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The Power of Artificial Intelligence in Legal Research

October 09, 2020

Both Lexis® and Lexis+ demonstrate that artificial intelligence-powered legal research is a game-changer for lawyers and their firms, helping them find relevant information faster, more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Artificial intelligence (AI), of course, refers to computer software and systems that rather than only relying on pre-programmed tasks, learn, plan, reason and process natural language as they go. For years now, we’ve incorporated AI-powered features into our legal research platforms to drive better insights in a user-friendly way, reveal previously unknowable connections in the data and incorporate real-time developments in the law.

Simply stated, AI-powered legal research platforms can help lawyers do more billable work more quickly, allowing them to spend more time putting that research to good use by counseling clients, negotiating with opposing counsel or performing other higher-level work. This is particularly important for attorneys who provide their services on a flat-fee or contingency-fee basis, where more time spent on legal research could lead to lower profit margins.

AI-based legal research software can, for example, mine archives of legal precedents to find supporting documentation to bolster a legal argument. The more it’s used, the more it automatically “learns” and gets smarter, which makes it faster and easier to find and digest relevant documents.

Translated to the real world, a judicial analytics tool can analyze a judge’s past decisions, enabling lawyers to pinpoint the types of arguments a certain judge typically finds most persuasive, how that judge typically rule on certain motions and more. These types of insights can make or break a case.

According to the American Bar Association, 8% of lawyers who responded to its 2019 Legal Technology Survey Report are currently using AI-based resources. The report found that firms of 100 or more lawyers are most likely to be currently using AI-powered solutions (26%), followed by 5% of firms of 2 – 9 attorneys, and 4% of solo lawyer respondents. Curiously, the survey noted a lack of firms using AI in the 10 – 49 lawyer range.

The ABA report also found that 41% of lawyers indicated that AI-powered solutions would be most useful for increasing efficiency, followed by 24% who felt they would be most helpful with document management and review. Reducing costs was cited as the most useful attribute of AI-aided research by 21% of survey respondents, followed by predicting outcomes and reducing risk (15%).

Though some would contend that AI has already entered the legal mainstream, the survey posited that we may have barely scratched the surface of its capabilities. Asked to predict when AI would become mainstream in the legal profession, 16% believed that would occur within the next three years, 19% said the next four to five years, and 20% said the next six to 10 years.

It is undeniable that technology-driven research tools hold the massive potential to help lawyers become better legal practitioners. While many are amazed by what AI can already do, all indications are that the technologies behind it will continue to get better and better.