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Machine learning, knowledge management tools changing legal industry


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Machine learning, knowledge management tools changing legal industry

29th August 2018

By: Schalk Burger
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The legal profession, as with most other knowledge professions, is changing through, besides others, the use of machine learning tools used to ensure that legal information is leveraged and disseminated efficiently to lawyers to fulfil their tasks more quickly and more accurately, law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc's (CDH) director and head of Knowledge Management Retha Beerman said on Wednesday.

At a CDH seminar focusing on the topic of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal industry and in general, she introduced CDH's enterprise search engine – Insight.  Insight, falling under the umbrella of services offered by information management service provider iManage and using the technology created by one of its recent acquired businesses RAVN Systems, was customised for CDH to allow it to effectively leverage the firm's wealth of institutional knowledge. 


The Insight system which has been launched to the directors of the firm and will be rolled out to the whole firm in September, creates logical connections between experts in the firm, its clients, its matters and documents. 

The search and surface system, which restricts access to information based on user access rights, confidentiality requirements and various security protocols, will supplement the firm's document management system, reducing the time it takes to find information and placing that information in its proper context. 


CDH Knowledge Management director Neil Comte detailed how the Knowledge Management team used a comparative analysis of 394 searches done on CDH's traditional systems and on the Insight system and measured the time and cost impact for the firm. 

Based on this analysis, he said, the team could show a clear return on investment which is difficult to establish with many knowledge management products.

"Efficient knowledge management aided by AI can help reduce costs to clients. As a department we are responsible for streaming knowledge to our lawyers. However, raw information is insufficient; this information must be available in usable form to the people who need it," said Beerman.

"If we can find and present it to the teams of lawyers quickly, accurately and enriched by context, we can leverage knowledge again, we become better and this has associated benefits for our clients." 

iManage-Ravn commercial director David Fisk highlighted that most of the data systems used in the legal, medical and financial industries worldwide use components of AI, which are grouped mainly under machine learning. These include deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing, classification, clustering and information extraction.

“We consider the Insight system an information platform. It is an approach to leverage information repositories and historical information within a firm to provide better service rapidly and cost-effectively.”  The datasets are connected to one another and relationships are built between the data to enable relevant data to be surfaced for consumption. This is the main value proposition of these systems, he explained.

CDH National Practice head of dispute resolution Tim Fletcher led a panel of legal experts and consumers looking at how AI works or can be used in litigation, and what clients are looking for from their law firms when it comes to the use of these technologies. 

Zaakir Mohamed, who is a forensic investigation specialist and a director of CDH indicated that, for his practice, AI tools are indispensable to cull the large volumes of information that might be relevant to an investigation into a more relevant and poignant subset of information, with time and cost savings for clients.


The seminar was rounded off with a look at what the use of AI means for society. 

Aadil Patel the head of CDH's Employment practice, noted that there will be a changing focus of jobs, with visionaries replacing functionaries. 

He cautioned, however, that the employment law implications of replacing people with machines that can do their jobs are not at all certain, and redundancies on this basis need to be examined carefully. 

Preeta Bhagattjee a technology and sourcing lawyer at CDH sketched the growing regulatory space concerning the use of AI in its various forms and highlighted the moral and legal implications of using technology that has the potential to develop in an unsupervised manner, learning from both the good and the bad that society has to offer.


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