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Is 2019 the Year the Legal AI Predictions Come True?

Created on January 11, 2019

E-Discovery Market Analyst at Exterro

January is without a doubt the most forward-looking month of the year. Between the turning of the calendar and the long, dark, cold, and wet nights, most people’s minds turn toward the future—specifically, imagining the future. Whether that future is one in which we all read more/eat better/lose weight/exercise daily/learn a foreign language/clean out the garage, or one in which our robot overlords have arrived, January brings out the impulse to make resolutions, and second to that, the impulse to make predictions.

You don’t have to Google hard to find articles making predictions about the future impact of AI on the legal industry—and especially on e-discovery. But one piece of news (yes, news, not opinion or thought leadership) makes it seem like AI has taken its giant leap toward becoming standard practice. Earlier this week, Robert Ambrogi wrote an article in Above the Law about a case in Ontario in which the judge questioned the defendant’s attorneys, who had requested reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and costs, in part on the basis of their failure to use artificial intelligence during their research and preparation for the case.

While the justice did not dive deep into AI technology (in fact, the article deftly points out that “the judge’s supposition about the efficacy of AI… probably did not even hold water”), his ruling asks a question that has certainly cropped up in past Exterro research. What is an attorney’s ethical obligation to understanding (and using) technology appropriately on behalf of his or her clients?

After all, in Exterro’s 4th Annual Federal Judges Survey, retired US Magistrate Judge Hon. John Facciola wondered, “Will 2018 be the year when a judge refers a lawyer to disciplinary authorities because the lawyer was demonstrably incompetent during a discovery conference?”

If a justice with perhaps a lack of technological savvy, but certainly a more-than-adequate grasp on trends in legal technology, calls out attorneys for their failure to use AI during research, how far behind can a mandate to use it in certain cases be?

Since it seems that cost savings and improved accuracy haven’t been enough to motivate lawyers to embrace AI for review, will fear of sanctions do the trick? They (and their attendant costs and embarrassment) certainly have the potential to motivate attorneys to embrace new technology.

It may well be that review is the phase of e-discovery in which artificial intelligence becomes mandatory first, but the power of AI is by no means limited to that phase of the e-discovery process anymore. Just this week, Exterro released its newest innovation in AI. Leveraging the latest in artificial intelligence software and hardware (as did Exterro’s recently released Smart Labeling review technology), Exterro Smart ECA brings the power to the Early Case Assessment phase of e-discovery.

If review has traditionally been a target for creating efficiencies because of its costs, then ECA is a logical second target for the application of AI to achieve time and costs savings. After all, by getting to the facts of a matter more quickly, one can define case strategy and save money in data hosting, review, and production costs. If you want to find out more about Exterro Smart ECA, download our new product brief today.