We live in an extraordinary age where automation is streamlining almost every industry, including the practice of law. Law is an industry that has been almost entirely conducted on paper for the majority of its existence and has also been extremely slow to adapt to changing tides technologically. Despite these tendencies, new technology has managed to seep into the practice and improve it, especially now. With the rising usage of artificial intelligence to automate administrative processes, we are seeing more law firms purchase AI-powered technologies to help their lawyers be more productive and practice law more effectively. Let’s look at how artificial intelligence is being applied by attorneys to their practices and to improve not only their professional output but their personal quality of life as well.
- Contract Management
Many lawyers both at law firms and in-house find document management to be a true nuisance. An AI system that handles contracts allows contracts to be stored and then managed in conjunction with the terms of the specific agreement. For example, “what is the termination date and when does notice of renewal need to go out?” or “is there a price escalation provision and when does it allow the price to increase and what type of notice, if any, needs to go out?” Historically, answering these questions and management of the responses is all done manually. Someone either creates a spreadsheet and tracks everything by hand, or enters the data manually into a system that manages the key terms and dates automatically. That is why AI and new tech can be a holy grail for lawyers specifically. These attorneys can now draft contracts by creating and using a form agreement, i.e., one that has standard terms and conditions and allows for limited changes/customization. Form contracts save massive amounts of time and allow companies to have consistency among their agreements. There are now AI tools that allow for the creation of contracts near-instantaneously using whatever predetermined parameters that the lawyers feel are necessary. Programs like Cobblestone allow the user to store their contractual templates in a centralized database and extract those that are relevant. By automating the process by which the program fills out provisions, the user is then left essentially with just a proofreading job. Needless to say, this saves countless hours for lawyers and allows them to focus on higher-value work.
- Time Capture and Entry
While there are many great time capture and entry technologies on the market right now, lawyers not using these tools may find time entry to be an onerous and manual process. AI-powered time capture and entry tools help lawyers capture more time and spend less time on the act of entering this time into the time entry and billing system, which enables them to focus on the substance of legal practice. For example, Intapp Time
uses AI-powered activity capture to help lawyers find missed or unrecorded time more easily. In addition, solutions like Ping can learn how the user actually works and builds a timesheet for him or her to review and submit. ZERØ’s technology can further enhance the capabilities of this software by allowing users to passively, automatically, and contemporaneously capture the time they spend interacting with client-related emails on mobile devices. By reducing the amount of time attorneys spend calculating their billable hours, a firm can help its attorneys to be incentivized to use their time more efficiently and be more productive.
- Email Management
Ask a lawyer what poses the largest inconvenience to them on any given day, and the answer will almost surely be the same: their email. Lawyers at firms of all sizes lose countless hours filing hundreds of emails into their own predetermined folders, subsequently also losing precious billable hours. Enter AI-powered email management tools, like ZERØ. These tools automatically sort emails by importance and client value, thereby giving the lawyer back the minutes spent sorting emails. ZERØ also automatically and predictively files emails into document management systems, allowing lawyers to achieve nearly 100% email compliance with the press of a button.
As the burden on lawyers to be more transparent about their billable hours increases, these tools can assist in record-keeping as well. The hours spent on sorting emails are not put back into the firm as productive billable hours, and not only do attorneys get a semblance of time back in their lives but the firm gains valuable billable hours as well. These tools are a win-win for both the attorneys, their firms, and the clients. Clients can begin to see more efficient time management out of their lawyers and thereby more comprehensive legal work. Email management is an aspect of lawyering that isn’t mentioned when you’re studying in law school or preparing to practice, and yet it becomes such a significant portion of one’s life that it seems silly not to employ tools like ZERØ to assist.
Litigation costs in the United States are soaring, and much of that is attributed to rising discovery costs. With hundreds of thousands of digital documents in certain cases, the combined man hours and cost of locating and comprehending each page of these documents has naturally risen. It is only natural that lawyers sought ways to improve the efficiency of this process, as clients clamored to keep litigation costs low. Enter artificial intelligence. AI can scan thousands of documents in mere minutes and make recommendations for documents that require more review, tell attorneys that their search parameters are too small, or even flag documents based on keywords that it determines to be relevant. Over time, AI has gone from a useful novelty in the discovery process to one of the things attorneys rely on most when handling complex litigation. Certain AI-powered technologies can even scan relationships among people involved in litigation, pointing out to the attorney additional people who should be brought in and interviewed. This is often done without the attorney even asking the program for a list of people to have conversations with.