LegiswayAI-Contracts
Legal17 September, 2020

Artificial intelligence for contracts: the latest indispensable tool for corporate legal departments!

By: Nicolas SarraquigneRomain PhilbertGrégoire Miot

An informative, cross-sectional look at a technology praised by legal professionals, and which already appears as a new basic feature of the Legisway solution. Less idealised, more accessible: everything you always wanted to know about AI, but never dared to ask!

Head of Product Management Romain Philbert, Head of Sales Nicolas Sarraquigne, and Head of New Markets Grégoire Miot work in the legal software department at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory. In this interview, they discuss their roles in the launch of an innovative AI contract indexing function. Let's discover the latest version of Legisway!

How are you approaching the launch of this new version of Legisway?

Nicolas Sarraquigne: We're very keen to get our clients and prospects using the new version. These new 360° services support lawyers better than ever throughout the life cycle of a contract with an AI that we are very proud of. Today, all that is possible almost without leaving the software. It's a first in the world of French legal software publishers!

Romain Philbert: Yes, it's a major step forward for the software and for the integration of a new technology into the everyday practices of legal departments. Our goal is to create an AI accessible to all, because AI is becoming a basic feature.

Grégoire Miot: In the six months since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, we've noticed a growing awareness among companies of their digital needs and maturity. We aren't just a software provider layering technical modules to automate tasks. We're integrating a process ecosystem to help lawyers be more productive at a time when tension surrounding these issues has really come to the fore.

What is your vision for AI?

Romain Philbert: Compared to other fields, like defence or medicine, AI is not a natural bedfellow for corporate lawyers; nevertheless, although the trend caught on more slowly in this sector, it's beginning to pick up speed. I feel like this is a niche market when it comes to using AI because it exclusively concerns a restricted, specialised field with a precise subject matter: contracts.

Nicolas Sarraquigne: AI applied to law and, in particular, to the contracts we work on, has long been the subject of all manner of fantasies and desires. With the AI in Legisway, we've moved away from the myth and toward a more functional technological reality. 

How does Legisway's AI technology work?

Romain Philbert: The AI is based on the principle of machine learning. Having seen 1,000 or 10,000 examples of signature dates, the AI learns to recognise them better and is able to provide a good answer when asked to find one in a contract. Our AI develops this notion of drawing on past experience to provide a better service in the future. Beyond the work of engineers, the power and breadth of an AI is linked to the volume and quality of the data used by the machine to learn. Millions of pieces of data cannot be found by simply snapping your fingers; it's often located within the company, but poorly accessible and very complicated to analyse! Our strong market presence will allow us to feed the machine with sufficient data, and this is the true value of our technology. Eventually, our AI will be capable of analysing an increasingly wide range of contracts, even specialising in different sectors of activity. This means we'll gain more in-depth information from the AI and be able to analyse more types of contracts. We are also using text mining, which involves analysing documents, i.e. understanding the written word. It's vital for the AI to understand words and how they relate to one another in the legal context. A word may have a very different meaning in a novel than in a legal text – when we talk about construction, we're not simply referring to a building site!

Grégoire Miot: There's always this fantasy of wondering if AI could ever replace the work of a lawyer in the future. However, it's clear to us that AI remains an example of powerful, augmented assistance in the analytical process.

Nicolas Sarraquigne: Yes, and all that takes time; we are clearly at the stage of intelligent learning. This is why we aren't interested in selling the dream of AI; now more than ever, we're more focused on concrete business support that makes sense for our customers.

What services does the Legisway AI provide to users?

Nicolas Sarraquigne: It frees our users from the drudgery of tedious tasks using intelligent contract indexing. This step is now one of the starting points in the software. Nowadays, it's impossible to imagine understanding a new PDF contract just by clicking through it! More concretely, the user loads their file into the software, the process starts, and within a few seconds, the user will receive a report containing all the key information extracted from the contract. The promise is simple: before, you needed around 20 minutes on average to understand a new contract. With our AI, it's between four and five minutes! But AI isn't a magic wand; the lawyer's analytical skills are still crucial in detecting anomalies because the law itself remains complex and certain subtleties may escape the machine.

Romain Philbert: It's not so much that our customers needed AI, but they needed a solution finally to speed up data entry times. To compile reports, to be alerted to contracts, and to search for a single company contract among thousands, you need to have them all recorded beforehand. This time-consuming work gave rise to enormous contract archives at our clients' premises. They, therefore, sorted this archive by only recording risky contracts, those with priority maturities or those formatted in the same way. The recovery of historical records was just as complicated to deal with. What could be more frustrating when you deploy legal software than to open it and find that it's completely empty – when in reality the company has negotiated thousands of contracts!

Grégoire Miot: Our AI makes it possible to mass import your contract database. The idea is to be able to deal with an archive of contracts that lawyers simply never have the time to manage. This is a major step forward in terms of reliably securing the company's assets – and the software does this instantly.

What are the key things to bear in mind about AI?

Nicolas Sarraquigne: AI is not a magic wand! The machine can make mistakes, so a human "translation" will always be needed to identify the minor obligations hidden away in some contracts – like a form of tailor-made contract management. The AI we're offering is ready to use. It performs when it encounters the same type of contract 10,000 or 100,000 times, allowing it to easily return the expected data.

Romain Philbert: We're going to perform a stress test once the first results come out of the machine. To put it another way: there's no filter at all, whether the data returned is true or false! There will be no nuance in the results. Human feedback will be used to tell the AI that it's made a mistake by confirming (or not) its new answer. The machine will take this into account and correct itself. This progressive optimisation will be done for large volumes of data.

What are the main advantages of this AI?

Nicolas Sarraquigne: We're on the cutting edge of today's market and benefit from potential expansion both horizontally, by applying AI to litigation, corporate or public administration, and vertically, by enhancing the AI's capabilities.

Romain Philbert: One thing I find especially interesting about this technology is its ability to serve use cases other than the contract. This dimension is unique in that the AI allows us to offer other languages and other legal content. This gives lawyers a little perspective. Yes, there are contracts, but not just contracts! Our software helps lawyers to take their true place within their company, allowing them to focus on their added value, their legal expertise and securing contractual assets. What's the point in a lawyer having to trawl through 15 cupboards to find the specific contract someone is asking for? The idea has always been to unburden lawyers as much as possible. Our AI has been developed with this in mind.

Grégoire Miot: Our powerful technology will be able to do more than just contracts, because our DNA today covers all areas of the legal field – not the contract alone. This cutting-edge AI is a very advanced assistive tool that can further refine a lawyer's analytical prowess. It will allow them to refocus on the most important aspects of their work.

Any final words?

Romain Philbert: Knowing how to read a contract doesn't make you a lawyer! I'm no lawyer, but I can do it! AI isn't revolutionising the legal profession, but will allow lawyers to concentrate on their profession's real expertise.

Grégoire Miot: Indeed, our AI is an assistive tool for a lawyer; it is not designed to replace them! Let's avoid the false promises of an all-powerful AI. We have a big responsibility to explain clearly the anticipated benefits of AI to companies.

Nicolas Sarraquigne: The AI tends towards better legal security, also thanks to all the services included in the new version of Legisway, such as collaborative tools and document management. It's a concrete, modern approach that we look forward to sharing with legal experts, as well as with buyers, financiers, general services staff, marketing and sales staff... in short, all of the teams involved in managing a contract.

DELLA AI - the right partner

Wolters Kluwer has joined forces with legal tech DELLA, which specialises in AI contract analysis.

Thanks to the integration of a programming interface (API) between Legisway and DELLA technology, users can benefit from AI capabilities in contract management.

  • The right speciality > An Anglo-Saxon start-up specialising in contract analysis, gathering key information about a contract via machine reading. The machine is trained to learn not only different languages but also the precise legal language used in each type of document.

  • The right method > Through their collaboration, the Legisway and DELLA engineers have successfully identified which questions to ask the AI to get the best results. Example: When was the contract signed? What is the signature date of the contract? While these questions may seem identical, they are far from it to the machine! Simultaneously transparent for the user, the quality of this work is what ultimately drives the quality of the AI in the software market, especially since there's no universal nomenclature of contracts in France today, for instance.

  • The right flexibility > Studies and operational tests have demonstrated the relevance of the DELLA technology for other use cases in the future, such as the eventual integration of German and Dutch, as well as other areas of legal applications, like the ones in the software's business modules.
  • The right security > DELLA chose to host the data at Orange Business Services in France.

Nicolas Sarraquigne - Head of Sales, Wolters Kluwer : Having always been passionate about selling software and convinced that it's an inexhaustible source of progress, Sarraquigne has once again been proven right by the applications of AI to contract management! His career in the world of legal software has given him privileged access to the legal profession, helping him to gain insights into legal issues and the future of lawyers.

Romain Philbert - Head of Product Management, Wolters Kluwer: This product visionary knows AI contracts inside out because he was at the heart of the team developing the Legisway AI. He carefully measures every word and believes that active, user-centred listening is the key to innovation!

Grégoire Miot - Head of New Markets, Wolters Kluwer: This expert in Legisway solutions is in constant contact with clients and thought leaders in the in-house legal software sector. A speaker and former lawyer, Miot works in strategic markets, drawing on his analytical skills and keen foresight to talk about AI.

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