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Cyril Amarchand ‘first’ to sign up for machine learning contracts software, but is AI the death or future of lawyers?

Will robots replace many lawyers? Probably, one day... Then again, they may do that in many professions...
Will robots replace many lawyers? Probably, one day... Then again, they may do that in many professions...

According to a Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas press release, it “"will be India's first law firm to deploy such a technology, hence enhancing its delivery model to provide certain legal services more efficiently, quickly and accurately to its clients”", having signed up with a Canada-based machine learning legal software company.

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas managing partner Cyril Shroff said in the release: “Our clients expect us to be at the cutting edge of the practice of law, and of the business of law. We recognise that the business challenges of our clients come first, and that we need a suite of different tools and advanced skills to address these.””

The partnership was “one of many interconnected initiatives that the firm has been working on since the last year, and we are excited to be bringing our clients these technologies in a proactive manner”, said Shroff.

According to claims on the software’s website, it can “save “20-90% of time spent on contract review, without sacrificing accuracy””.

Cyril Amarchand wrote in its release:

Kira is software that uses artificial intelligence to identify, analyse and extract clauses and other information from contracts and other types of legal documents. It includes integrated machine learning models for a range of transaction requirements, across the firm?s practice areas. The tool can also identify different clauses across a large volume of legal contracts with a high degree of accuracy.

Although a number of technologies can identify and tag terms within legal documents, Kira?s inclusion of advanced machine learning features is considered to be a differentiator for the firm, and places it as a innovation leader in the market.

According to its release, UK-based law firm management consultancy Janders Dean has been advising Cyril Amarchand “on its “various technological initiatives”” and “played a “key role in bringing on this change””.

About machine learning

Machine learning usually works by making powerful computers sift through huge troves of data (due-diligence reports of contracts in this case, presumably), so the computer begins to gradually appear to ‘learn’ which parts of the data (or a contract) are most relevant.

Machine learning recently hit international headlines after a Google-owned algorithm beat one of the world’s best players of the strategy board game Go, which is one of the world’s most difficult-to-master games.

Several international firms have been dabbling with bringing machine learning and AI to contract review, discovery and other repetitive legal tasks, and a number of providers have popped up in the space,

The first major product in the space was IBM’s Watson AI, but Kira seems to also have been around for several years now.

International law firm DLA Piper had signed up with the same company in June 2016 and Clifford Chance in July 2016, having also signed up Deloitte’s legal arm and law firm CMS.

According to Cyril Amarchand’s release, Freshfields, WSGR, King & Wood Mallesons, and Torys are also signed up to Kira.

The death of lawyers?

Law firm pundit Richard Susskind has famously long predicted the “death of lawyers” at the hands of computers who would replace them.

While that prediction may be exaggerated in the short term, it is quite conceivable that in the medium to long-term ever more sophisticated AI-style systems could do the work often done by junior lawyers faster and more accurately.

The jury is out whether that will lead to mass unemployment in the legal profession or will enable younger lawyers to learn the tools of the trade by doing juicier work.

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