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Legal tech buyer’s guide for legal research and other core tasks

28 Jun 2024

This first part explores how legal tech supports lawyers in their most important work – research and other core legal tasks. The second part will cover legal tech that manages processes and workflows of a legal practice.  

 

Today’s lawyers have a lot on their plate. First, they engage in the core activities that constitute the practice of law. They do legal research. They advise clients on deals. They manage litigation. They draft contracts, and other documents. All with the high quality that clients expect.   

But that’s not all. Lawyers must also manage their workflow and collaboration with clients and colleagues. These are the nuts and bolts of their delivery systems and how they execute legal work efficiently.  

And, finally, they have to focus on growing their businesses. They market their services, manage client intake, and manage their social media and other forms of market-facing content.   

Most lawyers understand that technology can help with all these parts of their roles, but it’s not easy to keep up with how to integrate technology into their practice and where to turn for help.   

This is the first of a three-part series designed to help lawyers navigate the wide range of technologies that can help them do their jobs more effectively, efficiently, and profitably.   

Jump to: 

Case law research 

Legal guidance and know-how 

Digital evidence management 

Drafting aids 

Generative AI capabilities embedded across multiple use cases 

Case law research

Researching legal issues in case law has been revolutionised in recent years. The early generations of online legal research systems were a significant step forward, but they still demanded a lot from their users. Their primary function was built around search and retrieval, which still left a lot of work for lawyers: formulating search queries, poring through long lists of search results to find the relevant cases, and staying on top of changing regulations. 

If you haven’t seen the new generation of research tools, they are worth a look because it’s a whole new experience:  

  • Instead of constructing complex Boolean searches with connectors, you simply ask your legal question in plain English.   
  • Instead of ploughing through and reading a list of retrieved cases, you can now get a well-written response that answers the legal question and cites the cases the answer is built on so you can verify its accuracy.   

Lawyers have always relied on the knowledge and experience of peers for their “How do I …?” questions. Practical Law was designed to leverage its editorial team’s vast legal experience, particularly with drafting templates, checklists for legal processes, and how-to guides for specific areas of legal practice.   

AI has also enhanced the new generation of Practical Law. Ask Practical Law AI allows users to simply ask a legal question in everyday language. Practical Law will deliver a synthesized answer grounded in trusted Practical Law content with links to supporting materials. This generative AI technology was built specifically for Practical Law users and our content. These models are trained by the expertise of our 650+ Practical Law editors. 

Digital evidence management

Managing the disclosure process is another area in which technology has had a significant impact in recent years. Managing the disclosure/discovery process is another area in which technology has had a significant impact in recent years. For example, digital evidence management systems give parties an efficient way to review and analyse evidentiary materials in preparation for any hearing or dispute. The systems also provide a well-organised digital repository of all the key materials. Parties can also submit and share evidence with the court during hearings to reduce the amount of paper and time spent thumbing through stacks of paper or audio/video evidence.   

Drafting aids

Drafting legal documents is central to legal work, and an area where technology can be a big help. In particular, searching, cutting, pasting, deleting, and editing contracts is one area where artificial intelligence shows off its remarkable capabilities.  

One way that technology enhances drafting is by helping lawyers identify and integrate clauses found both inside and outside the firm’s own clause libraries. For example, Practical Law Clause Finder surfaces relevant clause language from Practical Law and from a firm’s internal documents.   

AI-driven technology helps identify these vetted, market-standard clauses. It centres this activity in the lawyer’s normal drafting environment, eliminating the need to hop in and out of drafting tools. AI and other technologies are creating “distraction-free drafting.”   

Practical Law Clausefinder will soon be available in the UK. 

Generative AI capabilities embedded across multiple use cases

The impact of technology, and AI specifically, on all aspects of legal work has only just begun. The same core generative AI technology can be adapted to use cases across the lawyer’s workflow.   

Thomson Reuters’ CoCounsel GenAI Assistant already helps lawyers in the US with everyday tasks with applications such as preparing for a case, drafting correspondence, searching a database, reviewing documents, summarising a document, extracting contract data, and contract policy compliance. These tools are deployed across multiple Thomson Reuters legal products, including Westlaw Edge UK, Practical Law Dynamic Tool Set, Document Intelligence, and HighQ.   

CoCounsel brings both intuitiveness and power to these legal tasks. Lawyers need only ask plain-English questions or provide simple instructions, and the generative capabilities of CoCounsel return complete, authoritative answers, bypassing many of the tedious manual steps inherent in traditional legal work. The authoritativeness of those outputs is ensured when the underlying language models are operating on top of Thomson Reuters’ curated, vetted data sources.   

 

The core of legal work is increasingly technology-driven

Legal research, drafting, evidence management and the other key legal tasks outlined above have been around as long as there have been lawyers. There is not much new about what lawyers do, but how they do it is evolving rapidly. If you think you have mastered the tools of your trade, think again because new legal tech to enhance your practice appear every day.  

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