AI is starting to live up to the hype

The excitement around artificial intelligence (AI) is building, especially since the landmark English court case1 that approved its use last year. Initially viewed as an existential threat to the legal profession, it is increasingly embraced as an extension to every firm’s capabilities – taking on much of the repetitive, analytical heavy lifting and doing it faster and more efficiently than any human.

Richard Diffenthal, Partner - Hogan Lovell 

Richard Diffenthal is a partner at Hogan Lovells and co leader of the London Technology Hub. He’s also a leading voice in the conversation around AI. We asked him about the role AI might have in the to-day’s and tomorrow’s legal firms.

What reasons do legal firms have to be optimistic about AI?

“One of the beauties of AI and particularly the platforms coming to market today is that they’re easy to deploy, either on the premises or through the cloud. They can also be scaled from very small opera-tions to multinationals. This means that, regardless of the size of your firm, you should be able to find a solution that meets your needs. It can become a tool in every lawyer’s armoury.”

Why are people starting to take it more seriously right now?

“First of all, there is the increased access to computing power. With the advent of the cloud, distributed computing is much more affordable. This makes it easy for people to scale up operations very quickly and relatively cost-effectively and to deploy huge amounts of resource to crack difficult problems around natural language processing and machine learning, all of which underpin AI.”

“At the same time, there’ve been a refinement of some of the tools and techniques that underpin these methodologies. With all these things coming together, we’re entering a world where AI, and the data needed to train it, is much more accessible. That’s why people are excited about it today.”

There used to be a problem with AI when the law changed. How does it cope with this problem now?

“The AI systems that are being developed today are not static; they’re being built on data sets that are continually evolving. If the law changes, those changes will be fed into the machine which will learn and adapt in the same way a human lawyer would.” 

1 Pyrrho Investments v MWB Property