In this week’s focus on AI, buzz grows around machine learning’s application to the legal world.

The phrase “put your money where your mouth is” is taking on new meaning in law. For a while vendors, technologists and forward-thinking operational professionals have been espousing the virtues and precautions around artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal workflow for the better part of a year, as everyone from investors to the professionals charged with making good use of their money are looking at AI as the next big thing.

While still worlds away from the billions invested in financial and healthcare technology, AI is starting to attract big money from investors. Perhaps unsurprising is that some of this money is pouring in from the U.K., a stronghold for the implementation of AI in the legal workflow. Here, the AI/legal technology system is witnessing fast growth with software providers like U.K.-based RAVN Systems signing deals with international law firms. Now, U.K. angel investors Hamilton Ramsey are looking to invest on big law technology like AI as part of their January launch.

Started by former White & Case executive partner John Bellhouse and his son, Fordhouse Equity partner and former Kirkland & Ellis litigator Freddie Bellhouse, the new group obviously has an understanding of the challenges facing big law. And while the U.K. gets much coverage for being at the forefront of legal technology, the younger Bellhouse said the U.S. is still a nascent market but beginning to get much attention.

“It’s about jumping on the bandwagon before it gets crazy and trying to find the competitive advantage against other investors,” he added.

And that nascent market may be ripe for AI innovation, or so events within the legal technology industry at large may suggest. Earlier this week, CloudNine, a Texas-based e-discovery provider, announced a partnership with Heureka, which specializes in unstructured data analysis, to expand the trend of automating portions of the e-discovery workflow. In doing so, CloudNine users can use Heureka technology to have unstructured data automatically indexed before culling.

Though automation has been part of e-discovery for some time thorough technology assisted review (TAR) and analytics, providers, buyers and investors in the legal world are looking to automation as the future of legal technology as well. As CloudNine CEO Brad Jenkins put it, “I think you’re going to hear the overarching term of ‘discovery automation technology’ begin to be used more and more.”

With the legal industry around the world paying greater attention to AI technology, the field has in the past year alone grown far beyond e-discovery. One of those fields is translations. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nation’s agency for promoting global patent protection, recently released a tool for translating patent documents, infamous for their technical language, into not only a second language, but its common usage.

Among the languages the WIPO device can translate from are Korean, Japanese and Chinese, which account for over half of all worldwide patents. The technology behind the tool is neural machine translation technology, which can take previously translated sentences and apply them to its body of knowledge. The goal in doing so is to provide a syntax more akin to everyday language than a direct word-for-word translation of a different language normally would. WIPO is planning to tackle other languages as well, the first of which will be French.

Another legal technology market where AI is increasingly making its mark is in litigation risk. Latest in this arena is the partnership between startup Intraspexion with dtSearch to release an automation solution for scanning messaging and emails to determine the potential for litigation risk. The target audiences for this technology, as Ricci Dipshan writes in Legaltech News, are inside and outside counsel.

And law firms are increasingly recognizing the potential of such technologies, so much that some are getting behind the companies that provide the new tools of the trade. Recently, Tony Angel, a former managing partner at Linklaters, joined the board of Tagbox, a U.K. legal AI startup focusing on document review. And he’s not alone, not only in the law firm world but in Linklaters—the firm’s former head of knowledge, Suzanne Fine, is also on the Tagbox advisory board.

But not all talk around AI is about progress. For while some tout the benefits of automation on corporate costs, others are concerned about ethical implications.

Among those using funds toward this end are K&L Gates, which recently announced an endowment of $10 million to Carnegie Mellon University to study AI’s ethical implications. As Gina Passarella writes for, “The bulk of the gift will be used to further scientific and scholarly research about the ethical and policy issues surrounding artificial intelligence and other computational technologies.”

Also taking the debate around ethics to the public is LegalAlignment CEO Larry Bridgesmith, who in a recent article for Legaltech News makes the case for legal to start truly considering the danger of widespread AI in both the legal industry and the world beyond. He writes:

Legal technology must pay even closer attention to the incredible capabilities of AI to perform essential functions for clients and their lawyers. As unimaginable as rogue robots might be, what could maleficent software do to estates, financial planning, complex transactions and high-stakes litigation? When AI begins to program itself without human oversight, what’s to stop such a technology from wreaking havoc on the economy, personal rights and legacy wealth?


Ian Lopez

Legaltech News


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