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For lawyers, email can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows for rapid communication and easy transmission of documents. But on the other, the sheer volume of emails that lawyers must handle creates a major bottleneck in their workflow.
Studies have shown that lawyers spend an average of 2.8 hours per day just reading and responding to emails. Partners at major firms have reported receiving over 300 emails per day. With such a deluge, it's no surprise that lawyers struggle to keep up. Important messages get lost in the noise. Urgent requests fall through the cracks. Following up and remembering to cc recipients becomes an ongoing challenge.
This email overload has real consequences for lawyers' productivity and client service. Responding to emails eats up time lawyers could otherwise spend on substantive legal work. And because lawyers bill by the hour, drawn-out email exchanges rack up costs for clients. Lawyers also report feeling stressed and burnt out from the pressure to rapidly respond to emails around the clock.
For these reasons, email has been dubbed "the scourge of the legal profession." But it doesn't have to be this way. Artificial intelligence is emerging as a solution to tame lawyers' overflowing inboxes. By automating mundane email tasks like scheduling, data gathering, and basic communications, AI systems can dramatically reduce the email burden.
Pioneering law firms have already seen AI streamline email management and boost productivity. For example, when Dentons tested an AI email assistant, lawyers lowered their email handling time by 20%. Consumer goods giant Unilever was able to cut time spent on internal contracting emails by 75% using AI tools.
Law firms are turning to AI-powered software to help managers, partners, and associates escape the tyranny of the inbox. These intelligent algorithms can parse, prioritize, draft, and send emails with minimal human oversight. Though AI cannot entirely replace human judgment, it takes care of the busywork so lawyers can focus on higher-value tasks.
For starters, AI can automatically read and sort incoming emails based on sender, content, attachments, and defined keywords. This allows emails to be intelligently routed to the right people. Urgent client requests can be flagged for immediate response, while mundane emails are batched for later review.
AI can also draft appropriate responses to common inquiries. For scheduling meetings, it can automatically check calendars and propose times that work for all parties. For requests to share documents, AI can instantly attach the correct files. Data gathering emails can be answered by pulling information from client records and case files. Even carefully crafted legal correspondence can be created with AI support.
This automation means lawyers no longer have to manually handle each email. Studies show lawyers who use AI spend 66% less time on routine email tasks. At large firms like Latham & Watkins, AI systems have reduced the time associates spend on emails by 20-60 hours per year.
AI also helps ensure better email etiquette and compliance. Its natural language capabilities allow for generating emails with appropriate tones for clients versus colleagues. The AI can customize formalities and greetings based on relationships and past interactions. For regulated firms, AI tools can scan outgoing emails for potential compliance issues like confidentiality breaches.
Additionally, AI takes away the stress of follow-up tasks. It will reliably send deadline reminders, confirm attendees for meetings, and nag recipients who have not replied. By removing the need to constantly check and recheck email, AI reduces frustration for lawyers.
Forward-thinking firms are exploring even more advanced applications. Some are teaching AI programs to summarize long email chains to save reviewers' time. Others are building AI assistants that can provide helpful context and suggestions when composing messages. Through integration with calendars, CRM systems, and document management tools, AI has the potential to become a centralized email command center for lawyers.
At their core, lawyers are problem solvers. They analyze complex situations, conduct diligent research, and craft thoughtful solutions for their clients. Yet much of lawyers' time is consumed by administrative tasks like drafting routine emails and memos. This prevents them from fully using their legal skills to deliver value. AI document creators are changing that dynamic by automating repetitive writing tasks and freeing up lawyers to focus on the work that really matters.
Consider how much time lawyers devote to drafting basic client communications and internal memos. These documents follow standard templates and conventions. They relay straightforward information like case updates, meeting summaries, and document requests. While important, churning out such writing is neither intellectually stimulating nor a best use of lawyers' expertise.
Yet without AI assistance, lawyers have little choice but to manually draft the high volumes of routine documents their jobs demand. At an average rate of 7,000 words per day, lawyers' writing takes time away from substantive legal work. AI-powered software promises to flip that status quo.
These intelligent programs can instantly generate polished emails, memos, and other documents on demand. For example, an AI document creator can take basic case details and immediately produce a complete memo summarizing litigation status. The software can draw on an extensive library of quality legal phrasing and content to assemble cohesive writing.
Rather than starting from scratch, lawyers simply review the AI's draft and make any necessary edits. This approach shrinks drafting time from hours to minutes. It frees lawyers from having to structure routine documents and manually type the boilerplate language. Their time is redirected from repetitive writing to higher-value tasks.
Forward-thinking firms have already experienced efficiency gains. Sullivan & Cromwell has reduced the time associates spend on drafting certain documents by 80% using AI tools. For frequently requested items like due diligence memos, turnaround times have improved from days to hours. Workflows are faster, costs are contained, and clients are happier with the quick communication.
Most importantly, minimizing rote work has elevated lawyers' role. As one corporate counsel put it, "AI lets our legal team focus on giving nuanced advice versus cranking out basic documents." Lawyers have more capacity for meaningful analysis when freed from busywork. AI augments their expertise rather than replacing it.
Law firms deal with a high volume of emails that often require similar responses. While it may seem efficient to just repeatedly blast out the same canned replies, this impersonal approach frustrates clients and colleagues. That's why smart AI systems go beyond blanket automation to enable customizing canned responses.
Tailoring prewritten text may only take a few extra seconds, but it makes a big difference in how communications are received. Personalization signals that the sender cares enough to acknowledge the recipient as an individual. In contrast, copying and pasting the same reply for everyone comes across as robotic and thoughtless. This reflects poorly on the firm's brand and culture.
With AI systems, lawyers can easily modify templates without starting from scratch each time. For instance, an AI assistant might propose this base response to an inquiry about case status:
"Thank you for contacting our firm. Regarding the status of Casey v. Smith, I am pleased to report that we filed the motion to dismiss on Friday, October 5. We are now awaiting the judge's decision, but expect a ruling within the next 3-4 weeks. I will update you again as soon as we receive any new information on the case. Please let me know if you need anything else in the meantime."
From there, the lawyer can quickly personalize the message by adding the recipient's name, inserting details relevant to their specific query, and adjusting the tone as appropriate. The AI may also suggest additional paragraphs to include based on the recipient's role and past interactions. This thoughtful customization demonstrates that responses are not just copied verbatim for everyone.
Law firms using AI to customize canned text have seen improved client satisfaction metrics. For example, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman found that just adding client names increased response rates to their monthly newsletters by over 25%. Other firms have programmed their AI assistants to draw on CRM profiles in order to include personal details and conversational language in each email.
Email is the primary medium of communication in the legal profession, yet crafting messages with the appropriate tone and language remains a persistent challenge. For attorneys, getting the tone and wording wrong could negatively impact court proceedings, client relationships, and career advancement. This heightens the need for tools that aid in composing clear, tactful emails that align with audience expectations. AI writing assistants are emerging as an effective solution.
Unlike informal texts or social media posts, legal emails demand a formal tone and careful phrasing. Lawyers must write with precision to convey complex information without room for misinterpretation. They need to be direct yet courteous, professional yet personable. Striking this balance in every email is tricky, especially under time pressure. Mistakes could expose confidential information or damage rapport.
One aviation lawyer explains, "A misunderstood email has the potential to disrupt negotiations or spark conflict." Without assistance, some lawyers default to overly stiff language out of caution. But robotic-sounding emails frustrate recipients and inhibit establishing connections.
AI tools now enable lawyers to match their tone and vocabulary to each email's context. The technology can assess variables like the recipient, past exchanges, and email purpose in order to select suitable language templates. For instance, an AI assistant may suggest using relatively informal language and first names when emailing a long-term client. Yet for opposing counsel, it would propose more formal diction with full titles.
For common purposes like scheduling meetings or requesting documents, AI can pull from templates proven to get quick responses. And tools are being developed to gauge recipients' sentiments and adjust wording accordingly. One system detects frustrated language in messages and prompts the user to soften their own tone.
AI programs can also scan draft emails to highlight problematic phrases and recommend alternatives. rugbytechlaw, a UK-based firm, reported their lawyers now spend 80% less time agonizing over email language. And clients appreciate the clear communication.
Lawyers face immense pressure to respond to emails quickly, but speed often comes at the cost of accuracy. Typographical errors, incorrect recipients, and attachment mix-ups are common when messages are fired off in haste. Yet any misstep in a legal email could have major consequences down the line. AI systems provide a crucial backstop by catching errors before potentially problematic messages get sent.
With law firms sending hundreds of emails daily, it is all too easy for embarrassing mistakes to slip through. "Reply-all" horror stories abound, such as the recent case of a lawyer ridiculing opposing counsel to his entire distribution list. Confidentiality breaches also occur when attorneys forget to verify recipients or redact sensitive text. According to an ALM survey, nearly 30% of lawyers admitted sending privileged information to the wrong party.
These errors erode trust in the firm and expose them to ethical violations or malpractice claims. As the Oregon State Bar Association Ethics Committee opined, lawyers have a duty to use reasonable care when transmitting electronic information. Yet careful review is rarely feasible given lawyers' crushing workloads.
AI tools pick up the slack by scanning every outgoing email. Natural language processing detects possible issues like harsh language, confidential details, or sending to unwanted recipients. In tests by LawGeex, AI spotted an average of 22 errors in legal contract emails that humans had missed. The AI can then flag messages that need review or stop risky sends altogether.
LexCheck is one company providing this pre-send safety net for lawyers. The software is trainable to identify and intercept specific issues based on keywords, names, or patterns. Alerts then allow the user to correct mistakes from the AI's suggestions or recall messages before they deliver. During trials, over 15% of users' emails were flagged for errors, thereby avoiding negative consequences.
Kira Systems takes protection further by fully automating the send process. Users create emails in Microsoft Outlook then route them to Kira, where AI checks for errors against preconfigured guidelines. Once cleared, Kira releases messages for secure delivery. The system also reminds users if an email gets no reply after a set time period, reducing follow-up failures.
Lawyers live and die by research. Thorough investigation of the facts and law is crucial for building compelling cases, negotiating favorable deals, and advising clients. Yet the explosion of information makes comprehensive research an uphill battle. There are now over 40 million court opinions in the American legal system alone. Legislation and regulations multiply each year. With clients expecting rapid advice, sifting through this sea of data is overwhelming.
AI research assistants are proving to be a game-changer for lawyers by exponentially expanding their research capabilities. These tools empower faster, more comprehensive investigation by automating document review and legal analysis. Initial adopters report AI allows them to find relevant insights in a fraction of the time while uncovering details they would have missed manually.
Leveraging natural language processing, AI tools can rapidly search vast databases of laws, rulings, filings, and contracts. For example, when asked about force majeure clauses in supply agreements, an AI assistant called Luminance scanned nearly 100,000 documents in seconds. It extracted over 1,000 relevant excerpts for the lawyer to review - a task that would have taken an entire team weeks. The algorithm also uses logic to connect related concepts, bringing up applicable caselaw the lawyer may not have thought to explore.
AI similarly accelerates pre-trial discovery by flagging pertinent documents from massive datasets. This used to entail whole teams manually reviewing boxes of files, but AI systems like Everlaw can filter big data down to the most relevant subsets. Such efficiency gains shrink the document review phase from months to weeks for some firms. Attorneys have more confidence they have the full evidentiary picture before trial.
Other firms use AI to monitor emerging legal developments and news. For instance, Womble Bond Dickinson programs its ROSS Intelligence system to continually search for new legislation and verdicts related to clients" businesses. This proactive tracking ensures the firm is always informed of risks and opportunities that may warrant legal action or changes in strategy.
As computational power advances, AI researchers envision legal assistants that essentially function as collaborators. The technology may propose whole lines of argumentation after independently researching precedents and scholarly publications. Or it could alert lawyers to important issues and counterarguments they should consider addressing. Such capabilities will further augment human expertise.
As AI capabilities in the legal field expand, seamless integration with lawyers' workflows and systems emerges as a priority. The goal is not just automating discrete tasks, but developing AI that lawyers can interact with as naturally as any other tool. This shift promises to maximize efficiency and create a truly intelligent digital assistant.
Several forward-looking firms are already exploring deeper integration of AI across their tech stack. For example, Ogletree Deakins built an AI platform that integrates directly with software programs its lawyers use daily. Attorneys can call up the AI within Microsoft applications to summarize contracts or pull relevant language into an email draft with just a click. User feedback drove development of tools that mesh with natural workflows.
BakerHostetler took integration further by licensing ROSS Intelligence"s AI system as their own proprietary tool. ROSS is built directly into the firm"s research portal rather than needing to be accessed externally. It also continues "learning" from documents and queries within BakerHostetler. This level of firm-specific customization leads to more intelligent and targeted recommendations.
As Don Philbin, the firm"s chief technology officer, noted: "Full integration of ROSS into a law firm"s ecosystem is the only way to deliver game changing AI to attorneys who demand ease of use and seamlessness."
Other firms are exploring integration beyond just software by developing physical interfaces. International law firm Hogan Lovells demonstrated an AI assistant activated through Amazon Alexa. By integrating with a voice interface lawyers already use regularly, the AI becomes accessible anywhere within earshot.
Startups are also working on AI systems embodied in humanoid robots. For instance, Ross Intelligence (no relation to ROSS) created Ross, an AI lawyer avatar that lawyers can literally speak with. The interactive embodiment aims to make collaboration with AI feel more human.