While solutions already exist within the sector, the cost of using the technology means that not many law firms have been able to adopt the AI-assisted contract review tools available on the market.
As costs fall however, adoption will increase and the report suggests this could drastically alter the pricing model and the structure of traditional law firms. The report states: “Undoubtedly, when vendors offer AI-assisted contract review tools at a price that makes the technology’s usage a viable commercial proposition, take-up will increase rapidly.
“Will the technology free fee earners from drudge work, and allow them to focus on more ‘cerebral’, legal advisory matters? Or will it simply mean a significant reduction in work undertaken by law firm personnel, with all the implications for fee earner recruitment, lawyers’ career trajectories – and, indeed, the entire partnership pyramid?”
The report adds: “At present, we are probably not yet at that tipping point, even within the top end of the commercial legal market. But it is almost certainly a matter of years, if not months, before that point is reached.”
Independent North East law firm, Muckle LLP, is one of the few firms in the country that is actively using the technology already. Since 2016, the firm has been deploying AI solutions to speed up large, complex disputes.
The innovative move has been led by Susan Howe, partner and head of dispute resolution at Muckle, whose team has been using predictive coding – also known as technology assisted review (TAR) – to analyse hundreds of thousands of disclosure documents on a number of multi-million pound claims.
Speaking on her experience, Susan says: “Having access to ground-breaking software such as TAR is game-changing and has revolutionised our capability to handle large claim cases, typically undertaken by larger London-based firms.
“Our first case that utilised TAR initially involved one million disclosure documents, which was cut to 660,000 after a standard keyword search, and then this innovative technology enabled us to reduce that number down by more than 90% to 35,000.
“A process which would traditionally involve a team of trainees or paralegals turning the pages in a room for many months is now significantly condensed thanks to this cutting-edge technology.”
Susan adds: “Whilst the cost of using AI is significant, in the context of substantial claims, it is worth the expense to be able to drop 75% or more of your documents in a single swoop.
“As a litigator, it’s understandable to feel uneasy having to rely on technology, but once you use the system and understand you’re the one training it, then it becomes very easy to trust.
“We wholeheartedly welcome the report’s predictions that costs of using this technology are set to fall. Muckle recognised several years ago that clients require capped-costs and we already offer a host of fixed price packages and legal support.
“These advancements make pricing even more transparent and consistent for clients and, far from reducing opportunities for lawyers, the technology has been liberating, aiding junior lawyers’ development by allowing them to engage in more challenging legal work while simultaneously improving cost efficiencies for clients.”