The legal industry has been facing new challenges in response to the changing demands of clients, but also to the emergence of a new wave of lawyers – the millennial workforce. According to a 2016 survey by Microsoft, 93% of the millennial workers said that working in a company with advanced technology is important for them. Even though in the past law firms have been the most resistant towards changes, attorneys are starting to embrace change and bring innovation to their profession. An increasing number of law firms are investing in artificial intelligence in hopes of providing the rightful solutions for the challenges of the explosive growth of data in the industry with simultaneously growing need for better and faster results.

Ever since the birth of Hugh Lawfords’ QUIC/LAW (which later became QL systems, then Quicklaw ) in the 1960’s,  artificial intelligence in the legal industry has been incorporated in everyday legal tasks as an augmentation force rather than the complete automation of legal processes. Large firms are embracing technology and investing in already familiar tools like (designed to deal with changes in EU trademark law in 2016), Kira Systems (providing contract review and analysis and used by Deloitte, DLA Piper and other industry leading corporations and professional service firms), Nakhoda (whose developers have been recognized by the Financial Times one of the top ten legal innovators in 2017), Watson (an artificial intelligence system by IBM capable of parsing natural language and processing large amounts of information at high speed). These tools are designed to provide support to law firms by automatizing some of the everyday tasks and to save time for lawyers, which in turn give them the opportunity to add more of their unique value to each case and improve client relationships by devoting them more time.

The expansion of the ‘lawtech’ industry has opened the path for websites like Codex and Legal Geek – communities which bring together the emerging startups and investors in the industry by providing information about startups focusing on a variety of technical support tools.

Electronic legal marketplaces like Lexoo are helping clients and law firms connect; high tech tools such as Relativity are used for specific types of legal tasks (document review and e-discovery), Ravel Law for research and analytics, and practice management tools (with Clio being one of the most funded) providing support in knowledge storage, organization and accounting. The startups like LexShares and Mighty use technology to provide solutions to the problem of billable hours for plaintiffs who often settle despite having a good case because the lawsuits are drawn out by powerful defendants.

The most advanced tools refer to legal artificial intelligence systems like NextLaw Labs, backed by Dentons and ROSS based on IBM’s Watson cognitive computer technology. The latter is able to use legal documents data stored in its database in order to conduct precise research for relevant legal materials. ROSS is also capable of machine learning – it can be adjusted to unique requirements by being given additional legal information and feedback of its results.

Most of the startups are focusing on the incorporation of artificial intelligence into day-to-day attorney tasks; however, the most advanced tools, capable of the more comprehensive tasks are only now starting to emerge. With increasing investment flooding into technology and with large law firms beginning to bend towards embracing technological support in their processes, the ‘lawtech’ industry is bound to provide more and more innovation in the months and even years to come.

 This article was written by Petra Svob