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Part I: Artificial Intelligence & its Impact
on Legal Technology: To Boldly Go Where No
Legal Department Has Gone Before!

by Sterling Miller

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”1

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Some of the best scenes in the television show “Star Trek” (the original version) are those involving the crew members (usually Mr. Spock) asking the computer a question and the computer spitting out the answer in the form of a conversation. When I was younger, I thought this was utterly amazing and, of course, I wanted my own computer that would answer any question I cared to ask it. This was around the time when typewriters were king and the first calculators (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division only) were coming on the market, so needless to say, a computer that could talk and interact was quite a ways off. Yes, I’m a bit creaky and have been around awhile, but I am pleased to say that I have never been a “get off my lawn” type of person when it comes to technology in the legal profession or otherwise. To the contrary, I have always embraced it, believing that technology can help lawyers do more, do it better, and do it at lower cost. So why the technology history tour?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is just beginning to come into its own in terms of its use by lawyers and within the legal industry. What’s the impact of this technology on the legal profession? Within the next few years, we will find ourselves on the cusp of a revolution in the practice of law led by the adoption of artificial intelligence – in particular, by in-house lawyers. Much like email changed the way we do business every day, AI will become ubiquitous – an indispensable assistant to practically every lawyer. Those that do not adopt and embrace the change will get left behind. Those that do will ultimately find themselves freed up to do the two things there always seems to be too little time for: thinking and advising.

Like many, you may be wondering about what AI products are out there or on the way, and how you use them. Welcome to the first of a four-part series on artificial intelligence and its impact on the legal industry, specifically how in-house legal departments will be affected by it. Over the course of the series I will discuss what AI is, how it can be used by legal departments, and what you – as an in-house lawyer – should be doing next regarding AI.

What is artificial intelligence?

Before we discuss the impact of AI on the legal profession, it’s important to define it. The term artificial intelligence can be a bit misleading, at least when it comes to application in the legal field. No, we’re not talking about some type of walking and talking robot from “The Terminator” with a briefcase and tie (though that would be pretty cool). Perhaps a better description, and one that is catching on, is cognitive computing. This means teaching computers how to learn, reason, communicate, and make decisions. Cognitive tools are trained vs. programmed – learning how to complete tasks traditionally done by people, where the focus is looking for patterns in data, testing the data, and finding/providing results. Or, as I like to think about it, a research assistant who can sift through the deck and tell you what it found. Why is this important? Because, according to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are being generated every day. In case you’re not up-to-date on a quint, that’s 2,500,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.2 Every day. The ability of any human to review and comprehend that level of data without help is the definition of impossible.

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Sterling Miller spent over 20 years as in-house counsel, including as general counsel for Sabre Corporation and Travelocity. He currently serves as Senior Counsel for Hilgers Graben PLLC focusing on litigation, data privacy, compliance, and consulting with in-house legal departments. He is CIPP/US certified in data privacy. You can follow his blog “Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel” at www.TenThings.net and follow him on Twitter® @10ThingsLegal. The American Bar Association is publishing a book of his blog posts later this year/early 2017. His first book, The Evolution of Professional Football, was published by Mill City Press in December 2015 and is available on Amazon® and at www.SterlingMillerBooks.com.

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Apple is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. Amazon is a trademark of Amazon Services LLC.

1 “Star Trek” (TV Series 1966-1969)

2How Artificial Intelligence is Transforming the Legal Profession,” ABA Journal, posted April 1, 2016 (Julie Sobowale).

3Artificial Intelligence Looms Larger in the Corporate World,” The Wall Street Journal, posted January 11, 2017 (Steven Norton).

4Tomorrow’s Business Leaders Learn to Work with AI,” The Wall Street Journal, posted November 30, 2016 (John Simons).

5 id.

6 id.

7Cognitive Computing: Transforming Knowledge Work,” Thomson Reuters “AnswersOn” Blog, posted January 24, 2017 (Dr. Khalid Al-Kofahi).

8Cognitive Computing: Under the Hood,” Thomson Reuters “AnswersOn” Blog, posted January 27, 2017 (Bob Arens).

9CIO Explainer: What is Artificial Intelligence,” The Wall Street Journal, posted July 18, 2016 (Steven Norton).