Legal AI: What were we thinking?

Bronco Dahlem
Bronco Dahlem

I have always enjoyed reading the posts on social media about the crazy things we did growing up that seem absolutely absurd today. These include piling 12 or more people in a station wagon with nobody wearing a safety belt, letting kids go out and play all day without a clue as where they were going, and drinking from the garden hose in the backyard when you got thirsty.

So down the road what will we look back on and ask “What were we thinking?” regarding activities we do today? One quickly jumps to mind in the business world: trying to maximize company efficiency and effectiveness while not using artificial intelligence (AI) when working with legal documents. Some of the questions that will be asked by those slow to adopt:

  • Were we expecting our legal department to be miracle workers? How were they easily able to keep up with the vast number of quickly changing legal changes in every state and beyond that affected each document? With regard to government sanctions, were they expected to know of every subsidiary of a major company they were engaged in business with?
  • Did we really used to spend a ridiculous amount of money to send our salesforce to conventions and expect every company they met to not want to negotiate? Once back in house, repeatedly hearing reps respond to questions about their sales figures with, “Well…we made some great contacts and got some traction” should have been a wakeup call. If we have learned anything from “Shark Tank,” that question should be answered with a number, not prose.
  • Why did our in-house legal burn the midnight oil to put an agreement together when the almost exact same document was constructed for another client a week ago?
  • Did we think as a company we were running on all cylinders when our sales reps referred to the compliance department as the “Sales Prevention Team,” our legal department called the salesforce “Gunslingers With No Aim,” and a frequent task for management was to tell staff, “After three e-mails back and forth with another department, please just pick up the phone and call them!” Legal AI can unite everyone onto the same team. Input may be needed from multiple departments, opening up channels of communication. Scenarios that only one department might normally see receive empathy from another department that had never considered that situation.

The base for using AI for legal work started more than four decades ago when documents went from the filing cabinet to the computer. Legal AI works as your organizer, memory bank, tickler system and contract updater. For a department like procurement, it allows employees to go on autopilot with legal guardrails in place. AI lets you compliantly take the process of generating a contract all the way to closing a contract to what was weeks or months down to possibly a few minutes.

So why don’t children drink from the garden hose anymore? For me, it was Mrs. Anderson from our neighborhood saying, “Kids, that’s disgusting. Come inside and use clean glasses and get water from the pitcher in the refrigerator.”

If we have hired and trained our employees to the best of their ability, our product/service has been fully marketed and time-tested, and there is only so much time in the day, what else can we possibly do to speed up our processes and free our employees to focus on strategy instead of redundant mundane tasks? Evolve with the times. Use legal AI.