contract heroes with damien riehl, AI, SALI, legal tech

The Future of AI and Its Impact on Legal Professionals’ Efficiency

In one of our first ever live-streamed episodes of Contract Heroes, we had the opportunity to chat with none other than Damien Riehl. Though he started out as a musician and teacher, Damien eventually decided to switch from breaking up fights in the classroom to breaking them up in the courtroom instead. He is currently the Vice President Solutions Champion at vLex and a member of the SALI Alliance leadership team.

Damien walked us through a breakdown of SALI, showcasing at every step of the way how AI can make life easier for legal professionals. If you’re stuck in a tech slump and wondering how you can start using AI to bring more efficiency to your team, you won’t want to miss this!

All About SALI Alliance

During his 15 years working in litigation, Damien noticed a lot of “awfulness” and “drudgery” in the legal profession that he felt could be made better. This drive for improvement combined with a lifelong love of coding is what ultimately led him to become a member of the SALI leadership team. 

SALI Alliance, also known as the Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry Alliance is a non-profit dedicated to standardizing legal data. In the same way that the United States has a standard for electricity, SALI creates a standard for the legal industry through the use of tags. 

SALI tags serve as a common language that legal professionals can use to communicate, research, and gain insights across a whole host of countries and jurisdictions. Tags act as unique identifiers that stand in for certain areas of law, clauses, agreements, industries, etc. By assigning SALI tags to legal data and documents, you make the data easier to both find and understand, removing the disconnect between internal and external systems as well as the language barrier that often exists between different jurisdictions (even within the same country).

AI and SALI Use Cases for Legal Professionals

So, how do AI and SALI actually make life easier for legal professionals? Let’s unpack a few of the scenarios Damien described during our conversation.

Legal Research

SALI blows traditional legal research methods out of the water. Gone are the hours and hours spent pouring over old records and scrolling through pages of irrelevant cases. SALI’s tags make it easy to pull relevant information out of a billion documents from 100 different countries.

The tags act as unique identifiers, making it possible to submit inquiries using a particular phrase and still locate relevant information that doesn’t even necessarily use that phrase. For example, there are many ways to express “patent law” in different languages and jurisdictions. However, there is only one unique identifier that corresponds to “patent law” in SALI. So, by simply searching the “patent law” tag, you can quickly find information from other countries and jurisdictions without having to manually search or translate.

Connecting Internal and External Systems

Damien explained that SALI can also help improve the relationships between inside and outside counsel. SALI’s standardized tags make it possible for internal systems to communicate with each other and with external systems as well. A large language model can’t accomplish that interoperation without the help of SALI.

Damien illustrated this point using an example. Let’s say a business person submits a legal question. A member of the in-house legal team can then take a look at that question, tag it up with SALI tags, and search through the existing internal system using those SALI tags to see if they can find an answer. No luck? Send it out to external counsel and ask them to include SALI tags in their answer. That well-tagged answer can then live in the internal system and be pulled as a reference in the future if someone has a similar legal question.

Contract Management

Since this is Contract Heroes, we couldn’t resist the urge to ask Damien how SALI can help with contract management. He explained that SALI also has tags that correspond to agreement types and industries. They’re still working on standardizing their clause tags, but those will be available as well.

By tagging up contracts with the agreement, clause, and industry tags, contract professionals can quickly learn what’s market for the unique type of contract they’re currently drafting or negotiating. And this isn’t market based on isolated sets of data, or “anecdata,” as Damien calls it. This is a fully data-driven approach that utilizes legal documents from 100 countries. That’s about as thorough as you can get!

Reduce Misinterpretation

A member of our audience wanted to know whether or not SALI could help reduce misinterpretation between different legal systems. Damien stated that it most definitely can!

Since SALI relies on tags and universal identifiers, it can take a question in Spanish, find an answer in English, and relay that answer in Spanish. This allows legal professionals to extract the ideas from the language without even needing to translate. So, if you were looking to answer questions about how civil law relates to common law, for example, you could do so quickly and easily using SALI.

How AI Tools Drive In-House Efficiency

To really get to the heart of how AI tools can help augment in-house legal teams, we asked Damien to tell us more about increasing efficiency with SALI. He explained that, over the past 30 to 40 years, the process for in-house legal professionals has been to evaluate whether they can accomplish a task themselves or send it out to another law firm, if needed. 

Usually, the reason to seek outside help is because in-house teams simply don’t have the time to handle certain tasks, especially ones that would take 10 hours to complete. But that evaluation system has to change when you bring in tools like SALI. Why? Because that 10 hour task could be reduced to a 2 minute task using these tools.

Let’s say you run into a legal question. Your first option is to call external counsel to see if they can find an answer for you. Your second option is to ask your question to SALI and receive an answer in minutes pulled directly from the language of real cases. SALI also has access to the most recent cases that have been uploaded at the time of submission, which is information that most law firms won’t be able to ascertain as quickly.

Unlike some AI tools, SALI uses ground truth to avoid the risk of AI hallucinations. A hallucination is essentially when the AI makes up an answer to your question. Damien gave the example of trying to recall the plot of a book you read years and years ago. You may be able to provide a vague summary, but you’ll probably end up making up some of the details. Some AI tools will experience a similar phenomena, getting most things right and a few key details wrong. SALI, on the other hand, is able to provide answers to questions using real language and summaries from non-hallucinated materials.

So, the question for in-house legal teams now becomes would it take longer for me to draft an email and negotiate terms with outside counsel or simply run the question through SALI? Damien also suggested the possibility of taking the results SALI produces and sending them to external counsel to see if they can add anything on top of what the tool has already provided.

To hear more from Damien, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or X. And don’t forget to check out SALI Alliance to stay up to date with this cutting edge legal technology.