It’s quite an exciting place for new technology in the legal sector. In this regular series, we’ll take a look at a variety of new technology in the marketplace that offers something different for law firms.

Project Cortex

To start with, a subject very close to my heart is Microsoft 365 and in particular, Project Cortex.

We’ve had a buzz around Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the legal sector but as yet for a few years now, however in the small to mid-tier space we’ve not seen a huge amount of practical application. One of the reasons is down to accessibility. AI projects have typically been large and expensive.

That could be about to change.

Microsoft has recently been developing Project Cortex as part of Microsoft 365. This is the first real chance firms have to utilise AI without having to invest huge sums to do so.

Project Cortex applies AI to analyse content within the business Microsoft 365 environment. It analyses structured and unstructured content and can recognise content types. The technology will then extract important information, and automatically organise it into specific topics.

The first serious business product to come out of Project Cortex is SharePoint Syntex. SharePoint is a Microsoft product, used by firms some firms as an intranet and a document repository.

SharePoint Syntex provides the ability to “read” documents added to the SharePoint environment. It searches documents (e.g. precedents, contracts, agreements or even content that is more unstructured) to automatically apply metadata properties to the documents with no profiling required by a user.  Each piece of content is then applied a topic by Syntex so that the content can be grouped automatically into clusters. This makes it easier for users to find the content they need without having to perform multiple searches.

If your firm currently uses SharePoint in Microsoft 365, SharePoint Syntex is an add-on available as a free trial.

Digital Dictation

On the subject of Microsoft Artificial Intelligence, Dictalogic caught my interest as a dictation solution that taps into Microsoft Cognitive Service to convert speech into text across 90 different languages.

Whilst Dictalogic caters for traditional author and human transcriber methods, an author can also choose to use Microsoft Cognitive Services to transcribe the dictation to text. What is interesting about the Dictalogic solution is that they have built dictionary models that are industry-specific. This approach increases the level of accuracy for end-users. The dictionaries are constantly evolving with the addition of new words.

Dictation to text services are becoming more ubiquitous. If fee-earners are looking for a solution that allows them to easily tap into text to speech services, without needing all the bells and whistles of a separate and full dictation solution they need look no further than Microsoft Word.

More recent versions of Microsoft Word now include a Dictate function. Also using Microsoft Cognitive Services, this embedded feature is often overlooked. By simply pressing the dictate button on the word toolbar fee-earners can dictate straight into Word directly using their microphone. I used the feature to write some of this article and found it to be highly accurate. This feature is yet another example of how Microsoft is delivering artificial intelligence direct to the user’s desktop.

Electronic Signature

Whilst Adobe has long dominated the e-signature market, it’s great to see some practical alternatives competing against the giants. The Virtual Signature Smart Sign product is one such offering.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to use this product and it comes with several advanced features that make it extremely versatile.

To start, you can upload documents for signature from several cloud-based repositories including OneDrive and Google Drive. Alternatively, Virtual Signature lets you create a bank of templates.

Once the document is uploaded, you then have a variety of special fields that the recipient will be required to complete. There are the usual options there – date field, a tick box option and of course, signature – but additional options include an address lookup and private notes for the recipient. You can also embed SmartTags into your documents so that common fields are automatically inserted into template documents.

Once the fields are added, there are some additional workflow options that cater to a number of scenarios. For example, you can include a third-party advisor who will receive the documents for review before other parties see them, they also have the ability to assign the correct party to sign the document. There is also an additional PIN code security options that can be applied, as well as Smart Check ID service that can use methods such as facial recognition to verify a party. This lends itself well to KYC and AML situations.

Once a document is sent, a detailed audit log is processed showing IP addresses, locations and dates of access. Compared to other solutions I’ve used; this has a raft of features that cater to a variety of situations and offers some real power. The solution comes complete with an API – allowing the technology to be integrated with other platforms. Firms may wish to explore this type of integration with their PMS or CMS.

If you’ve come across new technology, something different, do let me know. We’re always interested to hear about any technology that provides a new spin on the traditional way of doing things.

Written by...

Nigel Stott

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