Working with A.I. 

September, 2021 - Shoosmiths LLP

On 23 September 2021 we hosted our latest IHL webinar on working with AI: the key types, implementing AI and what the future might bring. Ian Blackwell represented Next Retail Ltd on the panel, alongside Simon McArdle and Sebastian Price, Commercial Partners at Shoosmiths.

The background:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) is here now, and its power is taking off. Put simply, AI is a gamechanger. Its impact is revolutionising many aspects of in-house lawyers’ work and making their working lives more efficient
  • AI means that in-house lawyers can concentrate on those things that matter most to them and their teams
  • AI won’t replace lawyers; it will complement them
  • Businesses need to think about how AI can work for them now, to allow them to work smarter, faster and better
  • There are many major players in this space, it is a crowded marketplace with new entrants all the time
  • The three common areas for AI for lawyers are: (i) contract review; (ii) due diligence, and (iii) eDiscovery

So you’re ready for AI? What should you be thinking about?

On implementation, look for the easy wins:

  • Do you need an end-to-end solution? Sometimes it makes sense to start with something relatively basic that doesn’t need a lot of configuration. Perhaps start with ‘single issue’ products that operate on a SaaS (software as a service) basis 
  • Keep it simple: the lead in time for some contract management platforms is often 12-18 months, with costs in the six to seven figure range. Most in-house lawyers don’t have the time, budget or background in IT for complicated systems. You don’t have to overcomplicate things

Future-proof your AI:

  • Check the product’s roadmap: what is its shelf life? Does that work for you?
  • Check the exits: most legaltech includes data storage. What happens if you exit?
  • Keep it simple: the more integrated and configured a product is, the harder it is to replace. Having a few distinct and independent single-function products can help spread the risk of obsolescence and also help you evolve things over a modular basis over time 

Remember the benefits:

  • Be realistic: no AI (nor any legaltech, for that matter) is perfect. Perfection can be the mortal enemy of improvement
  • The better you feed your AI, the better it is: AI needs a good data diet. Remember: rubbish in, rubbish out. AI needs copious amounts of reliable data
  • Don’t forget about EQ: legaltech is about people and tech, not people or tech. The replacement of some of our routine work with AI is a golden opportunity to hone our human skills even further

The panel then looked at a case study of AI legaltech: contract analysis tool Cia®. Dan Greatorex, Associate at Shoosmiths, gave a run-through of this technology on an example contract. 

Dan showed, in particular:

  • How Cia® can be used as a Word plug-in to give in-house lawyers a handy snapshot of key risks in the contract along with each risk’s associated rating: low, medium or high
  • How the AI in Cia® shows what is wrong with existing provisions. Does the supplier, for example, give proper warranty protections? No? Cia® suggests the relevant text and provides the rationale for the change, ready to be shared with the counterparty
  • How the AI in Cia® also identifies missing areas: should the contract include, for example, confidentiality provisions? Yes? Again, Cia® suggests the relevant text and commentary
  • Above all, how quickly this can all be done, with Dan turning the contract round as the panel spoke

So how does this all work in practice?

Ian Blackwell, Legal & Compliance Director at Next Retail Ltd, told us his AI story. Ian has been an in-house lawyer at Next since 2007 and his team is small: three lawyers. He was an early adopter of legaltech given the ‘glut’ of commercial contracts in the business. From two-page terms and conditions to multi-million pound contracts, all of which always seem to be urgent, but with not enough people to deal with them.

He needed a practical solution to turn these around. Ultimately, he came across Cia®. Cia® allows his team to process day-to-day contracts effectively so that they can concentrate on the most important sections in them—to ‘top and tail’ them, in Ian’s words.

The benefits for Next? 


  • Is cheaper, the AI does much of the work
  • Is quicker, the AI can turn a contract around in minutes
  • Needs no complicated implementation
  • Allows the team to focus on more important and interesting work, AI takes care of dealing with many of the ‘dull’ and run-of-the-mill contracts

Ian isn’t worried about being out of a job any time soon either. AI-powered tools are augmented services, not replacement services. The tech is helpful, he said, but it doesn’t do everything (it isn’t perfect, but neither, alas, are lawyers). There always needs to be some level of human oversight. 

If anything it is too quick!

To show you the power of our AI, we’re offering free Cia® contract reviews this autumn performed live on screen. Give us one of your contracts and watch Cia® do three hours work in the time it takes to make a cup of tea. The future of lawyering is now. The future of lawyering is Cia®.

If you have any questions on AI or would like a chat generally about what AI (and Cia®) can do for you, please do get in touch. We’d be delighted to hear from you.


Link to article


WSG Member: Please login to add your comment.