Blog - Big stories

By César Mejías on 07 November 2017

Changing times in the legal services industry

Spanish law firm Garrigues is developing its version of a Spanish speaking artificially intelligent robot, says CIO César Mejías.

The times they are a-changin’ wrote Nobel prizewinner Bob Dylan more than half a century ago. What Dylan probably didn’t know was that his message would be even more significant in the second half of the 21st century and would even hold true in an industry as traditional, at least on paper, as the legal profession. The fact is that we can already see these changes. Innovations in technology such as artificial intelligence, big data, analytics and machine learning, which are a reality in other sectors, are also reaching the legal services industry—at lightning speed, it must be said—and are here to stay. At law firms like Garrigues, a large part of the work performed entails the movement of large amounts of data needing preliminary classification and analysis that requires (or I should say required) many hours of manual work, of little real value, which does not always call for extensive experience or broad technical expertise. This is a fertile plain for new artificial intelligence solutions to grow and develop.

Much progress to be made

To date, in our experience at Garrigues, we have encountered two types of tools: firstly, those capable of analysing a diverse mix of documents and classifying them by type, format and language and, not only that, capable of detecting discrepancies in documents that may initially appear similar. These applications are undoubtedly of great interest to lawyers. Secondly, tools that can automatically review a large volume of documents and export data—for example, to a spreadsheet—so that they can then be easily analysed. These solutions are today a reality and are within the reach of all legal services firms. However, all that glistens is not gold; there is still a long way to go and much progress to be made. 

Time reduced

We still cannot conceive of a robot capable of entirely eliminating the need for human interaction in these processes, although some manufacturers of these artificial intelligence systems may take a different view. Our experience, however, is that while time savings are evident, manual work cannot be entirely eliminated, at least not for the time being. Nonetheless, the advantages of these tools are clear and undeniable: time is considerably reduced by between 20 per cent and 35 per cent, according to our trials, and it is evident that these systems will enable us to offer better quality services to our clients. An obvious example of this can be seen in due diligence processes, where an extremely high volume of information is handled. With these tools we can review all of the documentation provided more quickly and more accurately.

Spanish-language solutions

Lastly, the importance of language for all AI tools should be noted. The majority of products currently available on the market only “speak” English. We are an international law firm with extensive presence in Latin America and in Spain, meaning that a huge volume of the documents we handle are in Spanish. This has forced us to look for Spanish-language solutions, which is no easy task. While it is true that tools have begun to appear in recent months that do cater to this need, when we began exploring the market, almost three years ago, there was nothing. That is why, in late 2016, we embarked upon the design, together with the Knowledge Engineering Institute (IIC) at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, of what we proudly call “our first robot”: Proces@ is a tool capable of indexing and analysing the documents we receive from the courts or from our clients in almost any format (audio, video, text images, electronic documents, etc.). It is already being used by our lawyers.

Changing times

In short, changes, “ch-ch-changes” as David Bowie would say. Changes that the legal services industry cannot ignore. Our clients are changing the way they do business and we must change with them. We must take advantage of the support afforded by technology and by artificial intelligence in particular.