Posted on March 2, 2020 by Joseph Lamport
AI really does have the potential to change almost everything we know or think we know about the business of litigation. That may be the real significance of the latest announcement from Casetext, one of the companies that is at the forefront of transforming the legal market with AI-assisted technology. This AI-powered revolution may not be televised but it is nonetheless now available on your desktop or even via the screen of your handheld device.
This week Casetext introduced its newest offering, a product called Compose, which enables its clients to generate the first draft of a legal brief in an almost fully automated fashion. Powered by a next generation AI search technology, which utilizes state-of-the-art natural language processing, Compose represents a huge step forward in the use of AI-powered technology to tackle a core and, up until now, time consuming part of basic litigation practice. Following a series of standardized prompts through which the user identifies the applicable jurisdiction and legal issue(s) in dispute, the application marshals the most relevant legal authority, organizes it and presents it in the form of a brief in a matter of minutes – a task that would ordinarily take a junior associate anywhere from 10 to 50 hours or even more to accomplish, depending on the complexity of the issues in dispute.
If nothing else, this announcement is sure to reignite the deep-seated fears in the market about how AI/ML tools are poised to bring about sharp cuts in legal sector employment. And indeed, once you have a chance to see Compose in action, it becomes quite evident just how fungible machine and semi-skilled human labor are now becoming, with the first draft of a brief something that can be dispatched by algorithm. Litigation associates may not be obsolete quite yet, as the first draft of a brief from Compose still needs embellishment and rhetorical flourishes before your BigLaw partner is going to affix his or her name to it. But there goes the raison d’etre for countless billable hours.
While this new technology strikes fear into the heart of young associates, it will certainly prove to be a boon to the general counsel’s office. The brilliance of Castext’s new product is not only in its design and functionality, but also in its positioning, as it is being initially offered to clients either on an all you can eat or a la cart basis. With a fee of just $1,400 for a single time usage, Compose achieves a trifecta for a new product offering. Not only does it do the work far faster, but it provides a work product that is equal or better in quality than what human labor alone could achieve, and perhaps most compelling of all, it provides very significant cost reduction. Comparing Compose’s single use fee to the purely human alternative (with a junior billing around $250 an hour), the ROI speaks for itself.
So the AI-assisted future is here, although it is being rolled out gradually, as Casetext’s CEO Jake Heller had a chance to explain to us last week. The first iteration of Compose is only capable of composing briefs for federal motion practice, and the algorithms still need to be adapted for state law jurisdictions, one by one, over the coming months and years. Transformations of this magnitude should not be expected to happen overnight. But make no mistake about it – slowly rolling or not, the future of AI-assisted litigation is here. And its immediate impact is going to be felt throughout the legal market, as Compose significantly changes the economics of litigation and provides general counsel with a powerful new lever for cost containment.
But looking beyond the immediate impact, it is also clear that we are only in the early innings of the game of legal market transformation. With these most recent advances in AI/ML technology, the algorithms are becoming increasingly adept at the sort of issue spotting, conceptualization and structured presentation of information that are the staples legal reasoning. Machines may not be so good when it comes to truly creative thinking (or so my programmer friends tell me) but they are nonetheless rapidly achieving order of the coif status when it comes to basic case law analysis. It is reasonable to expect the pace of new product announcements from Casetext and other legal tech companies will quicken in the coming months and years.
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