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LPOs: Bridging the Gap between Artificial and Human Intelligence

Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence (“AI”) as “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour.” AI has become ubiquitous, with headlines touting its benefits across a wide spectrum of industries. Countless articles, conferences and summits have been dedicated to it – a recent internet search for “artificial intelligence” brought back 122,000,000 hits. AI has seen a growing prominence in the legal industry, which originally focused on its potential to reduce the costs associated with document review in e-Discovery. More recently, it has expanded into contracts drafting and management, as well as compliance monitoring, risk analysis/outcome prediction, e-billing and jury selection. But has AI reached its full potential in these applications? Has it been able to reach the same level of understanding and ability to intuit, especially when compared to specialised human intelligence honed over years of practice? If not, what are the implications for AI, as it currently stands, on the provision of legal services? This overview will focus on how legal process outsourcing providers ("LPOs") can help bridge the gap between AI and human intelligence in managed document review and contracts projects, to ensure that legal departments receive the full benefits of the AI applications they choose to deploy.

AI originally entered the e-Discovery toolkit in the form of predictive coding, also known as technology-assisted review (“TAR”), and in its latest iteration, continuous active learning. It was touted as having the capability to revolutionise the industry and review technology providers racing to bring their own offering to market. Unfortunately, marketing did not meet reality. Noted e-Discovery expert Maura Grossman offered the following assessment in Artificial Lawyer in 2016:

"Many [vendors and service providers] overpromised, overcharged and underdelivered. Sadly, the net result was a hype cycle with its peak of inflated expectations and its trough of disillusionment. e-Discovery is still far too inefficient and costly, either because ineffective so-called 'TAR tools' are being used, or because, having observed the ineffectiveness of these tools, consumers have reverted back to the Stone Age methods of keyword culling and manual review."

One option to increase the effectiveness of these tools and realise the associated cost benefits is to leverage an LPO as a managed document review provider. In a TAR workflow, the law firm’s subject matter expert trains the tool and the technology vendor runs the process. An LPO can add exceptional value by applying a unique combination of substance and technology to allow for a more informed analysis of the effectiveness of the process. Their managed review teams, having gained institutional knowledge over many years and matters, understand how data behaves across clients and industries (as opposed to just search term or keyword hit results) and how documents fit into the theory of a case. As such, they are well positioned to assess the results of a TAR process and recommend refinements. That human intelligence, combined with search expertise, statistical analysis and process rigour that LPOs apply across matters, allows them to assist in creating efficient and well-designed workflows that account for technology’s limitations or other unique aspects of the review.

A similar argument can be made for utilising LPOs to maximise the potential benefits from integrating AI into contracts workflows. There are many AI contract tools in the market. AI currently facilitates capturing metadata from agreements and pre-populating selected fields in a central repository. Structuring this inherently unstructured data opens up new avenues for enhanced tracking and reporting. AI is also increasingly being deployed to streamline negotiations by comparing internal forms and templates to those of third parties and reconciling the differences.

A successful technology implementation for contracts includes selecting and configuring the right tool, developing the right processes behind it and selecting the right people to manage it after it goes live. This requires properly training the tool and building in appropriate due diligence and quality assurance processes. LPOs are particularly well suited for this. They have demonstrated expertise in automating processes and tasks and can ensure successful training and implementation based on years of accumulated knowledge. They understand how organisations manage their contracting function, are familiar with numerous contract types and forms and have extensive experience with the legal substance required to properly train the tool. LPOs can identify workflow-specific metrics and analytics upfront and their mature quality processes are geared to ensuring a high-quality work product. Finally, their bandwidth and ability to scale enables them to properly implement, onboard and train, allowing in-house counsel to focus on higher-level tasks and strategy.

Law departments are increasingly focused on AI to help them improve quality and efficiency. However, for the time being, AI tools still require human intervention and intelligence to maximise their effect. By leveraging the experience and expertise of LPOs, law departments can increase the benefits of AI through a more thoughtful and targeted implementation of these tools.