AI legal research tools save money, time and judges’ emnity

Artificial intelligence has been a popular topic for the past several years and for good reason. Having machines capable of imitating human behaviour and adding dimension to their thinking impacts how we all live, work and deliver client service.

Tara Vasdani

Artificial intelligence has been a popular topic for the past several years and for good reason. Having machines capable of imitating human behaviour and adding dimension to their thinking impacts how we all live, work and deliver client service.

The courts’ longing for the implementation and employ of legal research tools using artificial intelligence with an aim toward reducing clients’ legal fees and creating a more efficient legal process is not new. Since the advent of computer technology, lawyers have rightfully capitalized on its ability to assist in file organization, the quick retrieval of case law and case summaries via websites such as CanLII and, more recently, the use of legal research tools to reduce a conventional lawyer’s workload and save their clients some money.

Having personally piloted a legal research software in Toronto over the last two months called Alexsei, I can say that not only has it saved my clients exorbitant amounts of costs and time, but I have been able to maintain a thriving practice that doesn’t involve any legal research. Talk about a lawyer’s dream.

On top of making lawyers more efficient, these tools are comprehensive and act as litigation insurance by considering every relevant case in any area of law, and they never get tired, hungry or bored.

Tools such as Alexsei use machine learning to identify relevant and up-to-date case law across the web  and scan the internet to discern lawyers’ opinions on these cases as identified in their legal blogs. The software then generates a legal memorandum within 24 hours of being asked a legal research question.

These tools apply AI to relevant past judicial decisions to help lawyers determine the strength of their position on issues ranging across any area of law and in response to any specific legal conundrum. The software then produces a legal research memorandum, and at Alexsei, human lawyers review and finalize the memo’s conclusion, as necessary.

In addition to the obvious time and cost-saving benefits, AI legal research tools allow lawyers to access data-backed support for even the most complex and novel cases.  

“We believe strongly in the need for law firms to think critically about how they are training the future generation of lawyers,” says Mark Doble, CEO at Alexsei. “We should stop having them do things that computers can do, and instead provide them with enhanced growth opportunities, like crafting novel legal arguments and working more closely with clients. We want Alexsei to be maximally affordable for law firms. In fact, most of our clients recoup the entirety of their Alexsei bill by apportioning the cost to their clients, and by doing so, also save their clients money.” 

Machine learning, which is the subset of AI used by programs like Alexsei, consists of computers using algorithms to analyze large data sets. After noticing patterns and learning from them, these computers can then make certain predictions.

In Cass v. 1410088 Ontario Inc., 2018 ONSC 6959, Justice Alan Whitten assessed a defendant’s use of third-party research software in considering its plea for disbursements expensed on legal research. Not only did Whitten reprimand the defendant for its failure to use free legal research services such as CanLII, but he went even further to find that AI legal research tools should have been employed and would have “significantly reduced” the defendant’s legal fees. A good portion of many lawyers’ time — and, therefore, what their clients are paying for — is spent combing through case law and students’ memos to prepare letters of opinion. AI tools offer the promise of automating the search processes and then delivering summaries of pertinent information, saving their human users hours of labour and their clients significant fees.

Although the legal industry continues to demonstrate a significant resistance to technological development, the concern is not in the industry’s resistance. Before long, clients whose lives will be affected by the use of AI in sectors from retail to media to customer service will expect the use of these systems in their lawyers’ practices. After all, would you today type your random daily question into Yahoo or head straight to Google? And how negligent would you be if you did the former?

With machines able to quickly sift through reams of data, lawyers are also able to spend more of their time personally interacting and crafting strategies with their clients. When thinking about the benefits of using AI in a legal practice, a few things come to mind:

  1. AI produces more accurate and better-quality work;
  2. Investing in AI leads to more billables and fewer writeoffs, creating higher revenues;
  3. AI legal research tools lead to time savings for lawyers and thus cost savings for clients: Computers are exponentially faster than humans at processing certain types of information and are generally more accurate;
  4. Lawyers are then able to focus their time and energy on higher-level tasks, and knowing that an AI has checked their work beforehand also gives them more confidence in their work, allowing them to take risks and be more creative;
  5. Allowing software to do these mundane jobs reduces lawyers’ stress and allows them to focus on intellectual analysis, creativity in argument and strategic problem-solving. The end result is that they are happier and suffer less from stress and burnout; and
  6. AI is better for client satisfaction.

AI-driven legal research has the potential to reduce the time needed to prepare quality research. At some point, the use of artificial intelligence will be standard fare. Technology continues to affect areas in every walk of life, including the law, and the benefit of investing in it now is not only that we as lawyers carry a competitive advantage in an over-saturated market but that these programs are extremely inexpensive because of their infancy.

In today’s legal landscape, clients are demanding the best advice possible at a reasonable cost and rightfully so. The internet has not only put information at our fingertips but given us tools that clients now expect. Firms that adopt AI legal research software are being proactive at ensuring their clients walk away knowing they have received the highest-quality legal advice without paying excessive legal fees.

What’s the result of adopting a legal research tool for your practice? Well, when that one client does tell all of their friends that you used a software solution to answer their legal question and it cost only $80 or 30 minutes of an articling student’s time, you’re going to be their default lawyer.   

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