Whether it’s a new employment contract, a rental contract, or sale contract, it needs to be checked before signing. Everyone knows the struggle of working through the dreaded small print, searching for pitfalls hidden in the tiniest details, and trying to make sense out of the bizarre language of law.
In fairness to the layman, contract review is also a hustle for lawyers themselves. In 2014, commercial lawyer Noori Bechor got sick of the fact that 80 percent of his work was spent reviewing contracts. He figured the service could be done much cheaper, faster, and more accurately by a computer. Hence, he started LawGeex, a platform for automatized contract review.
On LawGeex, users upload a contract and, within a short period of time (an hour on average), they receive a report that states which clauses don’t meet common legal standards. The report also details any vital clauses that could be missing, and where existing clauses might require revision. All of this is calculated by algorithms.
Today, a majority of LawGeex’s clients are corporate legal departments. According to LawGeex, its users have reported they are saving about 80 percent of the time they normally use on contract review and get deals closed three times faster. Not to mention that they are also saving 90 percent of the typical cost of outside council. The contract review platform is just the start for LawGeex. “Our goal for the next couple of years is to automate the entire legal world,” says Shmuli Goldberg, LawGeex’s VP Marketing.
From a chatbot that gives advice about whether you have to pay your parking ticket, to an algorithm that predicts US Supreme Court decisions, applications for using artificial intelligence in tandem with legal service are mushrooming. Under the slogan “democratizing legal service” these applications aim to facilitate access to legal advice without paying historically high fees for a lawyer.
Despite what one may think, the discussion on artificial intelligence in law is already more than 30 years old – take for instance the Stanford Law Review article in 1970 “Some Speculation about Artificial Intelligence and Legal Reasoning,” or the first “International Conference on AI and Law” in 1987 at Northeastern University in Boston. For some time, there have been smart brains fundamentally re-examining the legal profession. However it is only recently that these topics have stepped out of the realm of academia.
Between 2011 and 2016 global legal tech companies raised $739M in aggregate funding. Those numbers are still low compared to those of Healthtech or Fintech, which go into the billions, but legal tech is poised for new growth. For example, AngelList records the number of listed legal tech companies as 15 in 2009 compared to 1,164 today. IBM even discovered the field. In 2016, the company partnered with certain universities looking to use its supercomputer and Jeopardy! champion Watson to create a computer lawyer.