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Leverage AI Legal Research Tools for Your Small Practice


By: Patrick Austin

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Leverage AI Legal Research Tools for Your Small Practice

In the legal profession, staying up-to-date with the latest developments in case law, statutes, and legal research is crucial. However, the traditional methods of legal research can be time-consuming, costly, and overwhelming, especially for small law practices. That's where AI legal research tools come in. Using AI for legal research can help streamline and enhance the legal research process, which in turn will help save you time, improve accuracy, and ultimately benefit your small law practice.

Software Giants Are Launching AI Legal Research Tools

The trend of AI legal research tools is evident by the presence of behemoth software and legal research platforms embracing the power of AI to launch new products and services. For example, both Westlaw and LexisNexis integrated machine learning into competing legal research platforms. Westlaw unveiled the AI-powered “Westlaw Precision” which focused on delivering the most precise search results in the most efficient manner possible. There is also “Westlaw Edge” which integrates litigation analytics and AI-driven question-answering into its platform.

Following not far behind was LexisNexis, rolling out Lexis+ as an AI-powered, beginning-to-end legal research solution. Lexis+ features natural language search, integrated data visualizations, and Shepard’s Citation Service.

What’s Considered “AI”

An important preliminary question that needs to be answered when using AI for legal research is: When exactly is legal software considered “AI-Powered”? Well, artificial intelligence is considered to be simulated human intelligence within machines programmed with the capacity to learn, problem-solve, make decisions, and understand language, according to LexisNexis. In contrast to “traditional” pre-programmed computers, AI-powered software and technology can utilize techniques such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision to efficiently process and analyze large volumes of data. In effect, this means AI-powered machines are capable of learning and adapting independently, without human assistance or direction.

AI legal research tools are transforming the way lawyers conduct research, analyze cases, and stay updated with the latest developments in the field. These tools employ advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to automate and enhance the legal research process, providing invaluable support to small law practices. Here are some key roles that AI plays in legal research:

Data Analysis and Processing

AI legal research tools have the capability to process vast amounts of legal information from various sources such as case law, statutes, regulations, and legal journals. By analyzing this data, these tools can identify relevant and authoritative sources, extract key information, and provide valuable insights to legal practitioners.

Document Review and Analysis

Traditional legal research involves manually reviewing and analyzing documents, which can be time-consuming and prone to human error. AI legal research tools utilize natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms to analyze legal documents, identify relevant concepts, and extract pertinent information. This significantly speeds up the research process and improves the accuracy of legal analysis.

Case Prediction and Outcome Forecasting

AI algorithms can analyze past case law and legal precedents to predict the possible outcomes of current cases. By analyzing patterns, trends, and similarities between cases, these tools can provide lawyers with valuable insights and aid in decision-making processes. This predictive capability not only saves time but also enables lawyers to develop stronger legal strategies.

Legal Research Assistance

AI legal research tools act as virtual research assistants, assisting lawyers in conducting comprehensive research on specific legal issues. These tools can provide in-depth analysis, relevant case references, and comparisons of legal arguments. With AI's ability to quickly search through vast amounts of data, lawyers can access the necessary information and legal precedents within seconds, thereby improving efficiency and productivity.

Continuous Learning and Adaptability

AI legal research tools continually learn and adapt based on user interactions and feedback. By analyzing user behavior and preferences, these tools can provide more personalized and relevant research results, saving lawyers time by presenting them with the most pertinent information upfront. Additionally, as AI algorithms evolve and improve over time, legal research tools become increasingly accurate and efficient.

Using AI for Legal Research

AI legal research tools offer numerous advantages to small law practices, empowering them to compete in a rapidly evolving legal landscape. Here are some key advantages of leveraging AI legal research tools:

Save Time

Traditional legal research methods involve manually reviewing and analyzing vast amounts of legal information, which can be incredibly time-consuming. AI legal research tools utilize advanced algorithms to process and analyze this information quickly and accurately. By automating the research process, small practices can save valuable time and allocate resources more efficiently.

Improve Accuracy

Human error is always a concern when conducting legal research. AI legal research tools mitigate this risk by leveraging machine learning algorithms and natural language processing to analyze legal documents and extract relevant information. This significantly improves the accuracy of legal analysis and reduces the likelihood of oversight or missing critical details.

Save Money

‘Hiring additional staff solely for legal research purposes can be costly for small practices. AI legal research tools provide a cost-effective alternative by automating research tasks that would traditionally require significant manpower. By reducing the need for additional personnel, small practices can allocate their resources more efficiently and focus on delivering high-quality legal services to their clients.

Comprehensive Insights

By analyzing vast amounts of legal data, AI tools are capable of identifying relevant and authoritative sources, extracting key information, and providing valuable insights to legal practitioners. This comprehensive approach allows small practices to access a wide range of information and make more informed decisions.

Warning: AI Tools Are Not Lawyers

Using AI for legal research holds both incredible promise and career-damaging pitfalls. When determining the best AI for legal research, it is important to never forget that AI tools are not lawyers. As an attorney, there are specific ethical obligations that must be respected and adhered to in your work on behalf of clients. An actual, real-life example of the potential pitfalls (and career-damaging ramifications) of using AI powered legal research tools for complex tasks can be found in a New York lawyer who relied far too much on AI technology and neglected their professional obligations. Specifically, this attorney made national headlines after it was discovered they relied on ChatGPT for a legal brief in a client's personal injury case that was filed in court. It was later discovered that the AI-generated brief cited six non-existent court decisions, according to

A Final Word

AI legal research tools are revolutionizing the legal profession by streamlining the research process, improving accuracy, and enhancing the capabilities of small law practices. By leveraging AI technology, lawyers can access a wealth of legal information, make informed decisions, and provide high-quality services to their clients. Embracing AI legal research tools is not only a smart move for small law practices, but also an essential step towards staying competitive in an increasingly digital and data-driven legal landscape.

NBI provides a range of AI CLE courses to assist professionals in comprehending the risks of using generative artificial intelligence in the practice of law. We are committed to keeping our customers on the forefront of these transformative and powerful technologies.

Patrick Austin is an attorney specializing in administrative law, including regulatory and compliance matters with experience working in both the public and private sector. Patrick graduated from Old Dominion University in 2009 with a BA in Technical & Professional Writing. He then went on to attend George Mason University School of Law and graduated in 2013. Upon passing the Virginia Bar Exam, Patrick went into private practice joining a boutique law firm focused on civil litigation. Patrick gained invaluable experience overseeing pre-trial discovery, responding to complaints, taking and defending depositions, and so forth. Patrick currently practices law in the Richmond, VA area.

This post was written by a guest blogger. Although this article was thoroughly reviewed by NBI staff, the views, opinions and positions expressed within the post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of NBI. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within the post are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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