How Small and Mid-Size Law Firms Are Using AI To Save Time

From R2D2 to H.A.L. 9000, artificial intelligence has featured prominently in popular imagination over the last fifty years. 

And while your firm might not yet have a friendly little robot fetching the coffee, firms of all sizes are actually making good use of artificial intelligence already. These technologies are particularly helpful for small and mid-size firms, who can use them to bolster profit margins by saving time and increasing fee income. 

So, Like a Robot?

Not necessarily. 

We aren’t talking about anthropomorphic assistants here—but we aren’t just talking about software, either. Artificial intelligence is distinguished from software by its ability to learn through experience. The more a particular AI technology is used, the “smarter” it becomes.  

This is particularly helpful for law firms because they engage in a range of tasks that are both specialized and repetitive. One of the great promises of technology is its potential to liberate the workforce from automatic tasks. For law firms, however, these tasks are often highly context-dependent, which means that simple software programs can’t necessarily handle them. 

But just because software can’t handle these tasks yet doesn’t mean that it makes sense to devote precious human hours to tedious activities like filing, organizing, retrieval, and invoicing. After all, when it comes to creatively solving emerging problems, humans still (mostly) have the upper hand.

Enter artificial intelligence. 

Areas of Work

Artificial intelligence is particularly well-suited to tasks that fall in the gray area between automatic and unique—automatic tasks can be performed by simple software, and truly unique tasks require humans. 

Here are some examples. 

Correspondence Tracking

AI tools can be used to capture billable time that is otherwise difficult to track. For example, some lawyers field hundreds of emails a day. While you might remember to bill for the emails that require an hour to draft and research, all the shorter responses add up too. 

At the end of the day, a lawyer can end up with hours of untracked time split across multiple matters. AI technologies can automatically file emails by matter and track the billable time for each account. 

Document Review

Everybody knows how important contracts are, and analyzing them individually can take a lot of time and effort. AI tools can be deployed to analyze contracts in batches and flag individual documents based on the criteria you select. The human in charge of reviewing flagged documents will have saved hours on the front end. These tools can also reduce error and help maintain compliance.

The same is true for document review generally. AI technologies can be trained to spot relevant documents based on known criteria and quickly flag candidates based on the resulting algorithm. This can result in huge savings in personnel hours—and it can also help small firms keep up with larger ones. A giant team of junior associates is no longer necessary to compete!

Document Drafting

AI isn’t only capable of review documents—it can also draft them. This works best for routine documents like pleadings and other court documents. Requirements can be entered by an employee, and the software can generate responses. Although a human should review the results, this should take a fraction of the time required to draft them from scratch. 

AI and You

These technologies can benefit any firm—but for small and mid-size firms, they can make a particularly significant difference to profit margins and workflow. 

Because these firms are less likely to be able to employ a robust junior or administrative staff, repetitive tasks more frequently fall to attorneys, interfering with the practice of the law as well as with partners’ ability to plan for the firm’s future. Investing in AI technology can erase some of that difference. 

If your firm is considering investing in AI, consider ease of use, compliance, and security—security is particularly important for law firms whose ethical requirements may exceed those of other industries and who may be held liable for any breaches.  

The right tools will free you up to be more aggressive and creative on behalf of both your clients and your own bottom line.

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