From costs to validating advice – litigators see role for AI

Worth: Firms need structured data

Artificial intelligence (AI) will have multiple uses for litigators, including helping with costs budgeting and validating advice to clients, a leading partner at Eversheds Sutherland has predicted.

Another senior lawyer said smaller firms without sufficient data may need to join forces to make the best of the technology.

The comments came in a panel discussion about the impact of artificial intelligence on litigation held after the Harbour Litigation Funding lecture, which was delivered by Lord Justice Birss.

Paul Worth, outgoing global co-head of litigation at Eversheds Sutherland, said he could see litigators using data first to improve costs budgeting and prediction – “Show me the last 50 cases we did that were very similar to this” – secondly to produce more meaningful insights for marketing purposes, and thirdly to validate advice to clients.

“You have an inexperienced client, you receive an invitation to mediate and you say to them, ‘We think you should mediate. In our experience, it has a decent chance of being resolved on the day’.

“That is fine and that is what we say. It is far more powerful to be saying, ‘We have done 100 mediations at Eversheds in the last six months; 70 of them settled on the day, 10 of them settled within a week, 20 of them did not settle’.

“That does not mean that you have an 80% chance of settling, but it is a useful datapoint. I can use that to validate my proposition that the client should pursue a certain course.”

This would require firms to have structured data, however, which few do at the moment, he said.

Belinda Hollway, London head of class action firm Scott + Scott, suggested that, particularly for smaller firms like hers, data sharing might be needed through a third party with appropriate confidentiality protections to ensure there was enough of it.

She continued: “If I see in my firm that a case costs roughly this much, but there is a fantastic product that tells me other firms seem to be doing the same kind of case more cheaply, or they seem to be settling 70% of these and we are only settling 60%, it would beg some real questions.

“Are my years of practice and my gut instinct really better than what the data would tell me?”

Edward Bird, chief executive of litigation analytics company Solomonic, said that, in time, large language models like ChatGPT were “just going to be smarter than we are”.

He said: “That is why it is even beyond revolutionary. I try to think about it almost anthropologically. Our relationship with technology has always been that we are the master of it, but that is genuinely going to change. The machine will be smarter. It will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every case that has been ruled on in English courts.”

Looking more broadly at data, Mr Bird said law firms had the opportunity to build complete pictures of their clients by taking data from multiple sources and then producing “forecasts of what kind of services they will need over the next 18 to 36 months”.

Referencing also Birss LJ’s defence of fixed costs, Ellora MacPherson, managing director and chief investment officer at Harbour, said: “The rules of the game are set to change dramatically in the coming years, for smaller cases driven by the rigour of fixed costs and for larger ones by technology.

“We see significant opportunities for Harbour in backing not only cases themselves but also law firms in supporting them to adapt – because it is fast becoming clear that this is one trend that nobody can ignore.”

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