Legal Market Embraces AI: Now Moving Beyond the Early Adopter Phase

The Legal Market Embraces AI: Now Moving Beyond the Early Adopter Phase is the second post on Dialogue from London-based Richard Tromans, publisher of Artificial Lawyer. As Richard points out data of this kind rapidly dates, such is the pace of change. Nevertheless, for many (most?) readers, this is hot news.

The number of major law firms that publicly acknowledge making use of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven systems is now at least 22. The level of adoption of AI also suggests we have now moved beyond the ‘early adopter’ phase and are seeing a broader use of the technology.

Data compiled by Artificial Lawyer found there are 9 based in the US, 9 based in the UK, 2 in Canada and 1, Dentons, that has a significant presence in both North America and the UK, but is international in terms of headquarters. There is also one European firm so far that is publicly known.

The firms were making use of cognitive AI, research-focused AI and intelligent expert systems, with firms using cognitive engines with machine learning capability as the vast majority of the publicly named group so far. Also, in some cases the firms listed had worked with more than one AI company.

The types of law firm taking up AI spanned from the largest commercial law firms on the planet, such as Dentons, DLA Piper, Reed Smith, Clifford Chance and Linklaters, to medium size City firms such as Macfarlanes in the UK, to the 240-lawyer, Davies, in Canada.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 12.17.21This suggests broad use of AI across several major legal markets and among law firms operating in multiple international markets, with strengths in many different practice groups and sectors. In short, this use of AI goes far beyond any one particular market hotspot, or individual practice group.

Moreover, the 22-firm public figure is perhaps far less than the true number. This is because several clients of AI companies will not have made public their use of such systems. Also, some smaller and newer AI companies in the legal sector may not have yet publicised deals they have with certain law firms, for example,  because they are still currently in a testing and pilot phase with those clients. In which case, the figure could change substantially.

It is also logical to expect to see more major firms take up AI systems. Observation of other important trends in the commercial legal sector tends to suggest that law firms never want to allow too many of their peers to develop a strategic advantage, whether this is driven by technology or not.

In addition, there are several law firms that are developing their own sophisticated cognitive and legal research systems independently of the main AI companies. Whether these would be classed as ‘AI’ systems is still unclear, as we have not seen working models shown to the public yet. But, market information suggests that at least one major firm has already built its own advanced cognitive system.

Aside from law firm clients, some of the leading AI companies have also worked with in-house legal teams at banks and as well with government in-house legal teams. And, perhaps most famously, Deloitte, the $35.3bn revenue accountancy and consulting firm, has also made use of AI systems provided by external suppliers.

And finally, following research conducted by Artificial Lawyer it would appear that there are at least five other AI companies now seeking to build a client base in the legal sector, beyond the most well-known names such as RAVN, Kira, LEVERTON, ROSS and Neota Logic. This may also add to the total number of law firms using AI.

In conclusion, it would appear that 2016 is a truly watershed year for the deployment of AI systems in the legal sector and that we are now moving beyond the ‘early adopter’ phase that all new technology usually goes through and into a period of broader adoption.


Richard Tromans copyRichard Tromans Richard is the founder and principal of London-based TromansConsulting, serving law firms with strategic input through strategic intelligence, thought leadership reports and evidence-based strategic insights.

The Legal Market Embraces AI: Now Moving Beyond the Early Adopter Phase was first published on Artificial Lawyer on 30 August 2016.

AI and the New Business Model, Richard’s first post on Dialogue, was published on 29 June 2016. 

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Jeff Carr

Interesting, and promising, but how specifically are firms using AI to benefit the customer? Is this changing the “what” is being sold (inputs v outputs) or the “how” the work is billed (activity v results) or simple the “who” is doing work in the traditional way under the traditional business model.