Why Lawyers Don’t Care About AI-Powered Analytics
By Rick Merrill
There’s a famous story about the CEO of a major construction hardware company who, when speaking to his management team and board of directors, reminded everyone that customers don’t buy the company’s drills because they want a drill. Customers buy from them because they want to make holes. The drill, its features, its inner workings, don’t matter.
It’s no different in modern legal technology. The market is overrun by poorly defined jargon like “artificial intelligence,” “analytics,” “blockchain,” “big data,” and more. What exactly these things are and how they work don’t matter one bit to the litigator who needs insight into how and why her judge makes rulings.
Clearly, this bait-and-switch is not unique to the legal profession. Numerous companies, across a broad range of industries use the term “artificial intelligence” as marketing jargon, even where the core of their product does not rely on cutting-edge AI.
Look at automobile manufacturers adding “eco” to their engines, or every company under the sun now claiming to use blockchain in some fashion. In recent years, we have seen legal tech companies from every corner of the market devote promote and sell “AI-based” tools. By leaning too hard on the immense “possibilities” of AI, legal tech companies may be deterring lawyers from embracing products that would, in fact, make their jobs easier.
Such marketing claims should be the least effective in the legal industry. Lawyers are not concerned with technology works – they want to know if it’s effective. First and foremost, lawyers care about the results that new products can deliver – for example, does this tool increase the likelihood of a positive outcome for my client?
That said, for the sophisticated buyer of legal technology, a working understanding of some of these terms is required to be able to separate the good products from the bad. Confusing technobabble makes purchasing decisions around legal tech harder than it should be while making inferior products sound better than they are.
The definition I tend to use for AI, broadly speaking, is the “use of computers to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.” With Gavelytics, AI truly “drives” our product. We use machine learning, natural language processing, neural nets and deep learning to give our users access to vital information about the judges assigned to their cases. (But you may notice we don’t focus on AI in our marketing.) As a former litigator, I can say with great confidence that litigators are less concerned with how “cutting edge” a product is than with whether it will help them develop a stronger litigation strategy and lead to the best outcome for the client.
“Analytics” is another term that is used and abused in the legal tech industry. The definition I like for analytics is “the computer-aided discovery of meaningful, useful and accurate patterns in huge data sets that enable users to act on such discoveries in new ways.” What does this mean? To put it simply: a product that displays a chart is not analytics.
A product that uncovers insignificant data or draws inconsequential connections is not analytics.
A product that displays data with low relevance, or that isn’t accurate and valuable, cannot truly be called analytics. Numbers and graphics without actionable value are just that – numbers and graphics. Searchable dockets – or more broadly, limited underlying data sets – don’t provide the level of insight lawyers need to inform their litigation strategy.
Data analytics, on the other hand, can deliver important insights; real AI-powered tools such as judicial analytics can open up new possibilities for lawyers and improve client outcomes. In today’s hyper-competitive legal marketplace, true AI is not “nice to have,” it’s a “must have.”
But in evaluating AI-based tools, lawyers need to see through clever marketing on their way to selecting the product that helps them deliver superior client service, because in the end, that’s all that matters.
Rick Merrill (pictured above) is founder and CEO of AI-driven judicial analytics company Gavelytics and a former litigator at Am Law 100 firm Greenberg Traurig.
What do you think? Is Rick right on this? Feel free to give your views in the comment section below.