GenAI and Previous Tech Evolutions

We’ve seen plenty of significant changes in our time, but how does GenAI compare with some of the more significant historic legaltech changes? For the purposes of this exercise we've chosen, in chronological order, the birth of big data, the move to cloud computing, the introduction to analytics, and predictive coding.

Each of these milestones has been like trying to turn a battleship in a new direction – it took time and effort.

GenAI is a touchpoint in the world of legal technology.

The Birth of Big Data

Big Data was a change that was forced upon our industry. It arrived at a time when most organisations were still on their own on-premise environment or, at best, using their own tin in a co-lo setup. Although Big Data was felt very early in eDiscovery, it didn’t mean its impact wasn’t any less. On premise or co-lo meant unforeseen capex to keep up with the volumes – not just with storage, but the backup and disaster recovery that went with it. I think part of this economic pain led to the next big change…

The Move to the Cloud

Cloud was a challenge we saw first-hand as a software vendor. Big data and the demand by clients for increasing security and DR meant that many organisations who were still on-premise or co-lo weren’t capable of keeping up with the hardware demand, and even the bigger organisations that could were looking for a way to reduce their spend. You may think that this was a good enough reason to switch to the cloud, but the uncertainty of the scalability, non-cloud-native applications, cost and security concerns really did make this battleship a hard one to turn.

An Introduction to Analytics

Analytics proved a challenge which was new in its own right. We had gone from a determinative workflow (linear review meant we looked at everything) to a probabilistic world view. The onset of Big Data and associated costs drove the need to find a solution that meant we didn’t look at everything. Analytics was trying to solve an economic problem in that clients were no longer prepared to pay for slow-speed human review. They wanted technology to drive the review, but defensibly. This battleship was one of the hardest to turn around because it required wholesale education of the legal sector. And we were talking about teaching sophisticated technology, which wasn’t an easy task.

Taking Predictive Coding out of the Black Box

Predictive Coding was an evolution of the changes heralded by analytics. But it was nonetheless a significant change. It really brought home the notion of probabilistic review. Analytics could turbo-charge a linear review, but predictive coding meant machine learning was now driving significant parts of the analysis. This was a fundamental change on how we did business.


Analytics and Predictive Coding were actually part of an early definition of AI, but the arrival of Generative AI has taken the legal industry by storm. No longer was it a slow, but visible, creep upon the industry like Big Data. Nor was it a generational change where Analytics and Predictive Coding was driven by corporate clients seeking better outcomes for their legal spend. GenAI was readily seen by the legal sector itself as a must have. Years of eDiscovery, Cloud and Technology Assisted Review had conditioned the legal sector into a profession that also knew technology was part of their daily work.

We now see a maturity of the legal profession in engaging with new technology for efficiency and effectiveness

At Ease with the Battleship

So, it is no surprise that with a sophisticated, technologically aware, legal profession we now see huge interested in the latest AI trends. This is no longer a battleship to be turned. Changes are happening at lightning speed – more speedboat than tug-boat. With platforms like Merlin’s Sherlock and Discovery Partner it is easy to see why. We ask a question to AI and we get an answer that is supported by direct reference to the source data. Although data scientists are critical to the AI evolution, Sherlock doesn’t require a data scientist to see if the AI call is correct or not. This is unlike even current TAR 2.0 workflows that still require a sophisticated understand of how we determine the accuracy of models.

So GenAI is a touchpoint in the world of legal technology. We now see a maturity of the legal profession in engaging with new technology for efficiency and effectiveness. And that alone is almost as big a change as GenAI itself.

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