“A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade”- Abraham Lincoln
This quote has to be at least 200 years old as Mr. Lincoln died in the year of 1865, but till this date, the words are as relevant as they were in the early 1800s. Lawyer’s during more recent times are trying to develop methods of decreasing their timing on particular cases for more clients and more cases. This will result in efficiency and more pay. The newest development of time that has been achieved by many such big law firms and lawyers is the use of Automated Contract review methodology. Along with the huge timing change, it also brings to the table the removal of human error from the contract review procedure. But there is a huge requirement at the same time of human touch for the development of a near-perfect or even a perfect system.
Human Contract Review
The process of traditional or human contract review involves legal and contracting professionals examining a draft agreement to ensure that it accurately reflects the agreed-upon terms and complies with the organization's policies. This predominantly manual process entails extensive reading and writing.
Drawbacks of these manual procedures is the utilization of complex legal language, known as "legalese," in contracts. The phrasing of standard terms can differ significantly across contracts, sometimes varying in hundreds of thousands of ways. Consequently, contract review tasks require substantial time, leading to increased costs.
After the reading and writing phase, negotiation ensues as the document is exchanged between multiple parties. During this stage, all sides make concessions to bridge the gap and reach an agreement. Typically, the negotiation process involves five to ten iterations, each requiring thorough review and actual negotiation.
As a result, human contract review and negotiation tend to be slow and prone to errors, impacting the speed of deal completion and overall sales efficiency.
Automated Contract Review
The Automated Contract review is a procedure that is quite self-explanatory. Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning procedure has been applied to different contracts to which the AI or ML assesses standard patterns in these contracts and applies the same to every such category of agreement.
For example, the NDAs can be a part of a larger contract between two different parties, but such an NDA generally has a very standard pattern across different larger contracts. So, the AI review will club together all the previous NDAs it would have come across and highlight different important and standard aspects of the NDA to be reviewed.
As mentioned earlier this would take a human review or a lawyer at least an hour or maybe less if the reviewer is experienced, but the maximum time a fully functioning AI would take is less than a minute¹. This would save the reviewers time by more than that of a hundred times, giving him more time to review other such contracts².
Future of AI and Machine Learning
The market of automated contract review software or management has grown quite a lot in the past few years with more and more companies offering their AI services. As per various reports, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the market for the usage of AI for business services. Majorly with more and more organizations spending their resources on AI development or that of AI creation for the support of various business services or other products that companies offer. A total of 68% of the senior executives of large business organizations have started spending more on the development of AI with major financial and human resources. Out of these groups of senior executives, more than 46% have started the development of the existing AI of their companies. The pattern shows that the future of the business world is AI which means that in a few years more than that of a ‘future’ the AI and Machine Learning will be the ‘standard’ of the business world.
The law will also have to adapt to this speed of business as we saw earlier in the case of contract review³. Therefore, such AI contract review solutions have come up with standard practices which would include various standard contracts which the AI or ML will go through during the period of learning and then come up with a self-reliant AI model. The present market has multiple companies which have a hybrid model of AI or ML-based contracts review which include oversight of the AI or ML by trained lawyers for the accuracy of the review generated by the machine. Quite a few companies have come up with this model of AI in the past five years or so, investing heavily in the development of their present models to feed it ever-increasing information for it to sustain in the market of AI-based contract review. Now, that there is a huge pro of timing in these AI based solutions, the companies want results with accuracy, or the AI based solutions are not worth what they will as quoted by many business leaders.
As discussed before, there is also an added benefit of the development of error-less review results, but for achieving this feat there needs to be a learning procedure for the AI. Like humans, it requires knowledge to develop and grow, just that the functioning and retaining capacity of an AI is far greater than that of a human. For such gaining of knowledge, the AI needs a human to feed such knowledge. Now, there is a general fear that AI will one day take over the Human race rather than being assistants in the development of humans in their world. In the field of law, this stands to be untrue as the law is a field of undiscovered and modern methods of practicing the trade. As we mentioned earlier, the survival of a machine quite frankly depends on these special technicians and lawyers at the nascent stage of AI or ML because of its lack of knowledge. At the same time, there is a highly unlikely chance that at any given time the accuracy of AI or ML will be 100% complete considering that there are newer law practices and developments daily. Therefore, human involvement at the present stage of AI-based solutions for contract management is necessary for steady growth. The days when humans will be invaded by AI robots as we see in the movies are quite far off as of now.
The dependency of AI on humans will continue for a long while and therefore, the debate of human review and Automated review is actually uncalled for as the mode at present is a mixture of the two. But the hybrid model is something that most lawyers and legal teams around the world should invest time in as this will be the future of contract management. The time saved of the various human resources deployed for the review and drafting will be deployed elsewhere such as advisory and mediation.
¹ Kohn, A. (2017, January 30). An AI law firm wants to 'automate the entire legal world'. Futurism. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://futurism.com/an-ai-law-firm-wants-to-automate-the-entire-legal-world
² Rich, B. (2020, October 27). How AI is changing contracts. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://hbr.org/2018/02/how-ai-is-changing-contracts.
³ Aslan, E. (2019, February 20). A.I. helps take automated contract analysis to the next level. Law Technology Today. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/2019/02/ai-helps-take-automated-contract-analysis-to-the-next-level/