Epiq Expands AI Contract Analysis – Will eDiscovery Companies Follow?

Epiq, the multi-capability ALSP, has announced the expansion of its new contract analysis offering, following an initial deal with Canadian AI company, Diligen in December 2019.

The move also raises the question as to whether the eDiscovery sector, which appears to have been hit hard by the lockdown and closure of US courts, could more widely pivot into contract analysis/review to provide new revenue?

In Epiq’s case the company has long been multi-faceted and despite long-term ties to eDiscovery does much more. And now, with its expanded offering via Diligen’s technology they will be offering – aside from the obligatory force majeure clause finding capability:

  • compliance with new laws and regulations such as GDPR,
  • due diligence support for mergers or acquisitions,
  • creating a lease catalogue,
  • exporting essential contract characteristics for loading into a Contract Lifecycle Management system,
  • and preparing for the elimination of LIBOR clauses

In short, they’ve moved into the same space that UnitedLex and also Integreon are in, which both partnered with Seal Software recently – see story.

This is also core work for law company Elevate – which now has its own suite of AI tools following its acquisition of LexPredict. And as explored yesterday, Knowable is also seeking to help corporates understand their contract stacks via the use of human reviewers and NLP/machine learning software. Other companies such as ContractPodAi are also in this space.

And we have also seen eDiscovery software provider, Relativity, work with legal AI contract analysis company, Heretik. Although, in their case both are software companies, not ALSPs/law companies as some of those above. And that’s the key point. Relativity has shown that it can expand on the software side via Heretik to offer contract review, but the real question is whether the ALSPs and other providers focused on the actual eDiscovery human review work, that have not done so yet, will also pivot into contract review, whatever software package they use?

As with other ALSPs, Epiq is now leveraging its human component to support software-driven contract analysis, which they say can reduce the overall costs of a major review project by as much as 50%.

The human teams will ‘provide scale when needed, define quality control, extract clauses requiring manual intervention, and provide detailed reporting and metrics about client contracts’.

A spokesperson for Epiq added that via Diligen they can now work in English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Dutch, and can support additional languages with a few weeks’ notice.

The AI models that Epiq will use for clients are pre-trained and are ‘ready out of the box’, they said. Custom models can be built if a client has unique clauses they need to find that are not included in the pre-trained model library.

But, who is this for, Artificial Lawyer asked: law firms or corporates?

‘This offering is aimed at both law firms and corporates. Although we expect our corporate clients to continue to leverage our Contract Analysis solutions in a broader range of use case scenarios (investigating the potential impact of COVID19 and other major legal events, searching and categorizing contracts from their existing document repositories, migrating data into or between CLMS platforms, and supporting other practice areas such as M&A, IG, Real Estate, etc.), our more innovative law firms clients are actively leveraging us to expand the services they are offering around commercial contracts,’ the US-based company told this site.

More broadly the move shows a strategic shift for Epiq into an area of expanding demand and expanding offerings. It also shows that after a couple of tough months, that were marked with a ransomware attack in March and also rumours of job cuts, that the company is pushing hard to generate new revenue. [Note: AL has asked for a comment on the job losses and will add that in when they get back on that specific point.]

As noted above, this raises the strategic question as to whether other businesses that focus on eDiscovery tasks, especially when there is a large human review element involved, will see this and decide to pivot into contract analysis? In some ways there is not a massive gap between the tasks. You have large sets of documents, you have software that ‘searches’ – to put it simply, and you have an output that needs to be accurate that you provide to the clients, whether law firms or corporate legal teams.

eDiscovery and contract analysis for key clauses is of course different in terms of the specific approaches to the data, but broadly they are not a million miles apart in terms of their logistics.

Could eDiscovery review companies (i.e. not the eDiscovery software providers) therefore repurpose their teams, bring in companies such as Diligen, Kira Systems, Seal Software, Heretik, Luminance, and others, and create a whole new offering?

Moreover, does this surge in offerings for AI-driven contract analysis mark a wider level of acceptance of the need for such work, especially in the US? That could be the case, and that’s good news for the legal AI sector as a whole.

It will be interesting to see where this goes next, but the signs are positive.

To round off, here is what the two main parties had to say:

Roger Pilc, president and general manager, Epiq Legal Solutions, said: ‘Market and environmental forces, including new laws and regulations, mergers and acquisitions, digital transformation, information security, and more recently the COVID-19 global pandemic, have increased the need for organizations to understand what is in all of their contracts and to prioritize review. Our clients can utilize Epiq’s platform without ramp up time and having to invest in their own people, processes and tools. This is critical in today’s environment in which there are newly increased demands on already stretched legal and IT teams.’

And Laura van Wyngaarden, Diligen co-founder and COO, concluded: ‘We are excited to partner with Epiq with the goal of providing law firms and legal departments with more efficient, fast, accurate and affordable ways to gain insight into their contracts.’

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