The jury is still out on the role to be played by artificial intelligence in law. As a recent New York Times article observed about IBM’s attempts to commercialize its Watson AI computer, “[C]ommercializing new technology, however promising, typically comes in short steps rather than giant leaps.”

That said, there was a notable leap this week when Deloitte and Kira Systems announced an alliance “to bring the power of machine learning to the workplace, an innovation that could help free workers from the tedium of reviewing contracts and other documents.”

I wrote about Kira in 2014, when it was called DiligenceEngine. It is a system for using machine learning to perform due diligence and contract analysis, tedious review tasks typically relegated to large-firm corporate associates. It automates the extraction and analysis of key contract provisions, with the goal of enabling faster and more accurate review.

The alliance between Deloitte and Kira will effectively combine the former’s know-how with the latter’s technology.

The alliance will combine Deloitte’s business insights in cognitive technologies with Kira Systems’ advances in machine-learning in creating models that quickly “read” thousands of complex documents, extracting and structuring textual information for better analysis.

In the announcement, Craig Muraskin, managing director of Deloitte’s U.S. Innovation group, said that this combination could have broad implications for the marketplace. “Wading through miles of corporate jargon hunting for key words and patterns can consume considerable time and resources. By teaming with Kira Systems we can help organizations reduce their review time while redeploying talent to higher value activities.”

Perhaps even more interesting in the announcement was the news that Deloitte had already been using the Kira platform for more than a year, creating custom models for its clients to generate quicker insights into their particular challenges.

“For over a year, Deloitte has been quietly ramping up deployment of our machine learning contract analysis software, and using it on client work,” Noah Waisberg, CEO of Kira Systems, told me in an email. “Deloitte now has over 3,000 active users of Kira-based platforms. They have trained Kira to identify thousands of data points, and used it on hundreds of client projects — some over 100,000 documents — yielding 20–90% time savings.”

Waisberg believes this is the largest AI deployment to date by any professional services firm. And while Deloitte is not a law firm, much of its work closely parallels legal work, he said.

“Artificial intelligence has arrived to a point where machines can scale human expertise by extracting information from complex documents,” Waisberg said. “It accurately identifies information by learning from examples versus just reflexively identifying pre-programmed clauses.”

I noted not long ago that Thomson Reuters is using Watson to develop an AI product for lawyers. In point of fact, there are any number of projects working to enhance the use of AI in law practice. The future of law indisputably involves AI, and the Deloitte-Kira announcement is further evidence that that future is already here.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.