Business law firm Aird & Berlis LLP is stepping into the world of artificial intelligence to drive efficiencies in its mergers and acquisitions and real estate group.
The firm is working with Toronto-based Diligen, a software company that provides technology in the area of AI-based contract review for law firms and legal teams.
In fact, Aird & Berlis will be seconding one of its M&A lawyers, Aaron Baer, to Diligen to work with its developers and designers on developing new use cases, shaping the product roadmap and training Diligen’s system to identify additional legal concepts.
Aird & Berlis has been engaged with Diligen for about a year now and Baer will go to work with Diligen at its offices in January.
“I had been monitoring what had been going on in the industry and I had conversations with a number of companies including Diligen and we brought them in to present to our lawyers and then went from there,” says Baer. “I think it shows we believe the legal industry is changing and we see certainly there will be some threats but also opportunities, and we see great ways to be involved in that ecosystem and deliver greater value to our clients.”
As Baer notes, due diligence in M&A can be an “incredibly important process that can be document-heavy and painstaking.”
“You need to be capturing these important clauses because at the end of the day your job is to point out these areas of risk for the client and figure out what to do with them. That work can be high volume and so if we can use AI to deliver better value to our clients without sacrificing quality that’s absolutely something we want to do,” he says.
Using machine learning, Diligen cuts contract review time in half by streamlining the process of sorting documents, summarizing contracts and spotting critical provisions.
Diligen claims the platform increases the accuracy of contract analysis by 80 per cent compared to a lawyer manually reviewing contracts alone.
In evaluating the AI product from Diligen, Aird & Berlis managing partner Steven Zakem says Baer made a case for it and the firm adopted it on a pilot basis for several files first and quickly found it would result in “a great deal of efficiency.”
“We wanted to ensure it could be adopted easily and was intuitive and we could make it work in very short order and that turned out to be so,” Zakem says. “It going to be an education for both of us — Diligen is getting the benefit of his legal knowledge and we’re getting to know them better and people in the AI industry, too. It’s an investment well worth making.”
Critics of AI have expressed concerns about it taking work away from junior lawyers, but Zakem says it will actually allow those younger lawyers to do work that will challenge them earlier in their career and they will learn heavier aspects of the law more quickly.
Baer says he sees AI as a way to augment the work being done and is not a replacement for lawyers.
In the real estate practice, large national real estate clients purchasing multiple properties or a property with multiple leases that apply to them can involve document-intensive work with which AI can assist.
“We’re still doing a full review of the materials in due diligence matters, but what it’s doing is allowing us to get a quicker start and do it more efficiently, which allows for better value to the client and not sacrificing on quality,” he says.
Diligen was founded by former corporate lawyer Konrad Pola, who practised securities law, corporate finance and M&A for many years at a large global firm.
“We are excited to collaborate with Aird & Berlis, a leading law firm and an early adopter of cutting-edge AI technology. This win represents a fundamental shift in how legal firms can modernize the manual, painstaking contract review process,” said Pola. “We are proud to partner with Aird & Berlis, and we’re confident that, by using Diligen, Aird & Berlis and its clients will realize significant benefits.”