In our article “Patent Lawyers, Patent Filings, and a Pandemic” we talked about ways that law firms could make the best use of the time freed up by a pandemic-caused slowdown in business. And, In this article, you’ll learn about different AI tools for law firmsand their application that may significantly impact your law practice.
One of the suggestions we made was improving your processes by taking stock of your legal tech.
In this article we’re not looking at what’s new for the conventional technology used by all law firms – email, time and expense tracking, billing, document storage, etc. Rather we’re looking at new technologies that have the potential to change the way your firm gets work done.
Legal Tech Background
Law firms are historically slow to adopt new technologies. With most firms still on a bill by the hour system, there isn’t much incentive to become more productive, and the potential costs of an error are so high it makes firms reluctant to try something new in which they don’t have 100% confidence.
Despite that reticence, legal tech has attracted a lot of venture capital investment: over $1 billion in 2018 and over $1.3 billion in 2019.
Many of the new technologies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up tasks that have traditionally been performed by lawyers or paralegals. The stakes are sufficiently high in law that there’s little chance that lawyers will be replaced by machines, but the improvement in productivity could reduce the number of lawyers needed to get the work done.
Law firms will be under pressure to adopt some of these technologies as corporate clients could adopt the technology themselves and bring more work in-house.
Prior Art Search
Finding relevant prior art is important in both drafting patents and patent litigation. There are companies such as AI Samurai applying AE to patent search to speed up the time needed to conduct a search while improving the quality of the search.
Patent offices are particularly interested in this application of technology as they are under pressure to do a good job on prior art searches before granting a patent, yet they are under time and staffing pressures. The UK patent office published a feasibility study on AI-assisted patent prior art searching.
Patent Drafting Tools
Writing patents is a very exacting art – with a lot plays where errors can result in disqualification, or sloppiness can result in a weaker patent than optimal. There are AI tools designed to help improve the efficiency and quality of the process of drafting patents.
Lexis Nexis PatentOptimizer is designed to both help improve efficiency in the patent drafting workflow and to provide quality control to make sure the application has broad, defensible claim sets. The software lets you check claims for court rulings, proper citation format, consistency, etc.
ClaimMaster is another widely used tool for doing quality control on patent applications. The software helps find errors in claims, specification, and figures. It can also find claim terms that are not supported in the specification, can find missing antecedents in claims, and can fill out the USPtO forms for you.
Patent Portfolio Evaluation
Helping a client evaluate their overall patent portfolio can be a daunting task for large portfolios. Anaqua’s AcclaimIPincludes tools to evaluate the strength of individual patents, as well as tools to help understand the competitive and technology landscapes. It also provides prosecution analytics which can help understand the past behavior of a particular patent examiner.
IPWe makes its Analytics tool available for free. This AI-driven tool has data on over 59 million patents and provides both a Quality score that is a rough indicator of whether the patent may be commercially valuable, and a Validity score that indicates how likely the patent is to survive court challenges.
How many hours did you spend as an associate reviewing contract after contract? There are companies such as LawGeexthat use AI to review contracts, flagging unusual items that an attorney should take a look at. In tests LawGeex’s product did a better job than human lawyers: it identified 94% of the issues in a contract, versus 85% for humans. And it took 30 seconds to review a document that took a lawyer 92 minutes.
Luminance has a similar AI-driven product aimed at speeding up the due diligence process.
For both LawGeex and Luminance, the idea isn’t that the software takes the place of lawyers – rather that it allows lawyers to focus on the parts of the task that really require human expertise and leave the drudgery to the computer.
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e-discovery is another popular application of AI. This is one of the most useful AI tools for law-firms that helps to reviews, process, tag, and produce e-documents as a part of the investigation.
Sifting through thousands and thousands of emails or electronic documents in a complex litigation once required an army of lawyers, but with the application of machine learning and AI the process can be sped up and made more accurate.
Back in 2016 the Southern District of New York federal court opined that it is “black letter law that where the producing party wants to utilize TAR for document review, courts will permit it.” OpenText has an end-to-end eDiscovery product that integrates the application of AI for review purposes to the management of the workflow, all in one product.
Some companies, such as Relativity, are integrating case strategy with e-discovery to allow lawyers to link facts to evidence and build their case over time.
Legal analytics is another hot area. Specifically relating to IP litigation, Lex Machina has a product applying big data to help answer questions such as whether a particular judge is likely to grant or deny a specific motion, or whether a judge is more or less likely to find infringement than another judge. The software can also provide a wealth of data on opposing counsel and the parties in a suit.
One Israeli patent firm, Ehrlich and Fenster, developed a rules-based expert system to help entrepreneurs figure out at what stage they should be talking to a patent lawyer. They hope to generate new business by providing something of value to start-ups – the software – before there’s a client relationship.
Patent Drawing Software
It may not be AI-driven, but it’s the part of the business of interest to us: software to help with the creation of patent drawings. This technology is somewhat more mature; see our article “Ten Patent Drawing/Illustration Software Packages” for a guide.
Legal tech is NOT just about improving productivity. It’s also about improving the quality of your work product. There are some tasks, such as document review, e-discovery, and prior art searches, where a computer can do a better job than a human at least on the first pass. The future of the legal profession is very much going to be a partnership between human brains and artificial intelligence tools.
Let me know in the comment box if you’re using any other AI tools for law firms to boost the overall performance.