Global legal services business, UnitedLex, is making use of legal AI technology provided by Seal Software, in what is a significant change of heart for a business that previously had a longstanding scepticism for such applications.
The move is significant on multiple levels, one of which is that UnitedLex now has a huge private equity fund, CVC Capital Partners, as a majority owner which believes the enterprise legal group has ‘a multi-billion-dollar opportunity ahead’ according to comments from Siddharth Patel, Senior Managing Director at CVC at the time of the investment last year.
It’s also a major additional validation of Seal – not that it really needed one given its long-running success at selling its legal AI review tech into the world’s largest companies. But, still, when a legal AI sceptic converts to a believer it’s always great to see.
The change of heart was explained to Artificial Lawyer by Dan Reed, CEO of the rapidly expanding UnitedLex, which formed back in 2006 and now takes on day to day legal matters for many of the world’s corporates at a level that is now in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Reed, who is extremely bullish about UnitedLex’s future growth prospects and business model, which includes working in partnership with law firms such as LeClair Ryan in the US, said: ‘We have a tech lab so we can test the solutions, because we want to make sure our clients are getting the best solutions.’
‘We looked at several AI solutions and we believe that Seal is the only one that works for us. We are using Seal Software currently on client matters and it is a part of our delivery arm.’
Reed added that he expects to see greater use of this type of tool in the future. ‘We will see much more maturity [in AI tech],’ he added.
Now, the words above may seem quite normal. You’ve all read clients of legal AI companies singing their praises before. What’s different here is that Reed and UnitedLex in general had until quite recently been very sceptical about AI tools – primarily because they didn’t believe they could really be of significant use.
Reed noted that they had looked at Seal in the past and not felt moved to use it. But, he added, that after the merger with Apogee Legal last summer things changed. Prior to the merger Apogee and Seal had been working closely together and Apogee had been providing some of the NLP ‘toolkits’ for doc analysis that Seal’s corporate clients were using.
Reed added that the interface also improved following the combination of the two companies and that had helped as well.
He also stressed that more broadly he is still quite sceptical about the idea that lawyers’ working practices at the moment are being radically changed by technology.
‘The challenge is that it is generally an aspiration when it comes to tech. In the legal sector people are excited by e-signatures,’ he noted with some amusement.
Is this a big deal? Yes. Because it shows: first, that large corporates want review work to be augmented with technology such as Seal’s legal AI capabilities, and secondly, that UnitedLex are now part of the ‘AI Users Club’ – a steadily growing family of law firms and legal businesses around the world. They also join the good company of several others working in the same segment of the market, including the smaller, but rapidly expanding Elevate, which bought out legal AI company LexPredict last year.
Is this going to drive radical change within UnitedLex? Probably not in the short to medium term. They’re a big organisation with offices around the world, helping a multitude of clients, that includes the likes of GE. Seal may however – one would guess – steadily see its use level rise and spread, especially as more and more corporates demand rapid and effective tech-led review and contract analysis.