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A Revolution in Legal Services: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the Law

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Anne Tucker, associate professor of law and chair of the technology committee at the Georgia State University College of Law

By Anne Tucker

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the law are dominating legal headlines, a trend at least a year in the making. The facts and foci are different, but the message is clear: a revolution in legal services is underway.

At the heart of the revolution are advancements in automated content review through AI to qualitatively and quantitatively synthesize data. Machine learning, an application of AI, allows for computer systems to improve in document identification through experience without being explicitly programmed by a human being to do so.

Innovations in text mining automate information extraction from documents such as court opinions, discovery documents and contracts. This reduces the time needed for legal analysis, discovery and due diligence.

Efficiency is not the only gain. Automating content review also enhances the quality of routine document retrieval and review. Platforms incorporating these technologies offer sophisticated e-discovery services, due diligence contract reviews, and even legal research and analysis of court precedent.

The combination of AI, machine learning and text mining efficiently converts unstructured data such as documents and their text that compose about 80 percent of all information into usable, structured datasets.

Data analytics applied to these datasets can be used to understand past trends as well as contextualize current strategic choices. For example, data analytics can reveal that a particular judge has denied summary judgment on similar claims in 35 percent of cases. Further, predictive algorithms can identify patterns within the dataset to make mathematical predictions about future outcomes.

Law firms and corporations harnessing these technologies stand to gain a significant competitive advantage. The peril of the technology revolution comes in two forms. First, it will apply new pressures on traditional pricing models for legal services. Second, it poses new obstacles for junior associates and paralegals, whose role in a firm may be jeopardized, but promises opportunity for lawyers and legal professionals incorporating technology into their skill portfolios.

Law schools also are affected by the speed and scope of these seismic changes as they monitor hiring trends and developments in the profession. Law schools must ask how to educate lawyers for this rapidly changing future. Similarly, interested faculty are asking how these advances create opportunities to research and teach the law.

One leader in the space is Charlotte Alexander, associate professor of legal studies and director of the Legal Analytics Lab, a partnership between Georgia State University College of Law and the Robinson College of Business’s Institute for Insight, where she holds joint appointments. The lab leverages advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, programming and high-performance computing to extract data from large numbers of legal documents. The revolution is not solely in efficiency gains, but also in new insights.

Machine learning can identify common characteristics among the data, characteristics that legal experts may not know to examine. For example, a legal expert may know to examine the relationship between timing or content of notice with the success of a claim. Machine learning may identify additional factors, such as word count or tone that enhance the analysis. The combination of expert-identified and machine-identified characteristics builds a robust predictive model.

At Georgia State’s College of Law, students have an opportunity to work in the lab for credit or on a volunteer basis and gain practical experience with cutting-edge technologies. In the coming year, our students also will be able to take a technology-focused e-discovery course and a legal analytics course taught by law and data science faculty.

As technology continues to change and provides great promise and great peril for law students and the legal profession, the College of Law will continue to update its educational offerings to prepare students for the intersection of AI and law.

Anne Tucker, associate professor of law, is chair of the technology committee at the Georgia State University College of Law. Her research focuses on issues related to institutional investors and retirement investors. She is supervising law students working in the Legal Analytics Lab and exploring research collaborations with data scientists on mutual fund and private equity projects.

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