“I am not in the business of predicting the future, but in the business of making the future,” said Khalid Al-Kofahi, vice president, Research and Development at Thomson Reuters, as part of a panel at the 2017 Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) annual meeting discussing artificial intelligence (AI) and its influence in the legal profession.

There is substantial conversation and maybe even some misunderstanding of AI and its integration in the legal profession. The panel stated early that they were not here to warn the legal practice that it will be taken over by robots, but that the focus of the conversation would be the direction it could go and how the legal profession might best use this technology and the tools using it.

The panel also featured: Mark Huller, senior counsel, The Cincinnati Insurance Company; Cynthia Boeh, general counsel, Other World Computing; and Martin Tully, co-chair, Data Law Practice Group at Akerman LLP. They broke down the various aspects of AI including: applications that can process and understand language, support natural interactions, learn from those interactions, and reason over data/knowledge.

The panel polled the audience several times and the first question asked the approximately 175 attendees whether they had utilized AI at least occasionally in their legal profession? The response was that approximately 70 percent said they had. But the panel stated that number is likely higher as many may not know they are using tools or resources that implement artificial intelligence.

A second question asked the audience if they were looking to implement AI within their department for the company, and more than 80 percent said they were. The follow up asked, “In what areas?” Contracts and e-discovery received a majority of votes, but the audience also noted compliance was an emerging area.

There was brief discussion on the biases within AI ranging from algorithms, data and people biases. A statement was shared that “more data beats algorithms.” But Al-Kofahi stated, “better data beats both, especially in the legal space.” If the quality of the data is poor, it may not necessarily matter how much is available or the algorithm developed/used to comb through it to help deliver guidance or answers.

Another question posed to the audience asked if they have used AI in the legal department for analyzing or drafting contracts? Only 18 percent said yes. In a follow-up question, they asked other than e-discovery, what is the biggest benefit of technology that incorporates AI within the legal department or the firms you employ? The options included lower cost, quicker response times or better results to focus on issues. And the overwhelming response was “all of the above.”

According to the panelists, the prominent use of artificial intelligence within the tools used by legal professionals will continue to grow. And as there continues to be more and more data, increased computational power and more use cases and applications, the technology will be embraced and implemented routinely into the everyday workflow. AI will change the business and practice of law by altering or automating certain tasks done today, but AI also will create opportunities that we may not see yet to free lawyers to apply their skills and expertise in higher value work.


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