3 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Law Firm Email in 2018

by Zero

Artificial intelligence is finally coming to email and it’s going to change everything...

Email is the nervous system of the modern law firm; however, despite having been around for almost fifty years, the basic technology of electronic mail hasn’t really evolved much. In age of rapid-paced technology and information, this presents attorneys with all kinds of drawbacks. For example, an email inbox is flat – everything arrives with the same priority, regardless whether it is important client communication or gratuitous spam. 

Moreover, email isn’t good at managing large amounts of information. The architecture doesn’t really support the specialized work attorneys do, involving copious amount of critical information. And worst of all, email on a mobile device, which is where attorneys increasingly operate, is awkward and difficult. In fact, all the challenges of email are exponentially worse on mobile, which has become a major pain point for the working, mobile lawyer.

Things are going to change, and rapidly, as we enter an age in which our computers successfully complete tasks that until recently required human intervention but now can be done - at scale, faster, and often times more effectively - by artificial intelligence. Here’s how:

1. Efficient Tracking of Billable, Mobile Work

Tracking and billing time at your desk is pretty simple. But anywhere else? Not so much. Until now. Powered by artificial intelligence, your mobile device is going to know when you’re doing client work, and more importantly, what you are doing and for how long. This work will be efficiently logged, timesheets will be automatically created, and for the first time, mobile email work will be a significant source of billable time – and revenue. 

...your phone will start to capture revenue from what used to amount to nothing: work time on mobile

Like those devices that capture drinking water from fog, your phone will start to capture revenue from what used to amount to nothing: work time on mobile email.

2. A Secure, Smart, Mobile Connection With Your Document Management Systems 

If email is the modern law firm’s nervous system, the DMS is the skeleton: It supports and organizes everything. The millions and millions of pages of documents, notes, research and above all, emails, a firm creates have to live somewhere secure, structured, and accessible. Document management systems have become the answer, but they have one big flaw, particularly with respect to organizing emails and the things attached to them: mobile.

Getting items into and out of a DMS system on a mobile device is, to use a term of art, a major pain in the neck. Until now. Intelligent email systems will identify the right place (client, matter, and folder) for information, and make sure it gets there. It will also manage the secure connection between your mobile email and your DMS, and make sure they play together nicely. 

3. Smarter Email, Period

A typical attorney receives a constant stream of hundreds of emails daily, with almost no structure or intelligence behind them. Which of these emails are really important, and which ones can wait? Which require a response? Which messages go with which client and are connected to what matter? 

Current email technology doesn’t help with any of this critical prioritization and organization -- attorneys have to do it manually. Which is a distraction, a time suck and for someone who bills by the hour, expensive. And, again, all of this is much worse in a mobile environment. 

AI will interpret and classify what’s in your inbox, and help you focus your attention and time where it will have the most impact.

Artificial Intelligence will address this, too. Instead of scrolling through dozens of message headers while standing in an airport, or waiting for a meeting, mobile AI will interpret and classify what’s in your inbox, and help you focus your attention and time where it will have the most impact. You’ll know what’s urgent and what’s not. You’ll be alerted, for example, if you’re about to accidentally cc: someone on a confidential email. And because it’s AI, the system will keep learning, keep improving, and become ever more useful.

An old maxim about delegation advises that “You should only do what only you can do.” This is especially true if your time is worth several hundred dollars an hour. As the legal services market gets more and more competitive, as pricing pressure becomes greater, and as the overall stakes gets higher, every minute attorneys spend on work that doesn’t generate revenue becomes increasingly more expensive. 2018 will be the year in which that stuff begins to get handed over to the AI-powered mobile device itself, and attorneys can spend more time than ever being, well, attorneys. 

If you'd like to discuss exactly how AI will help bring about these changes - connect with me. I'm happy to talk. And stay tuned for additional posts from me on the topic, right here.


[Peter Darling is VP of Marketing at ZERO, a Los Gatos, California-based company whose mission is to apply artificial intelligence and smart automation to the most pressing operational challenges of the legal industry. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn and follow him on JD Supra for additional posts.

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