Law firm AI project could provide lawyers with file summaries

Taylor: Summaries would be massively helpful in acquisitions

A renewed artificial intelligence (AI) partnership between personal injury firm Fletchers and Liverpool University could see lawyers provided with summaries to help them understand files.

Dan Taylor, head of integration at Fletchers, said a tool which produced summaries could also be “massively beneficial” when the firm was buying other law firms or books of work.

Fletchers signed a knowledge transfer partnership with Liverpool University in 2016, using £225,000 in public funding from Innovate UK.

This time the law firm will itself sponsor two computer science PhD students to carry out AI research over a period of four years.

They will build on the Structured Information Decision Support Systems (SIDSS) developed by the firm for its clinical negligence department, which help staff decide whether cases should be investigated and taken on.

Noah Milton, newly appointed AI project director at Fletchers, said the firm was currently testing whether one-paragraph case summaries could be generated by analysing a limited number of case documents.

The challenge was to create a summary that was “truly insightful” and could help lawyers build cases.

Mr Milton said he hoped that by next year a tool could be created which summarised the relevant features of a case within two pages “in a meaningful way” for lawyers who had not dealt with it before.

Mr Taylor said that where the firm was buying books of work or other law firms, their data was not as “robust or expansive” as at Fletchers and there was a need for file reviews.

“Having tools to get summaries of cases would be massively, massively beneficial. A large-scale review could be carried out relatively quickly.”

Mr Taylor said that at the moment “a dozen lawyers” had to be taken off their cases to analyse other firms’ caseloads.

“These are very cutting-edge tools, but it’s not a matter of ‘tech for tech’s sake’. Our focus is on what the tools can do to support lawyers.”

Mr Milton said AI tools could also help lawyers with research, drafting letters and putting together bills. Tools which until now have focused on clinical negligence work could later be applied to more general personal injury work.

Professor Katie Atkinson, head of Liverpool University’s computer science team, said the PhD students would be working on the development and delivery of “explainable AI tools for law” and they would benefit from operating in an environment where academic research aimed to meet “real-world challenges in the legal sector.”

Peter Haden, group CEO of Fletchers, added: “We have already shown that AI can be a force for good. We now intend to broaden the scope of AI to give many thousands more injured people the opportunity to benefit from the justice system, even for lower value cases where justice has been harder to access following government reforms and budget cuts.”

Mr Haden said he was “excited by the potential for phase two to move the AI needle much further”.

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