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Thomson Reuters

AI for legal documents: Unlocking a competitive edge

Let’s look at a new opportunity for lawyers to stay ahead – we’re sure you’ve heard about it by now. 


Nothing stands still in the legal world, and in the past year, we’ve seen optimism among UK buyers of legal services declining, potentially reducing spend, while competition is increasing. Yet while in-house legal teams are keen to control costs, they are also highly focussed on supporting their businesses, and law firms that can deliver specialist expertise are increasingly favoured when it comes to choosing external legal advisers. These trends and more are explored in the 2023 Thomson Reuters State of the UK Legal Market report. 

All of which adds to the growing sense that what clients want is top-notch work produced in cost-effective ways 

This brings us to another trend that is dominating conversations in every sector, legal included: artificial intelligence (AI). AI is being touted as the fast-track way to deliver high-quality work efficiently. And the opportunities for legal departments and law firms are enormous – not least in empowering legal departments to bring many legal tasks back in-house.  

Jump to:

document icon   Can AI review legal documents?

  Put an end to repetitive tasks

icon-speaking bubble
  Reading, summarising, and sharing

icon-two individual handshake   Advising clients with more confidence

icon-orange footprints   Retaining top talent

  AI is a catalyst for change


First, let’s answer a question on the minds of many lawyers: can AI review legal documents? In short – yes. There is no shortage of AI-powered tools on the market today that can read documents and search for relevant information.  

Rather than poring over page after page, hour after hour, AI can search thousands of files in seconds, precisely surfacing the data and language that are most relevant to the inquiry.  

AI technology can go through and mark up hundreds of pages of documents much faster than doing it by hand, too. This can free up both lawyers and support staff for more interesting and profitable work, such as building caseloads. It can also allow less-experienced lawyers to begin delivering more value more quickly. 


Put an end to repetitive tasks 

Creating, reviewing, and sending various documents forms a large part of the daily tasks of many lawyers. While important, these are repetitive and manual processes – and humans are prone to making mistakes occasionally. AI tools can give you a competitive edge by improving accuracy and reducing the risk of error. 

Many workflows can be automated with AI tools that analyse, classify, and store documents automatically. AI can also be trained to tag and label documents based on your specific needs.  

With its capability to process huge amounts of information in a fraction of the time it would take a person, AI can make you a superhuman at work 


Reading, summarising, and sharing 

One dimension of AI is natural language processing (NLP), which enables computers to read text or language quickly and provide a summary. This is very helpful to legal professionals poring over lengthy legal documents.  

AI tools for legal documents can also easily be taught to generate certain standardised documentation from available information and to share these with relevant parties automatically. 


Advising clients with more confidence 

Using legal research tools that analyse the decisions and behaviours of judges and other lawyers can help inform your strategies and potentially increase your chances of success. 

AI analysis can also be used to leverage historical data and relationships and identify flaws or opportunities within your work, which could quickly open up unexplored opportunities to improve client service. 


Retaining top talent    

Using modern AI technology can also help you retain valuable assets – your people. 

Research shows that a culture that values lawyers as skilled professionals (not just for their productivity) will tend to have healthier and more loyal employees. AI tools can help deliver value faster – particularly for more junior professionals who are often given repetitive or research-based tasks.  

By democratising AI, productivity can increase across the board and become less of a measure of success – this can free up time for creative, critical legal thinking that only a trained and passionate human lawyer can do. And that lawyers really want to do. 


AI is a catalyst for change 

There is a great appetite to explore new technologies in the legal sector as expectations of, for example, automation-driven efficiency, better user experience, and digital services have increased in recent years.  

To stay competitive and relevant, and keep clients happy, your firm or legal department needs to start exploring use cases for AI now. Research has shown that just 34% of law firms are considering whether to use generative AI for legal operations. That can give early adopters a huge advantage.  

If you’re still unsure about what to expect from AI or hesitant about exploring it, think about how technology has already transformed legal services and performance.  

Smartphones were quickly adopted by lawyers, as it meant they could handle client relations from anywhere – not just from their desks. E-signatures drastically reduce contract completion time and are a standard tool in daily legal practice. Nobody – lawyers or clients – would prefer to return to signing documents in person, in ink. 

Change in law is constant. And AI could be one of the biggest-ever changes for the better. 

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