New technologies adding value to client services
Emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain are potential gamechangers for the legal industry
Artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing, and blockchain solutions are some of the more well-known technologies purported as potential gamechangers for the industry. Photograph: iStock
The legal industry is not immune to the disruptive effects of emerging technologies. Artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing and blockchain solutions are some of the more well-known technologies purported as potential gamechangers for the industry. And as in in other sectors, they are enabling change by enhancing capabilities and ensuring efficiency.
According to Joe O’Sullivan, client technology director at A&L Goodbody, technology best enhances the delivery of legal services when it’s part of a service that clients need from their law firm. He says emerging technologies can help make an existing process more efficient, saving time and money, or it can enable a new service or product that meets a client’s need. “As a law firm, we’re particularly interested in how AI technologies add value to the services we deliver to our clients. The growth of the cloud and prevalence of AI capabilities has made it easier for law firms to leverage technologies like machine learning and natural language processing,” he explains.
“By leveraging these AI capabilities, we help our client’s link and identify related documents across very large documentation sets or identify, extract and analyse text in contracts or other documents.”
This narrows down any legal review to just the relevant documents or clauses, helping firms deliver better insights to clients more quickly and in a more streamlined manner than the traditional approaches. “Speed-to-fact is what our clients look for and through the use of artificial intelligence we have sought to turn this into a competitive advantage.” O’Sullivan adds that Goodbody’s Data Projects Group uses best-in-class technology to both reduce time and deliver better outcomes to clients.
Another example is the firm’s recently developed due diligence platform for loan portfolio sales. “This was developed by our legal project management group and brought together a number of different transaction services into one product that puts control of the data back in the client’s hands,” explains O’Sullivan.
The firm is also actively involved with clients on a number of interesting blockchain projects, he adds.
“These are in the digital identity and crypto currency spaces, which are ripe for disruption. Our role in these projects goes beyond advising our clients on the legal implications and principles that underpin blockchain, extending to the active design and structural elements of the solutions,” he says.
Karyn Harty, dispute resolution and litigation partner at McCann FitzGerald, says the impact of emerging technologies on the legal industry is two-fold: not only is it changing how law firms operate, the type of work they do for clients is also changing as a result.
“AI is really impacting people and it can be difficult to deal with – an example of that is deepfakes, which can have a reputational impact. These things are real issues for our clients but they came out of left field.
“If we were having this conversation 12 or 24 months ago, it didn’t really exist but now it’s featuring in the legal advice we are having to give. This is an example where tech is influencing the work we have to do,” she explains.
According to Harty, many law firms have failed to plan accordingly when it comes to digital disruption and says these are the firms that will be left behind. McCann FitzGerald is now seeing its five-year digital transformation strategy come to fruition. “When I see how the market is changing, I am pleased we started when we did – the use of AI and machine learning is so embedded in how we provide legal services as a firm, the market is changing so rapidly. It’s also enabling us to be more resilient, particularly with the big US firms moving into the marketplace.”
Indeed, as technology transforms service delivery models, law firms are creating new roles to reflect this. O’Sullivan says: “Our client technology team, legal project management group and data projects group comprise of lawyers, legal professionals, project managers, technologists, analysts and systems administrators. We use our industry best-practice experience to ensure that technology-centric legal services are delivered effectively and efficiently.”