“Lawyers still needed” say big firms in tech push, with Clydes mining ‘big data’

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14 December 2017

Wing: clients still appreciate lawyers’ input

City law firm Clyde & Co has teamed up with computing students to undertake data analysis for clients, including predictions of the likelihood of disputes going to trial and potential litigation outcomes.

Meanwhile, Bristol-based TLT has taken a share of a US artificial intelligence (AI) contracts review software supplier.

Both ventures would continue to require human legal advice supporting the technology, the lawyers involved said.

Initial projects earmarked for Clyde’s ‘in-house data analytics lab’ also include using machine learning tools to help predict fraudulent activity in relation to claims.

The lab will use students from the University College London (UCL) computer science department.

Partner Mark Wing said “A large part of the value that law firms provide to their clients is the knowledge and expertise of their lawyers…

“Because much of our knowledge is stored as data, having a data analytics lab provides us with another mechanism for unlocking insight, value and solutions for our clients…

“As the lab develops it is our aim to also involve clients in the work.”

Speaking to Legal Futures, Mr Wing said the work of the lab would extend to the firm’s other offices and as well as the students, would involve the firm’s “own lawyers and business services staff, depending on the project”.

He added that while clients wanted access to technological solutions, they still wanted lawyers to help them make sense of it: “Our clients are always very keen to understand how legal advice and services can be delivered more effectively…

“[But] there is no silver bullet, one size fits all solution… crucially, while data analytics is very important, our clients don’t want to lose the high-quality legal advice that allows them to make sense of the data and make the right decisions.

“Data analysis and technology can’t operate in a vacuum when it comes to the law.”

In September, Clydes launched a consultancy aimed at advising insurers and clients in other sectors on smart contracts, blockchain security and other similar distributed ledger technologies.

Separately, 100-partner TLT, which has offices in six UK cities, including in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as a specialist ship finance team based in Piraeus, Greece, has taken a minority equity share in US-based AI contracts review business LegalSifter.

LegalSifter’s platform offers  a contract negotiation solution aimed at in-house legal and other teams.

The company described the process as combining its “software trained to read text for a specific concept that learns over time [with] in-context advice from TLT’s commercial lawyers [to] help users to identify missing terms and conditions and make changes that protect their interests”.

It continued: “The software completes a contract review within a minute or two, with greater consistency, less risk of errors or missed terms and the assurance that a lawyer is available when needed.”

James Touzel, TLT partner and head of technology, media and telecoms, said: “People and [AI] together will deliver better results than either alone.

“Clients will inevitably have questions that software cannot answer, or they will want the assurance that an expert is available when needed. At the same time, [AI] offers a speed that people cannot possibly deliver.”

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