
In addition to the heavy global investment by LexisNexis and the RELX Group, in the UK we are focussing on collaborating with customers and other key stakeholders. It's always been our way of working with the market; technology and AI is no different. For our opening collaborative project, we are focusing on using machine learning to create an automated redaction tool. All of this came from a quick experiment around customer problems and understanding that redaction is a time-intensive and mechanical task. We are looking forward to showcasing this tool shortly.
AI will have an impact on society at a much broader level than legal services. Governments around the world are turning their attention to this new technology; debating how to harness and how to best regulate it. In the UK, the House of Lords establish a select committee to investigate the role of AI further. When we answered their Call to Evidence, we drew on a broad range of experts from within our organisation. From solicitors who work exclusively in technology law, to our technical leads who live and breathe new technology products – including the implementation of AI-based systems. You can read our publicly available submission here. Through preparing a response for the legal industry, we identified 3 main challenges for AI:
The full written report became publicly available on 16 April 2018. You can access it here. Our submission is specifically mentioned on page 41, paragraph 108.
It is clear that the investment of AI in the legal profession is only going to increase. What will be key for modern lawyers is the ability to rely on the technology. Trust is fundamental to the legal profession and that cuts another way for lawyers – they must be able to trust their tools. So while one might be tempted to procure a shiny new tool, you need to give thought to the reliability, security and trustworthiness of the solution.
From a risk perspective, working with proven and trusted partners will position you better to leverage the power of AI whilst remaining sheltered from the buffeting of unproven and maladministered technology. Further, adopting tailored and specific technology developments will provide safer and more measured gains in productivity – and avoid the risks of any ‘Big Bang’ style approaches.
The arrival of AI should be cause for excitement. We are confident, if developed with care, that AI will empower lawyers to be better lawyers; to trade up to a better class of problem solving.
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