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Legal research AI is transforming how legal teams access and utilize insights for various areas of their practice. However, maximizing AI to its full potential in legal research has been quite the struggle for many professionals.

Legal research AI systems rely heavily on vast amounts of data, and it is often difficult to determine the nature and quality of raw inputs these tools are trained with, leaving legal teams concerned about the risks of biased or inaccurate outputs. Also, while most legal research AI tools are easy to use, they still require a level of technical proficiency.

In this guide, we have covered the fundamental things you’ll need to know about an AI-driven legal research tool, from its benefits and concerns to a list of questions you must ask before choosing your preferred vendor.

Understanding the basics of legal research AI

Legal research AI refers to a set of AI-powered systems designed to streamline how legal professionals access data and insights regarding cases, legal precedents, regulations, organizations, contracts, and more.

These tools utilize machine learning algorithms to assist legal teams in efficiently locating, analyzing, and understanding large volumes of legal information for enhanced decision-making.

Think about it like having Clark Kent (Superman) as your legal assistant. 

Legal research AI tools can sift through mountains of legal texts, statutes, and organizational background in seconds, highlighting the most relevant information, summarizing key points, and even predicting possible outcomes based on historical data, all without ever needing a coffee break or sleep.

Thanks to its innovative capabilities, legal research AI is set to become an indispensable tool for legal professionals in the digital age.

Benefits of using AI for legal research

“To me, AI is the next internet. If you're not using it, you're falling behind. AI is going to move rapidly in a direction where it will help a lot of us make processes more efficient. I don't think the GC goes away. AI is a tool but it doesn't replace decision making.” 

Celaena Powder, VP of Legal, Seismic
From Security to Sales: Building Cross-functional Bridges

Legal research AI is gradually making its way to the frontlines of the legal industry. So far, it has shown unprecedented capabilities, offering a plethora of benefits to its users.

#1 Time efficiency

“If the use of AI can free up current staff from spending time on transactional-tasks, the value (if not immediately apparent) is exponentially greater than merely paying less for legal services.”

Sterling Miller, CEO and Senior Counsel for Hilgers Graben PLLC
Artificial Intelligence – What Every Legal Department Really Needs To Know

Legal research AI can process and retrieve information much faster than humans. With its ability to analyze and review vast volumes of legal documents and databases at incredible speed, legal research AI saves lawyers and paralegals countless hours that would otherwise go into manual research.

In a field where time is money, the time saved through AI-driven research can be reallocated to other critical tasks, such as crafting legal strategies, building client relationships, or focusing on complex legal analyses.

#2 Enhanced accuracy

Humans, while capable of critical thinking and nuanced understanding, are inherently susceptible to errors, especially when dealing with large volumes of data. A well-trained AI-driven research tool, on the other hand, offers unparalleled precision.

They can identify subtle patterns, inconsistencies, and connections in the law that might escape human notice. This accuracy is not only essential for ensuring the integrity of legal research but also for making well-informed, evidence-based decisions in litigation, regulatory compliance, or legal advisory matters.

#3 Access to comprehensive insights

Traditional legal research, even when executed diligently, can inadvertently overlook valuable information due to the limitations of human cognition and time constraints. 

Legal research AI, in contrast, has the capacity to comb through an extensive database of legal documents and provide a holistic perspective on any given legal issue. This level of depth and breadth in analysis can be instrumental in building persuasive arguments and negotiation tactics, anticipating opposing viewpoints, and crafting airtight legal strategies.

“These insights can help the legal team identify gaps in the system and work toward improving workflows and building solutions that would increase efficiency.” 

Igor Poroger, Director of Legal, EMEA, Vectra AI
How CLMs Empower Legal Teams in B2B SaaS Companies

#4 Mitigation of burnout

The legal profession is notorious for its high-stress environment and the risk of burnout among attorneys, paralegals, and legal teams. Legal research AI can alleviate some of this pressure by handling time-consuming research tasks, allowing legal professionals to focus on higher-level, intellectually demanding aspects of their work. 

By reducing the burden of repetitive, mundane tasks, AI contributes to a healthier work-life balance and may help mitigate burnout within the legal industry.

What are the risks associated with legal research AI?

“Some people are scared of AI but I honestly think it's just going to make everyone's life so much easier. You really can't substitute a lawyer.”

Katayoon Tayebi, Associate General Counsel, FIGS
Accelerating Your Career as In-house Counsel

Despite its many benefits, legal research AI isn’t without risks and concerns, from ethical considerations down to risks of bias and poorly-vetted data.

When considering the adoption of AI for legal research, ensure you put the following issues into consideration:

#1 Ethical concerns

The use of AI in legal practice has been met with skepticism from multiple ethical viewpoints. Many industry leaders and ethicists fear that AI systems, including those used in legal research, can inherit biases from the data on which they are trained. This could result in discriminatory outcomes, as AI may unintentionally favor or disadvantage certain groups.

Also, the "black box" nature of some AI algorithms often makes it difficult to understand how results are gotten. Thus, legal professionals may find it challenging to hold AI systems accountable for their insights and recommendations.

#2 Technical limitations

Legal research AI, as advanced as it is, is not infallible. The extent of its capabilities depends on the quality of data it feeds from and the robustness of its algorithms. Still, the risk of technical glitches, errors, or misinterpretations is ever-present.

#3 Data privacy

Legal research AI systems require access to vast amounts of data to function effectively. This raises significant concerns about data privacy. 

When legal professionals use AI, they may allow access to sensitive information with the system, potentially jeopardizing confidentiality. In the event of unauthorized access or data breaches, your organization may face serious legal repercussions.

Also read: How In-House Legal Teams Can Safeguard Company Data and Mitigate Security Risks

#4 Over-reliance and skill erosion

There are concerns that legal professionals may become too dependent on AI-generated insights and recommendations, potentially lowering their ability to think critically, identify unique legal nuances, and creatively adapt to changing legal landscapes.

Thus, it's essential for legal practitioners to strike a balance between utilizing AI tools and maintaining their core legal skills.

Questions to ask before choosing a legal research AI tool

In today’s competitive and fast-paced legal landscape, AI-driven legal research has evolved from a mere nice-to-have into a game-changing necessity.

The AI marketplace is already brimming with several legal research AI tools, each boasting unique capabilities and offering a variety of promises. Still, your ability to get the most value from these systems heavily depends on how good you are at sifting through the chaff.

To ensure you're always on point with your choices, here are five questions you should always ask.

#1 How does the legal research AI tool source and update its data?

Understanding how an AI tool sources and updates its data is crucial, as its effectiveness and reliability rely heavily on the data that goes in and out of it. If the data in its database is poorly curated, its research outputs will inevitably be poor.

Find out if the AI tool collaborates with reputable legal databases, official government sources, or other trusted providers to ensure that its data is comprehensive and up-to-date. 

Additionally, it is important to know the legal team responsible for vetting the data that goes into the AI's database, as they're instrumental in controlling the quality of data the AI feeds on.

Inquire about the frequency of data updates and ensure you prioritize vendors with a timely and consistent schedule.

#2 Does the AI system adhere to data privacy and security standards?

“Most organizations are realizing that they should have a policy in place for AI adoption, because, otherwise, there's a risk of customer data or confidential data being put into the public tooling.”

Ken Priore, ex-Director of Privacy, Atlassian
Mastering the Intersection of Law, Technology, and Privacy

Confidentiality is one of the most critical considerations of legal practice. The tools you use for any legal task must not jeopardize the security and privacy of the data they get access to.

It's essential to inquire about the AI tool's adherence to data protection regulations and security standards. Ensure the tool complies with industry-specific legal requirements, such as attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product doctrine. Additionally, inquire about the encryption and access control mechanisms in place to safeguard your data and the confidentiality of your legal research. 

#3 What level of customization does the tool offer for specific legal needs?

Legal research often requires a personalized approach to meet the unique requirements of different scenarios. Inquire about the level of customization the AI tool provides. Can you tailor search parameters, filters, and alerts to align with your specific legal needs? 

It is also important to find out if the AI system can seamlessly integrate with your existing legal research and data management systems.

#4 How easy is it to use?

Inquire about the tool's learning curve and availability of user support. A tool that is easy to navigate and comes with adequate support resources will reduce the time spent on training and make it more accessible to a wider range of legal professionals.

#5 What specific legal domains and jurisdictions does the AI tool cover?

Not all legal research AI tools cover the same range of domains and jurisdictions. Some may specialize in specific areas, while others may have broader coverage. 

A comprehensive tool that covers a broad spectrum of legal fields and regions can provide more value, but if your practice is highly specialized, you may prioritize depth of coverage in your specific domain.

Wrapping up

The integration of legal research AI has the potential to revolutionize the legal profession by enhancing efficiency and improving the quality of legal services. 

Yet, not all AI platforms are created equal. Your experience and the quality of insights you get from an AI-driven legal research tool generally depends on the quality of data, people, and process that fuel it.

So, it is important to ask the right questions and do proper research before investing in an inherently powerful yet risky tool. That way, you’ll be able to make an informed decision, choosing a tool that best suits your needs and aligns with the demands of the modern legal landscape.

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