Throughout 2023 and beyond, we are watching the relentless progression of digital technology transform our professional lives. The legal field is no exception.
Artificial intelligence (AI), specifically, is having a tremendous impact on legal operations.
From AI-powered drafting and reviews to automated client communications, AI has a hand in almost every stage of the contract lifecycle management (CLM) process.
By stitching together a few intuitive and intelligent tools, you can build your very own AI legal assistant.
That’s exactly what we’re going to discuss in this guide:
- What is a legal AI Assistant?
- What can an AI legal assistant do, and how can it help with contract management?
- What are the benefits of using an AI assistant?
- What AI assistant tools are there?
What is a legal AI assistant?
A legal AI assistant is any software platform (or collection thereof) that uses artificial intelligence to improve or automate aspects of legal work.
Contract reviews are a common example of where a legal AI assistant can be of huge value. Take VerifAI by SpotDraft, our AI contract review assistant.
VerifAI (available as a Microsoft Word add-in) can take lengthy agreements and review them to highlight:
- Key clauses to note
- Highlight risks and non-compliance issues
- Provide explanations as to why requirements have or haven’t been met
- Suggest language to incorporate your position into the contract
What can an AI legal assistant do, and how can it help with contract management?
AI legal assistants can handle a number of important legal tasks.
As AI is a fairly new and developing technology, we expect AI assistants to increasingly help with legal ops tasks in the coming years.
“I’ve been in Silicon Valley over the last 25 years, watching it go from consumer electronics and hardware companies to software-as-a-service and now ChatGPT and artificial intelligence. It’s been pretty exciting seeing where things are going and just being part of the history of Silicon Valley.”
~ Doug Luftman, ex-DGC, DocuSign
The Key to Success as an In-House Legal Counsel & Leader
#1 Contract drafting
Contract authoring is one of the most common tasks that uses the cutting-edge AI functionality of modern legal tech to speed up contract lifecycles.
Legal professionals use an AI assistant to build templates from existing documents, draft contracts using natural language (think GPT-4 from OpenAI), and automatically adjust dynamic clauses based on customer information (through integrations with other tools like CRMs).
#2 Client communications
Law firms can save time using an AI legal assistant to draft basic client communications.
For instance, a legal practice might automate sending upcoming renewal reminders, using an AI lawyer to draft the actual email and streamline the process.
However, you should note that a legal expert (an actual human) should always be involved when giving legal advice. AI can draft the initial communications, but it's wise to have a legal department member do a final review before hitting send.
Finally, an AI legal assistant can also support the redlining process once it has completed its document analysis.
It can highlight irrelevant information, pick up on potential legal issues and risks (like risks to data privacy or intellectual property), and write suggestions for editing specific clauses.
Additionally, you can have your AI assistant write summaries of what was redlined so you can quickly interpret the recommended changes in plain English.
#4 Contract reviews
AI legal assistants can review documents using natural language processing (NLP) to read and interpret agreements on your behalf.
Some tools have generative AI (like ChatGPT), allowing you to ask a chatbot legal questions about a specific document.
For example, you might ask, “What is our risk exposure if we sign this agreement?” The assistant will then run its contract analysis process and summarize the key risks.
Having AI attend to contract reviews can also help legal teams collaborate more effectively and efficiently with other departments that often require sign-off on legal documents.
“When you have different teams coming to you with questions and ideas that could impact risk, you have the responsibility to educate. For example, if your company’s finalizing an email integration, Product might ask what data they can access and how they can use it. Sometimes these ideas can be red flags from a legal perspective and you’re ethically obligated to put the right framework in place.”
~ Ryan Nier, General Counsel, Pinwheel
Legal Risk Management: From the Playbook of 11 GCs & Leaders
What are the benefits of using an AI assistant?
#1 Speed and efficiency
An AI legal assistant can work much faster than even a group of legal experts, primarily due to its ability to parallel process.
AI can read and interpret lengthy documents quickly, whereas humans are comparatively slow.
The same goes for tasks like contract drafting and redlining. An AI tool can interpret a proposed agreement and match clauses against an existing data bank to identify potential risks or clauses that would be non-compliant with internal policies.
#2 Reduction of human errors
Humans make errors—which, in the legal world, can have serious consequences, financial or otherwise.
AI can make mistakes too, but the key aspect to compare is the frequency of mistakes, and that’s where AI generally wins. Plus, AI assistants can use machine learning to consistently improve, learning from their mistakes.
With an AI legal assistant, you’ll see fewer rounding and spelling errors and more effective identification of contract risk.
#3 Greater return on investment
With the ability to turn around contract drafts or reviews in minutes instead of hours, combined with fewer human errors and improved risk identification, your ROI from an AI tool is likely to be much higher than what you would realize by bringing a human legal assistant onboard.
While AI might not be a direct replacement for legal assistants just yet (more on that soon), it does free up legal team members to focus on more important strategic tasks, helping you deliver a greater return on that labor investment.
What AI assistant tools are out there?
#1 SpotDraft VerifAI
VerifAI by SpotDraft is an AI-powered contract review tool to help you ensure that any agreements you enter into comply with your standards and policies.
It’s available as a Microsoft Word add-in, so you never have to leave the platform you’re already familiar with.
Using generative AI, VerifAI reviews contracts faster, evaluating them against your own personalized guidelines.
Then, you can ask open-ended questions about the agreement if you need to dig further. For example, you can type a single guideline in plain English and have VerifAI determine if your contract meets it.
Your expertise, judgment, and empathy set you apart as a lawyer, making you indispensable. VerifAI helps you constantly improve how it approaches contract reviews in your organization, so it can become better at:
- Highlighting key risks and non-compliance
- Identifying source references for each guideline in the contract
- Providing explanations when standards are not met
What’s more, VerifAI helps you action contract redlining processes. It can automatically add comments to clauses you’d like to change to align with your standards and even suggest more appropriate language to incorporate.
CoCounsel is an AI legal assistant from Casetext, a legal research firm.
It can help you with tasks like:
- Document reviews and contract analysis
- Research memos
- Preparation for depositions
- Contract redlining and revisions
As a GPT-4-powered solution, CoCounsel is adept at conversational tasks.
For example, as you prepare for a deposition, you can ask CoCounsel to review a series of emails for privilege, and it will compare the emails against your guidelines to determine whether any privileged communication exists.
CoCounsel costs $250-400 a month per attorney (depending on your chosen plan) and requires a one-year minimum commitment.
Latch is an AI-powered contract drafting solution.
It’s a Microsoft Word add-in that uses generative AI to help legal teams draft, review, and edit contracts.
You can ask open-ended questions, request summaries of legal documents, and even provide custom instructions for how you want those summaries to look.
PatentPal is a generative AI tool for patent applications.
It helps you draft applications, answer questions on application forms, and create multiple profiles (ideal for when multiple business founders are drafting a patent application).
#4 Lexis+ AI
Lexis+ AI uses generative AI to help legal ops teams draft, analyze, and summarize documents and contracts.
A unique feature of Lexis+ AI (from LexisNexis, a suite of legal software solutions) is the ability to add linked legal citations, ideal for case prep.
Lexis+ AI supports multiple document formats, and conversational search functionality makes it easy to locate a document in your contract repository.
Also read: Contract Repository: Everything You Need to Know.
Frequently asked questions
#1 Will AI replace legal assistants?
AI is not at a point where it can entirely replace legal assistants.
However, AI legal software is very powerful and can handle tasks such as contract drafting or automated reviews. In some cases, AI can take these tasks completely off the plates of real legal assistants.
This can reduce the need for human labor (you might be able to get by with fewer people in the office), and it can also allow you to reallocate those man-hours to more valuable strategic tasks, like legal research and negotiations.
While AI will certainly improve over time, and may well replace particular roles in the future, it's best to think of AI legal assistants as a role enhancement rather than a replacement.
#2 How is AI used in legal services?
AI has several uses in legal services. The most common today include:
- Contract drafting
- Contract reviews and analysis
- Chat-based search functionality
- Client communications
AI is still an emerging technology in the legal space, and we should expect AI to take on many more tasks (especially those that are tedious or repetitive) in the coming years.
#3 Is there an AI tool to create legal documents?
Today’s legal technology landscape is packed with AI-powered tools to help you create legal documents like client and employee contracts.
For example, SpotDraft, our contract lifecycle management, has many powerful AI features.
SpotDraft AI can help you:
- Automatically create contract templates from existing Microsoft Word documents
- Draft sales agreements using contract templates and populate customer info by way of CRM integrations
- Perform contract reviews, highlight key clauses or concerns for risk, and provide generative AI summaries
VerifAI by SpotDraft: Your AI legal assistant
Artificial intelligence is already integrated into a variety of legal tools.
Contract lifecycle management platforms like SpotDraft use AI to fuel contract reviews and redlining, helping legal ops teams work faster while ensuring compliance with internal policies.
SpotDraft's CLM platform uses AI technology to auto-create contracts from a clause and template library, analyze contract metadata for reports, and support contract workflows.
VerifAI, our AI legal assistant, is available as a Microsoft Word add-in to help you review documents, suggest clause changes, and get plain English answers to your most important legal questions.
Looking to optimize your legal operations and gain valuable labor ROI? Ask us about SpotDraft VerifAI.