Letting the Zoom cat filter out of the bag

Eleanor Weaver at Luminance explains how Artificial Intelligence is a key digital tool for the legal sector.

A Texan lawyer recently stumbled into the global limelight after accidentally using a cat filter on a Zoom call, causing the unlucky American’s mishap to quickly go viral on social media and appear in news outlets around the world.

Mastering the digital toolkit in the legal sector

There was a time when lawyers wouldn’t have to exclusively rely on teleconferencing tools like Zoom to stay in touch, never mind give evidence to a judge. But today the picture has changed quite dramatically. Technology is embedded in every aspect of our working lives and it’s not always easy to adjust to; with some professionals struggling to navigate these technological changes, we get to enjoy some comedy gold along the way.

But for the traditionally tech-averse legal sector, the past year has kickstarted a digital transformation that would have otherwise taken years. The pandemic has heightened a need for digital access to documents and smart tools to help lawyers collaborate, meaning that advanced AI technology, once at the fringes of the legal practice, is now an essential part of a lawyer’s toolkit.

The new digital toolkit for lawyers

We are living in a world where vast quantities of data are created every day. In the corporate sphere, this is propelled by the everyday use of our computers, the internet, and advances in cheap data storage – particularly in the cloud. This explosion in data creation and retention, from employment contracts and NDAs, to text messages and emails, is having a profound impact on the daily work of lawyers. M&A transactions can contain hundreds – sometimes thousands – of documents for a single review, and criminal cases come to court with tens of thousands of phone calls, text messages, social posts and emails to analyse.

As a result, embracing tools that can analyse large volumes of data at record-breaking speeds is crucial in allowing lawyers to respond to their client and business needs. For instance, in the past few months, AI tools have allowed lawyers to respond to regulatory challenges arising from Brexit, facilitated collaboration amongst remote team members and even allowed defence teams to compile evidence ahead of virtual court hearings.

But as well as offering a way through the crisis, AI is now very much part of the legal industry’s future.

The future of legal work is digital

The implementation of technology solutions is on the rise in the legal sector, with Gartner predicting that by 2025, legal departments will multiply their spend on legal technology three-fold. In this new tech-enhanced era, lawyers will no longer have to waste valuable time or resources with admin-heavy, laborious tasks.

We are already feeling the effects of technology in our personal lives, with AI being used behind the scenes of services we now take for granted. It is therefore only fair that these tech benefits are translated into our professional lives too. AI is allowing lawyers to cut through the repetitive, time-consuming work of reading through piles of documents in order to find key information. Instead, advanced technology frees up time to focus on the high-value, fulfilling advisory and analytical part of the job.

It goes without saying that added efficiencies will become even more crucial as the world faces future uncertainty and businesses face new complex challenges. Clients are demanding better services, quicker turnarounds and different types of advice – McKinsey highlighted that crisis advice, for instance, will be key when pivoting legal services for clients facing post-pandemic uncertainty.

In a world shaken to the core by the wide-reaching effects of COVID-19, the businesses that will thrive — and in doing so help to drive a global economic recovery — will be the ones that embrace innovation and successfully leverage technologies like AI. In fact, a recent study by Accenture found that firms implementing AI see an increase in labour productivity and have the potential to boost profitability by 38% by 2035.

Digitalisation in the age of COVID-19

The last year has certainly marked a turning point in the legal industry’s adoption of technology, and it is therefore not surprising that there have been a few digital hiccups along the way, whether it be a ‘cat lawyer’ or even a congressman with his head upside down during a virtual hearing. But considering the pace of change in technology itself, and the increasing recognition of its importance in the legal sector, it seems that the digital revolution in the legal sector has only just begun.

Eleanor Weaver is an expert in artificial intelligence, machine learning and legal technology. As General Manager of Luminance, the leading artificial intelligence platform which is transforming the work of lawyers, Eleanor oversees UK sales, operations and the company’s continued expansion across the European region.

© Business Reporter 2021

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