The legal profession isn’t the first place you would think would be revolutionized by new technology. But it turns out that the types of tasks people perform in this sector are remarkably similar to the kinds of jobs that machine learning is getting really good at doing.
A lot of work in the legal industry is based primarily on analyzing text: hundreds of thousands of pages of it. Law firms usually have to employ a small army of legal underlings to process all that material to then hand it to the barristers who will then use it to make their case. But that process is incredibly time-consuming. Just flicking through all of the documents is estimated to take up about a quarter of all the time legal assistants spend on the job, let along the time it takes to comprehend and synthesize the material in a way that is useful to others.
This is where machine learning technologies can have a massive impact. Machine learning already has a track record of excellence when it comes to reading texts. One of the first ever public demonstrations of machine learning, IBM’s Watson, read more than 100 million pages of information on the web and used it to program its own neural network. It was then able to answer questions on the game show Jeopardy, using probabilistic models based on what it had learned.
Now a similar type of technology, albeit a lot more sophisticated, is now being used by law firms to eliminate a lot of the donkey work involved in processing legal documents. Smart software is now able to scan documents and pull out the bits that are relevant to a particular case. This isn’t a search engine: this is machines effectively doing the work of junior assistants.
What does it all mean for consumers? It means that they get lower prices for legal services. Ultimately, with continued cost-lowering technologies, legal services could become something everybody has access to.
Virtual Cloud Desktops
The headline news about the use of machine learning in legal operations isn’t the only way in which the legal sector is changing its modes of practice in response to advances in technology. Vertex Solutions reports that legal firms are also making increasing use of virtual cloud desktops. Why? Because cloud environments make it much easier for employees to access files independent of their location, but still in a secure environment. The current trend towards virtual desktops is yet another way that the price of legal services is being pushed down.
Smart Tools Which Resolve Complex Business Cases
New technologies are also making it easier for law firms to resolve complex business disputes across multiple jurisdictions. Usually, the complexity of legal disputes involving numerous jurisdictions is high, thanks to multiple, overlapping antitrust authorities. But now a team of software developers have developed a tool which allows companies and their legal advisors to automatically identify key risks in mergers and acquisition deals across countries. This innovation alone could potentially save companies millions of dollars a year in consulting fees.
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