Lady justice with computer screen background

Artificial intelligence for next generation legal services

Legal professionals face vast amounts of lengthy official documents for even relatively simple legal work. What if AI could process these documents instead and advise on legal decisions, based on previous precedents?

The challenge

AI is transforming the way we do work and the legal sector is no exception. AI technology development takes time and resources, but the positive impact on efficiency, accuracy and reduced work hours can significantly outweigh the initial expenses. In addition, time savings enable earlier risk mitigation that can lead to better outcomes for businesses and their customers.

The University of Liverpool has been innovating in AI and law since the 1980s, collaborating closely with the International Association for AI and Law (IAAIL). Professor Trevor Bench-Capon and Professor Katie Atkinson from the Department of Computer Science have both served as president of IAAIL, leading to fruitful collaborations with local and national law firms and the development of bespoke AI tools.

Research action

Over the past decade, Atkinson’s group has been developing innovative ways to extract relevant data points from complex legal documents. The resulting computational models of argument (CMA) help to develop decision-support tools that enable more consistent and faster decision making.

CMA tools have been demonstrated as highly accurate in replicating the outcomes of closed court cases in a variety of well-studied domains – reaching 100% success in certain areas of law. Other AI tools under development provide decision support tools that can recommend choices while displaying the argument and justification process, assisting legal professionals to take informed actions. For example, CLIEL (Commercial Law Information Extraction based on Layout) applies AI techniques such as natural language processing (NLP), data mining and machine learning to provide a fast, flexible and scalable system for extracting information from legal documents related to commercial law.

Working in partnerships

Collaboration with Barclays’ Eagle labs on their new law-tech initiative brings together academic partners with The Law Society and major legal firms. University of Liverpool academics will be mentoring legal businesses and start-ups on how to implement the most recent law AI technologies in a sustainable way.

Applying AI research in any sector requires close cooperation with the end user. Grants from Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) with Riverview Law and Fletcher Solicitors have led to tailor-made products supporting the specific needs of the each business. These major projects were made successful by the joint effort of the Liverpool computer scientists Professor Katie Atkinson, Professor Frans Coenen and Dr Danushka Bollegala.

A project with a leading UK law firm, Weightmans, has also applied AI decision support tools for the company’s legal work in insurance practice.

Outputs and outcomes

Liverpool academics are continuing and expanding cooperation with law firms. Future ambitions include achieving a higher level of automation for initialising computer models, and creating an innovative digital legal assistant in the field of clinical negligence.

The value of the developed technologies will be demonstrated in the form of positive national and global impacts. Products will ultimately speed up the legal process and improve the consistency of legal decision-making for the benefit of companies and their international clientele.

The University of Liverpool has been innovating in AI and law since the 1980s, collaborating closely with the International Association for AI and Law (IAAIL).

Professor Katie Atkinson

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