Thanks to the inherent complexity of the legal field, most legal work will never be automated. The layman may think of this as “job security,” but the insiders know the truth: the legal profession is drowning in information overload. AI technology has come very late in the game to help automate a few administrative tasks. We’ll introduce a few software tools that all legal professionals should at least keep an eye on:
Evisort has been described as a kind of Google for contracts and it’s the leading legal software making a buzz. When documents are scanned in, Evisort can then go about extracting the key data points such as provisions, party names, dates, addresses, financial variables, terms, and conditions. It then integrates this data with take-anywhere cloud storage and interfaces with other office software, making it easy to track obligation, liabilities, and key dates. You can also generate reports and condensed summaries off large contracts.
Sound neat? It’s like a virtual paralegal. Evisort was the brainchild of MIT AI research and Harvard Law School advisers that saw a need for reducing the complexity of paperwork in the legal profession. It’s the most exciting legal software project in Silicon Valley, drawing substantial backing from investor groups headed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg.
Evisort is an example of the emerging field of “cognitive computing,” a branch of computer science encompassing everything from facial image recognition to self-driving cars. Language parsing on this level was impossible only a couple of decades ago, and impractical to do in real-time until just recently. However, Evisort can digest a 30-page contract in seconds. After a recent seed funding round of $4.5 million, Evisort is a company to watch.
Evernote is an app that has been around for a while, but not everybody seems to have heard of it. It’s note-taking software which organizes folders of documents together with notes, meeting minutes, to-do lists, and more. Then it makes those notes searchable, so you can dig up that information later. Now for the impressive part: This works for handwritten notes as well. It has built-in handwriting recognition so even a quick jot on your notepad can be scanned into the database.
There are a few case management software packages out there, but TrialWorks is perpetually the most recommended. It’s built for tracking legal cases, from filings to emails. It also helps to compute workload hours and expense tracking. It is very full-featured, seeing as how it’s been developed for over two decades now. While not the most exciting of interfaces, it’s the best recommendation for a litigant-favored miniature operating system.
Clio is pretty much the same idea as TrialWorks, but in a far more modern implementation. It’s case-tracking management software with features built-in to help with hour billing, accounting, deadline management, and more. It is cloud-based, so it can put case files at your fingertips when you’re on the go.
LexMachina is another AI application, this time applying cognitive computing to litigation data. Imagine scanning all the court records of every district and compiling them into data sets to answer questions like “How have 4th-district judges been ruling on patent infringement settlements lately?” Scanning hundreds of thousands of legal documents, LexMachina analyzes the current state of legal business to tell you how well your comparative case may fare.
One of the bottlenecks of legal software design is that both the legal and computing professions are deep, requiring a lifetime of mastery, so it’s very hard to find an expert in both. Only recent advances in Artificial Intelligence have allowed even this much progress. However, at the rate AI is catching on in the legal industry, cognitive computing in the legal field might finally become the norm rather than the exception.