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Wanted: a knowledge standard that underpins the usage of generative AI by lawyers

There has been lots of talk concerning the impact of generative artificial intelligence on skilled services. But despite the fact that increasingly more lawyers are using generative AI for tasks similar to drafting contracts or preparing initial legal opinions, it is obvious that it cannot yet be a panacea.

An increasingly obvious limitation is data. Generative AI requires a solid foundation of accurate and up-to-date information with generally accepted legal definitions whether it is to deliver reliable results for the career.

“AI is all about data,” says Ryan O’Leary, legal technology expert at research firm IDC. “'Garbage in, garbage out' has never been truer. By standardizing data between everyone involved. . . In theory, the (legal) industry could be sure that higher data is used to coach (AI) models.”

If such a system became the norm, lawyers around the globe would save lots of time, money and stress, experts say. However, the obstacle to creating such a system is the sheer initial outlay.

Although the laws focuses on precise definitions, the sector lacks a universal taxonomy – a scheme for classifying legal terms – even inside the same jurisdiction.

Companies have their very own taxonomies and data management systems, each with slight differences. And that may result in confusion as lawyers search and exchange information electronically.

For example, if one person is preparing to sue one other person, three attorneys may each categorize the case barely in another way.

“Lawyer No. 1 would say it’s a negligence lawsuit, and so they’d be right,” says technology and mental property attorney Damien Riehl. “Lawyer two would say, yes, that’s true, but it surely’s also a misrepresentation claim and they’d be right. And lawyer three would say: Yes, it’s, but it surely's also a defamation suit because (one party) says something incorrect about (one other person).”

Riehl can also be co-director of a non-profit organization – Further development of standards for the legal industry (Sali) – who wants to deal with this problem.

The legal sector is catching up with other sectors, says Damien Riehl © TED

It has developed a standard data language and standard for organizing, defining and categorizing (“tagging”) contracts, court rulings, patents and other legal data that the industry produces.

“Historically, legal tech providers, law firms and their customers have all been islands unable to speak with one another. . . “We can support one another effectively,” says Riehl. “Sali is a method to connect these islands.”

The goal is to create the legal equivalent of an electronic health record that any computer system can understand and share. And that, Sali supporters argue, will increase the productivity of lawyers and thus profit their clients.

Founded in 2017, Sali is comprised of legal industry professionals from major law firms, in-house legal teams, legal departments, major technology firms similar to Microsoft, and specialized legal software providers.

The standard is supported by industry groups similar to the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium and the International Legal Technology Association.

How much time do you might have?

According to the organization, well-known legal tech providers are already beginning to integrate the usual into their products. However, it stays unclear how long this can take.

For those that use it, Sali reduces ambiguity in data and terminology, meaning lawyers spend less time “understanding what that really means,” says Imran Aziz, legal tech product manager at Thomson Reuters, the legal Data and media company.

Instead, when law firms and internal teams develop their very own legal taxonomy in isolation, it’s “time-consuming and liable to duplication and errors,” he says.

“A standardized way of communicating between technical solutions using standard terminology (like Sali) helps simplify these interactions and reduce costs,” explains Aziz.

However, the legal sector is catching up with other sectors similar to: Finance And Healthcare (electronic medical records), which have their very own data standards and taxonomies, notes Riehl.

And law firms and legal teams will find that standardization is an enormous task. Riehl estimates that transitioning to the Sali data standard could take a couple of yr for a big law firm with five existing taxonomies spread across ten IT systems.

The two-step process involves a law firm or company comparing its current legal taxonomy to Sali's, identifying any differences, and updating the previous taxonomy to align with Sali's data specifications. This may require manual labeling of legal data – although Sali provides free open source software to automate the method.

The Ogletree Deakins law firm has been using Sali for about two years. Timothy Fox, director of practice innovation and evaluation on the South Carolina firm, says it used Sali to create an internal legal taxonomy based totally on litigation data in its document management system. “It’s very easy to make use of,” he says.

Cataloging data has helped Ogletree by allowing its lawyers to search out documents more quickly and stay on top of legal proceedings and developments in court filings and legal applications. Fox explains, “We have now cataloged our (document management system) using a taxonomy that we didn’t have before.”

An additional profit for Ogletree and other law firms, Fox adds, will likely be that each one major legal tech providers – similar to Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg and LexisNexis – will use the Sali standard of their products. It would also make it easier for law firms and company legal departments to change from legal IT providers.

He predicts: “If you need to use this (legal) data source, you have to adhere to the Sali standard.” . and that will likely be the turning point.”

Sali is a promising prospect because it seeks to grow to be a worldwide standard and enjoys widespread support. But despite regular growth and becoming a very important legal data standard, Sali remains to be removed from being widely used. Alternatives include “Unified task-based management system” codes developed by the American Bar Association for various sorts of legal services. Although Sali's taxonomy is taken into account comprehensive, it isn’t well-known worldwide.

So, considering that many law firms and in-house legal departments have their very own data management systems and taxonomies, why should they afford the time and expense of transitioning to a brand new system?

The need for evidence

It's unclear what number of law firms and company legal departments are using Sali to this point. Riehl declines to supply an estimate since the open source and decentralized nature of its technology standard makes it difficult to maintain track of users.

Lisa Maxwell, general counsel at FE Fundinfo, a provider of data and technology to the investment management industry, says: “There is a few resistance to alter – within the sense that many firms and internal (legal) teams have already got some resistance. “Entrenched data systems or data management systems.”

However, if legal industry leaders start using Sali and display the tangible advantages, they may provide the “nudge” for the remainder to follow suit, she believes.

An easier implementation of Sali could help make it more common. Last yrUS legal tech start-up 273 Ventures published a AI system to routinely label legal data with the Sali standard.

A man in a suit smiles at the camera
Daniel Katz: The amount of labor required to manually label legal data has led to an “acceptance bottleneck” at Sali © David Ettinger

Daniel Katz, co-founder of 273 and a law professor at Illinois Tech's Chicago-Kent College of Law, points out that the tedious task of manually labeling legal data to evolve to the Sali standard has grow to be a “bottleneck in adoption.” has led. Large corporate legal departments can generate tons of of 1000’s or more rows of legal data every month, so manually labeling these rows is impractical and “far too expensive.”

AI could automate much of the creation of a brand new legal data standard. But unless the legal sector has a comprehensive – and widely adopted – legal taxonomy, another potential advantages of generative AI for lawyers could possibly be lost in translation.


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