Demystifying and assessing AI for legal-services delivery

Technology is a tool for accelerating the speed and accessibility of legal delivery, but its efficacy depends on many factors. Harnessing the potential of technology will require a cultural shift by organizations, professionals and the legal industry as a whole.

At the first session of the recently launched LawAhead Hub, Daniel W. Linna Jr., Professor of Law and Director of LegalRnD, The Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University College of Law, spoke about artificial intelligence for legal-services delivery and explained what is required to innovate and lead change in organizations, law firms and the profession.

“Artificial intelligence holds great promise for improving legal-services delivery. The first step is identifying and assessing these opportunities, which requires an understanding of artificial intelligence technologies and the importance of a disciplined framework for continuous improvement and innovation,” Linna explained.

The Legal Innovation Index, a study conducted by Daniel Linna, is part of a pilot project that aims to be an exercise in foundational innovation principles, such as those espoused in Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup, Alex Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas and Ash Maurya’s Running Lean.

In this context, there are many opportunities for lawyers to better serve their clients and the public, and that is one of the reasons why driving change in the legal industry is crucial. “It’s more important to start ranking and assessing law firms on their use of technology, rather than on revenue and profit”, Linna explained.


Why measuring innovation to improve legal services matters

Some of the indicators for measuring innovation include Alternative Fees, Project Management, Process Improvement/Innovation Framework, Knowledge Management, Automation Basics, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Legal Operations, Proactive Law and Blockchain.

The problem is that there are many caveats, and most law firms that claim to innovate don’t really embrace innovation. “Sustainable innovation requires organizational change and top-to-bottom commitment to continuous improvement and innovation,” Linna said.

“Innovation almost never fails due to a lack of creativity; it’s almost always because of a lack of discipline”

One of the main aspects the expert discussed was the importance of creating a disciplined learning organization, where you can fail fast and learn fast, transforming failure into an opportunity to drive innovation.

Design thinking is also key when conducting experiments; it helps organizations think about being strategic and knowing where they are going. “You need leadership to empower the organization,” Linna explained.

The lecture concluded with an engaging discussion on the importance of innovation; how companies define innovation in their organizations; the applications of AI tools within companies, legal departments and law firms; and the various challenges organizations face.

Assessing artificial intelligence and law tools

AI is being used quite widely for reviewing lots amount of information, for example for e-discovery and litigation matters or for due diligence and M&A.

“One mistake we make is to discount rule-based systems, but there’s so much that can be accomplished with these systems. We’re seeing more done now with large sets of data, not only by recognizing patterns and documents but also by using data to predict outcomes and litigation matters,” he said, explaining how traditional machine learning is used in more and more areas. “There’s enormous potential in the legal space in tasks that haven’t yet been explored.”

But, how should the legal industry take action to innovate and what are the opportunities and threats of not doing so?

“The biggest risk of not innovating is that we become irrelevant”

“Technologists and other professionals are far ahead of lawyers, but we need to understand the issues around technology and focus on improving the services we deliver to our clients,” he emphasized and went on to provide some examples of how this is happening in the legal ecosystem.

“For example, if you look at law firms, corporate clients are doing more and more of their work internally, they’re automating it, giving it to alternative legal service providers or to legaltech companies. We as lawyers should see this as an opportunity to find more and more ways to provide value to our clients and to society generally. If we don’t embrace change, we’re at risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant.”

With this note, the first session of the LawAhead Hub ended with a couple open-questions to all members: How do we create a legal-industry culture of continuous improvement and innovation? How can lawyers ensure the responsible, ethical use of artificial intelligence in legal services? In society generally?