Business as Usual: Five Law Firm Activities AI will Seamlessly Transform

Despite all of the overhyped media attention artificial intelligence (AI) receives today, it’s still the leading driving force behind productivity innovations and economic growth. Along the same vein of Moore’s Law for exponential progress, AI has made huge strides in recent years with machine-learning algorithms becoming more sophisticated and the access to massive amounts of data available to train them.

It’s no surprise that businesses are increasingly using AI to automate processes to gain efficiencies, be more competitive and avoid disruption in their markets. According to a recent Accenture survey, 82 percent of executives say their organizations are increasingly using data to drive critical and automated decision-making, at unprecedented scale.

This technology is transforming the nature of work and the workplace itself. According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, about half of the activities (not jobs) carried out by workers can be automated. The firm’s analysis of more than 2,000 work activities across more than 800 occupations shows that certain categories of activities are more easily automatable than others—most notably data collection and data processing.

This shift is evident in today’s legal technology industry, where everyday activities, including litigation support, email, e-discovery and the use of databases for case management, are being automated.

And while there is an endless hype-cycle of “innovative” technologies touting the next best thing; what law firm and corporate counsel really want is excellent legal services performed as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Broad adoption of AI in the legal industry will happen when automation of everyday activities like email filing and time capture, become business as usual.

Here are 5 operational activities that AI will transform so seamlessly, it will become status quo:

  1. Ability to recoup lost productivity costs such as billable time. The effort attorneys devote to administrative tasks (like mobile email time capture) displaces an opportunity for more valuable work. In the fee-for-service environment that governs most legal work today, firms not only fail to capture much of the time their attorneys spend on email doing substantive client work, they also face a significant administrative burden trying to document that time so they can bill for it. This is an area in which firms fall short in meeting the new demands of the business of law—to their own detriment and often to the detriment of their client relationships.
  2. Reduction of client skepticism of manual time capture and “professional fees.” Law firms have had limited options for capturing labor overhead associated with email management and time capture processes and bill for it, thereby reducing realization rates and eroding profits. Firms could choose to absorb the cost or apply a percentage-based overhead charge for “professional fees” to cover some of the administrative non-billable costs they incur, “buffering” the unknown administrative costs of email and time capture management.However, a firm can use a variety of AI-based tools that help this problem so when clients question “professional fees” or reconstructed time records and narratives resulting from email communications, they can honestly say that the time is billable without writing off the amounts which are typically discounted or waived due to the absence of detailed substantiation. These tools can document and substantiate client-related work automatically, providing data-based accountability, eliminating a firm’s reliance on the memory or estimates of individual attorneys, and significantly reducing cognitive and administrative drag across the firm. Detailed AI-generated narratives documenting substantive matter-related work via email are reassuring to clients and can help ensure prompt payment.
  3. Increasing profitability by transforming workflows & processes. Many firms still do not grasp the potential of advanced technologies associated with artificial intelligence (AI) to transform their workflows and processes and to free highly skilled attorneys to focus on what they do best. This blind spot is making it much harder for firms to sustain profitability in a fast-paced marketplace that is increasingly competitive, global and digital. Automation of the majority of manual decision-making processes through administrative AI-based tools can help a law firm bill accordingly with greater realization rates and profit margins.
  4. Incorporating AI-technology technology can, in fact, reduce other overhead costs. For example, mere implementation of predictive automated email management and time capture systems enables an immediate reduction in the actual overhead costs of matter administration and matter management. With AI, firms can bill for an additional 30 to 120 minutes of productive client-facing time per day. Another example is the ability to ensure, nay, guarantee, email compliance and information governance without relying on error-prone human keystrokes.
  5. More predictability around forecasting & budgets. Understanding data from the entire firm workflow (through AI-based administrative tools that allows for automation) can provide valuable insights into a firm’s operations. For example, you can use data from an AI-powered email management system to identify tasks and activities associated with administrative drag—and provide a solid basis for predictive cost analyses for projected budgets or for fixed-fee quotes on individual matters or matter types. As AI technologies like machine learning evolve over time, firms can be exposed to more related data that can be paired together to create a working dashboard continually increasing precision and generating predictive insights related to costs, workflows and operations.

This article was originally published in LegalTech News. To read the original, click here.


  • Ryan Steadman

    As ZERØ’s Chief Revenue Officer, Ryan leads ZERØ’s vision and execution for growth, expanding our global footprint, and ensuring a world-class customer experience. He has over two decades of experience delivering disruptive and emerging technology to professional services organizations world-wide, and deep subject-matter expertise across a wide spectrum of essential business processes.