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Beyond the Hype in AI: Implementing and Maintaining Artificial Intelligence FTW

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ILTACON Series Explores Myths, Realities of AI and Automation in the Law

AI, take two.

Following its artificial intelligence series kickoff on Monday, experts gathered twice more during ILTACON (International Legal Technology Association Conference) panels to explore AI from the perspective of implementation and conduct a frank discussion on the way law firms and legal departments are achieving results for their organizations today.

“To implement AI in a large law firm environment requires firm leadership with foresight that is committed to making ‘innovation’ an action word, not just a marketing phrase. It takes an upfront investment of time and money, a mindful business plan, a willingness to learn and adapt as you go, and pretty much abolishing a compensation model based on an hourly rate,” said Martin Tully, co-chair of the data law practice at Akerman and a panelist at the AI kickoff session entitled “The Myths, Realities and Future of Artificial Intelligence and Automation in the Law (Part 1 of 3).” “This is the way of the future, and as a profession, we have to not only embrace it, we need to lead the charge because it is in the best interests of our clients to do so.”

For example, people were initially skeptical about Uber until a critical mass of people began to embrace the ride-sharing concept. Now, it is a transportation staple for 40 million riders per month.

To get started, we weren’t looking for a particular tool,” said Jonathan Talbot, director of IT enterprise systems at DLA Piper and a panelist for the final session “Artificial Intelligence in Law: From Theory to Practice (Part 3 of 3).” “We were looking to improve our process. Our clients were telling us ‘due diligence takes too long and it costs too much’ and we know that we must listen to what our clients are telling us.”

Julian Tsisin, a legal technology and systems expert in Google’s legal department, was also a panelist for the final session and gave the audience blunt advice surrounding the hype associated with AI

From a client perspective, I don’t think anyone cares whether you use AI or ML (machine learning),” he said. “They are looking for efficiency gains and reduced costs. If you can achieve that through an add-in to Microsoft Office then great, let’s do that. However, because of the hype, clients who see firms that are willing to invest in emerging technologies like AI feel an almost intangible feeling and respect for the firm in terms of how good they are at utilizing technology – and that’s important too.”

While there may be less hype around AI over the next 12 months, don’t expect to stop hearing about it, said Alex Lazo, CIO of Mullen Coughlin.

“It is a very real part of life now, especially beyond the boundaries of the legal vertical. AI is one of those things that’s really easy to do incorrectly,” Lazo explained. “Researchers are finding examples of behaviors that AI exhibits that are difficult to explain and have to be analyzed. I predict this problem will only become more complex and difficult to quantify/explain.”

Without an underlying business case and the accompanying proof points, it won’t be possible to get buy-in from stakeholders, according to Ian Nolan, CEO of legal spend analytics company Brightflag.

“It sounds like an obvious point, but you would be surprised how many projects don’t meet these criteria. AI projects are aimed at cutting man-hours and making work more efficient,” Nolan said. “For some law firms, which still rely on maximizing billable hours, it may not make economic sense to adopt these initiatives. This has created some friction for many firms in adopting progressive strategies.”

Looking ahead, Nolan said the hype will die down as actual usage will increase dramatically.

“AI is enabling many exciting changes in the industry, but at the end of day it is just an enabling technology like any other previously,” he added. “The term AI will ultimately start to disappear as it permeates all the technologies we use every day.”

Ron Friedman, partner at consulting firm Fireman & Company and a panelist during the “Artificial Intelligence in Law: AI in Action (Part 2 of 3)”session, said that given the big potential, many firms are, at a minimum, tracking AI developments so they can leap-in at an appropriate moment, while others are more actively exploring.

“That eagerness to stay current and the willingness to invest is what separates AI from prior practice technologies. I’ve been doing legal tech for almost three decades. None of the prior big transformations I’ve lived through — PCs, local area networks, the Internet, the rise of social media, or the advent of cloud computing – have grabbed legal market attention the way AI has,” Friedman said. “There is some evidence today that the market rewards early adoption, but the case to pursue AI for every firm may not be obvious.”

He added, “Like many other business opportunities, the attractiveness will vary based on practice- and organization- specific considerations.”

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