The evolution of legal tech was seeded when LexisNexis introduced the red “UBIQ” terminal in 1976 to help lawyers simplify the task of searching case law. By introducing the ability to research case law online as an alternative to spending hours flipping through books, attorneys could save a significant amount of time, which they utilized for building client relationships. This invention set the stage for a technology revolution in the legal space. Since then, the industry has witnessed constant inventions and upgrades in tandem with the ever-changing needs of global legal professionals.

Early-aughts witnessed a new era in legal technology when pioneering solutions emerged in the market. When the dot com boom was felt in almost every tech-based industry, the relatively conservative legal industry also realized that technology would be the way of life. The fact is that it provided clarity on the path legal experts can travel for digitization, despite the limitations in the initial stages.

Legal tech providers have constantly been striving to overcome the constraints of technology in its recency, be it enabling dynamic digital storage of legal documents, consolidating disparate legal data sources, or facilitating remote access to the files. The result of ascertaining the best possible solution for the prevailing challenges resulted in the debut of AI in the legal landscape.

Legal AI in the early years

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as a disruptive technology, redefining how industries think and operate. Even with several notions concerning AI, every industry is witnessing an increase in the adoption of this technological innovation, owing to the compelling benefits it offers. The legal industry is no exception to this prevailing trend, with law firms worldwide embracing Artificial Intelligence to add efficiency and gain a competitive advantage.

Early works on AI in legal services can be traced back to 1956 when professor Layman E. Allen spoke about the need for an intellectual tool to master human experience in his paper “Symbolic Logic: A Razor-edge Tool for Drafting and Interpreting Legal Documents.” During the 1980s, experts worldwide began to assess the possibility of applying AI techniques to the Law industry. The efforts resulted in instituting a biennial conference, the International Conference on AI and Law (ICAIL), in 1987.

In the nascent stage, AI endeavored into the legal domain to establish formal models of legal texts to eradicate ambiguity caused by natural language. Automatic legal text summarization in early 2000 paved the way for a new era for AI in the legal industry.

The current state of AI in legal

The scope of AI in Law furthered with the emergence of Big Data and Analytics, the result of which we experience today. The ability to mimic the human mind has elevated AI as a reliable technology for an array of services. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is hardly any aspect of the legal industry that AI hasn’t made its way. As things stand now, AI is assisting the legal professionals, be it in law firms or in-house counsels, in the following ways:

  • Automation of Document Review by distinguishing relevant documents or sections in a document, categorizing them based on a clause, assessing, and visualizing the severity of risks associated with it.
  • Legal Discovery, a process ensuing document classification during the review, involves sorting of documents, identifying points relevant to a case being dealt with, and providing insights from previous cases to help lawyers strategize their defensive mechanism.
  • Due diligence, which is a time-intensive process, has been simplified by AI-powered tools. By adding the ability to find facts of importance from previous cases with utmost accuracy, AI indeed is the right aid.
  • Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM), spanning contract drafting, review, and post-executing management (legacy contracts) is now reliant on AI-powered systems. What’s been a labor-intensive and error-prone task is now made effective and fool-proof, thanks to the onset of legal AI.
  • Contract Analytics empowers in-house counsels in effortless tracking of key dates, data fields, and commitments and obtains key insights to improve business processes. This is a huge benefit for an organization in terms of sales, procurement, finance, and compliance.
  • Legal research to provide a legal opinion by studying similar cases from the past. As of 2019, 4,500 law firms are leveraging AI-powered Legal Research solutions in the US.
  • Litigation prediction is yet another key use case of AI in the legal process. It helps predict a case’s outcomes precisely by analyzing a humongous amount of historical data, helping lawyers and organizations strategize arguments and negotiate settlements.

While the prevalence of AI in legal seems enormous, it is still considered to be in its infancy. This indicates that legal AI will undergo a constant revival to be the reliable solution for industry challenges.  Down the line, legal professionals can exempt themselves from gruntwork and invest their focus in more valuable tasks. But for AI to achieve this level of total autonomy, it indeed needs extensive learning to strengthen its cognitive skills with human expertise – a clear case of man-machine combination.

Onboarding the right legal AI

Law firms across the globe have witnessed the integration of AI into their legal services to enhance operational efficiencies, mitigate risks, and ensure faster results. But, this is just the beginning of an immense opportunity, as a colossal transformation awaits AI and the legal industry. However, the success of AI adoption lies in the scrutiny of needs and challenges. The top priority here should be the tool’s ability to integrate with the existing enterprise system. For instance, rather than opting for a standalone CLM tool, the focus should ideally be on building an all-inclusive system that will provide impeccable visibility of contracts and their milestones. This approach should be adapted for every aspect of legal processes, as listed in the previous section and more.

About Cenza

Cenza is a Managed Legal Service Provider specialized in training and deployment of AI/ML tools spanning various facets of legal space. Our extensive expertise in the legal domain distinguishes us, which we leverage to provide added value to our clients by furthering the autonomy of AI-powered legal solutions.

To know how Cenza can be of assistance in your legal process automation endeavor, contact us.


About the Author: Jayashree Nair

Jayashree has managed various engagements at Cenza for clients across the world. She led scoping and solution development for more than 20 client engagements, including some complex contract management-related requirements for clients and works on a daily basis with Ironclad and their clients on contract migration projects. She has successfully transitioned many complex projects for a variety of clients in the managed legal, AI and ML training, and Contract management space. She has an overall 12 years of experience, including previous stints at Accenture and R.R. Donnelly and has a strong understanding of project management and contract management projects.