From digital adoption to technological innovation

Credits: Katie Atkinson

Covid-19 has forced us all to embrace many changes to our daily lives. And the legal sector is no exception. From Zoom meetings with clients to virtual courts and remote case work, law firms are embracing new technologies and new ways of working to adapt to the disruption caused by ongoing lockdowns across the UK. Now, as we begin to think about how to rebuild our economy and what the new normal looks like, firms are being presented with an opportunity to build upon the successes of their recent digital adoption. By embracing technological innovation, firms can harness the power of legal technology to drive economic recovery in the new normal.

The University of Liverpool has been producing cutting-edge research in the field of AI and law since the 1980s. Over the past decade, Liverpool researchers have pioneered ways to extract and reason with relevant knowledge and data contained within complex legal documents. Our researchers build this legal knowledge into a ‘computational model of argument’ to develop decision-support tools that enable more consistent and faster decision making than human processing delivers.

Our modelling tools are capable of replicating to a high degree of accuracy the actual outcomes of closed court cases in a variety of well-studied areas, reaching a 100% success rate in certain scoped legal fields. Liverpool researchers have recently been developing AI tools that provide explainable decision support, addressing significant concerns about the transparency of AI software. These methods open up the possibility for AI to assist legal professionals to take informed actions by advising them on legal outcomes while displaying the arguments and justification processes of the AI software. Our recent projects have shown that the adoption of these technologies benefits law firms significantly: streamlining administration, cutting costs, and driving efficiencies.

The power of partnerships

To put our research into practice, we’ve partnered with leading law firms to deploy our AI technologies in their operations. In collaboration with Weightmans and tech company Kira Systems, we developed an AI solution that extracts data to power our decision engine capable of carrying out legal reasoning. Our solution identifies arguments for settling cases and speeds up decision making, delivering case handling improvements for Weightmans and its clients.

Through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership funded by Innovate UK, Liverpool worked with another personal injury law firm to develop support tools using our AI research. The collaboration enabled the firm to embed a culture of innovation within their organisation and unlock further investments, thereby generating benefit in both efficiency and accuracy of case processing, and ultimately boosting their profitability and market share.

The development of legal technology takes time and resources but the positive impacts on the efficiency, accuracy, and speed of case processing have been found by our partners to significantly outweigh the initial expenses, with investments paying off after relatively short periods of time. The University of Liverpool’s research that is now being deployed in legal technology allows firms to make faster, more consistent decisions with the support of transparent AI tools, and to ultimately deliver swifter justice for their clients. Additionally, time savings enable earlier risk mitigation that lead to better outcomes for firms and their customers.

Through partnerships with universities, start-up companies, and local government agencies, law firms can embark upon new journeys to embed digital innovation into their operations. Working with experienced partners, such as the University of Liverpool, provides firms with technical expertise and pathways to access funding, helping them to make legal technology part of the new normal.

Learn more about digital research at the University of Liverpool here.

Professor Katie Atkinson, Chair and Dean of the School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Liverpool