By Aebra Coe
Law360 (August 27, 2019, 3:49 PM EDT) — Many in the legal industry bemoan the hype surrounding artificial intelligence and its use in the practice of law, but underneath the fanfare there are a slew of real-world examples of AI being implemented by law firms for practical and useful purposes.
While there may never be a law firm populated by robot lawyers, the use of AI by law firms has transformed the way some approach certain legal work, and many say it has allowed lawyers in those firms to save time and get their jobs done more efficiently.
Here, in the first of a two-part series, Law360 takes an in-depth look at two real world-examples of how AI is being used right now by law firms and the impact it is having.
Berry Appleman & Leiden
Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP is a global immigration law firm that uses AI to, among other things, extract information from documents and draft responses to certain common government requests it frequently handles for corporate clients.
[AI] gives us tremendous efficiency, accuracy, quality, but most importantly I think it gives us the gift of time and that allows us to focus on our relationships with clients.
One AI system the law firm has in place helps attorneys respond more efficiently to U.S. government requests for evidence, or RFEs, in the visa application process on behalf of clients, according to Chief Information Officer Vince DiMascio.
“It’s a tremendous time saver and really cool capability both from the reading and interpretation side and the drafting side,” he said.
When the law firm receives an RFE, its systems can read the letter, interpret what it is requesting, search a library for potential responses and then draft a response based on what was said in the initial RFE.
That draft response is then reviewed and edited by an attorney before being mailed back to the government.
According to Edward Rios, managing partner of BAL’s Boston office, government RFEs have been increasing “tremendously” in recent years, making the new technology especially useful.
“Clients need us to be able to quantify those attacks very quickly and respond with the best counterarguments we have based on our understanding of the industry and the filing,” Rios said. “This system allows us to do that.”
Because the law firm focuses exclusively on immigration work, it is a repository for mass amounts of data on immigration law. That means AI is a good fit for trimming down on the human labor involved in accomplishing certain work the firm does, DiMascio said.
Mass amounts of data are key in training AI systems to spot patterns, which allows it to be useful to users.
“We have a data advantage” in training AI, DiMascio said, pointing to the law firm’s “decades” of passports and similar records from which it has extracted data to feed its AI systems.
Rather than buying off-the-shelf AI tools like many law firms, BAL has used open-source software and software libraries like TensorFlow, PyTorch and Tesseract OCR to build many of the tools it uses internally, he said.
The firm employs a “fully staffed” team of legal technologists, made up of developers, quality assurance professionals, product development staff, support staff and others, and also taps into the contract and freelance work pool when needed for extra help on a project, he said.
“[AI] gives us tremendous efficiency, accuracy, quality, but most importantly I think it gives us the gift of time, and that allows us to focus on our relationships with clients,” DiMascio said.
After launching a pilot program last year in which a handful of the law firm’s attorneys began using AI provider Legalmation’s technology, this January, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC officially agreed to partner with the company to implement the technology more comprehensively.
“It’s a win-win situation for us and the client. Everybody saves money and we get the work done faster.”
Legalmation provides Ogletree with a web-based AI tool that generates automated litigation documents like answers, discovery requests, discovery responses and captions for use in federal and state lawsuits in five jurisdictions: New York, California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas.
Under the agreement, Ogletree is the only large labor and employment law firm that will have access to the technology for a set period of time, according to Ogletree’s Chief Knowledge Officer Patrick DiDomenico. In return, the law firm is offering up its vast collection of labor and employment law data to help train Legalmation’s systems, and the firm is offering input with regard to the product’s development.
To use Legalmation, the law firm’s attorneys can drag and drop a PDF complaint or other legal document onto the website. The technology then translates the PDF into text, reads it and analyzes it, and within minutes it generates a draft response.
“It kind of seems like magic,” DiDomenico said. “You have all of this output based on an uploaded complaint in two minutes. The documents are draft documents, but all in all the tool does about six to eight hours’ worth of work in two minutes.”
After receiving the draft response, a lawyer then reviews and edits the resulting document and then submits it to a senior attorney for any further review or revisions.
Although the tool is simple to use and does not necessitate lawyer training, it does require education and promotion on the part of the law firm in order to make sure attorneys are aware of its benefits so that they engage with the technology and make use of it, DiDomenico said.
“Quite frankly, some people are either not aware of certain technologies or
maybe haven’t seen them so they don’t necessarily trust them,” he said.
“Even as simple as this tool is, you still have to do promotion and training, you have to make sure people feel comfortable with it.”
According to DiDomenico, the impact of the technology is “clear”: There’s a time savings, which also saves money. He says his law firm shares those efficiencies with the client by charging them a fee for the technology’s use, while cutting six to eight hours of billable time off the client’s bill.
“It’s a win-win situation for us and the client. Everybody saves money and we get the work done faster,” he said.
–Editing by Rebecca Flanagan and Alanna Weissman.