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At its core, the law is about language. We carefully draft laws to address precisely the issues we want, then painstakingly analyze them to determine what facts fit under that umbrella. Entire cases have been decided based on the meaning of a single word. So it makes sense that much of the most exciting technology emerging for the legal industry is in the realm of language analytics.
There are all kinds of buzzwords attached to this, including "natural language processing" and "technology-assisted document review." They all come down to the same idea: Leveraging artificial intelligence programs to make research and writing easier.
Attorneys are using language analytics in four primary areas of practice:
Some firms are even using it to provide basic legal services to clients using question and answer dialogs. In most cases, these dialogs use a person's answers to generate a document rather than actual legal advice.
In the most basic sense, natural language processors look for patterns. They can compare the draft of your brief to decisions by judges or even briefs from other attorneys. They can categorize the sometimes thousands of files you obtain in e-discovery.
Some programs, like Westlaw Edge, use natural language processing to provide context for research. They allow attorneys to upload whole paragraphs or an entire document to find new case law to support their argument. (Disclaimer: Westlaw Edge is a product of Thomson Reuters, FindLaw's parent company).
For relatively standardized contracts, language analytics programs can break down and assess them against a standard set by the firm. The rule could be other contracts done by firm attorneys or some other source.
Don't worry - the bots aren't taking over the legal profession any time soon. But, in a market where we're increasingly encouraged to "do more with less," taking advantage of technology where appropriate can give attorneys the edge they need.
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