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Why AI Is Appealing to a Luddite, According to AI Visionary Benjamin Dryden

Liz Roegner

Benjamin Dryden, partner and vice chair of the antitrust partner group at Foley & Lardner, unashamedly calls himself a “Luddite.” But, he says, adopting and applying AI doesn’t take a technologist, or even a technology lover. In fact, it only take a little common sense to see all the ways artificial intelligence can benefit the practice of law—and help lawyers get back to doing the things they love.

Liz Roegner: Please describe your role in your organization and how technology plays a part in it.

Benjamin Dryden: My practice involves representing companies in antitrust merger reviews by the Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission. As part of these investigations, the DOJ and FTC often request massive volumes of documents, and clients cannot close on their mergers until these documents get produced. In these situations, I try to leverage technology and artificial intelligence as much as possible, to work quickly across large volumes of documents and ensure quality and consistency of approaches across a large team.

When you’re not working, how do you like to decompress?

When I’m not working, my favorite hobby is decorating my home for holidays. My favorite is Halloween, but I also like to decorate for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and events like the Olympics.

What is does artificial intelligence mean to you? How would you describe its promise at a family dinner?

Artificial intelligence is using a machine to process information to create new insights and connections. In exotic cases, AI can be used to make insights that humans are unable to make. But human beings are really, really good at making sophisticated connections. Therefore, as a practical matter, much of the value of AI lies simply in making the same sorts of connections that humans can make, untethered by human limitations like time, energy, attention spans, and personal or professional commitments.

The thing that I like the most about incorporating AI into the practice of law is that it frees up lawyers to do the things that are best done by human beings: serving as advocates, advising clients, and thinking creatively to solve difficult problems.

What’s your advice for organizations hesitant to adopt AI?

Unlike a lot of e-discovery practitioners, I approach AI as a “Luddite.” I do not find technology to be inherently interesting, sexy, or all that helpful in my day-to-day life. And my experience is that a lot of lawyers have a similar attitude. What draws me to AI is that it helps me solve a real-world problem—getting through a large volume of documents in a short period of time, to allow my clients to close their deals—and that it does so in a cost-effective, high-quality fashion.

My advice to an organization that is hesitant about adopting AI is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Technology should be about solving problems, not creating new ones. Therefore, do not adopt AI just for the sake of adopting AI. Instead, only adopt AI when you think it can help you solve a problem better than you are currently able.

Embracing technology is one thing, but finding the right technology partner is quite another. What do you look for in your technology partners?

As a Luddite, one of the most important things I look for in a technology partner is the ability to translate technical concepts into actionable ways to solve real-world problems. This relationship should feel like a partnership, with lawyers and technologists collaborating creatively to solve a common challenge.

What are the biggest areas of opportunity where you feel AI can have an impact?

I see three main areas where AI will have an outsized influence on the practice of law in the foreseeable future.

First, in document reviews, AI will be increasingly used not only to help identify responsive and non-responsive documents, but also to identify more challenging things like attorney-client privilege, confidentiality, and personal and private information.

Second, AI will be increasingly used to streamline the otherwise labor-intensive processes of redacting documents and preparing privilege logs.

Third, outside of document reviews, AI will be increasingly used to help draft legal documents like contracts and briefs. I especially look forward to a future where litigants use AI to isolate those arguments and propositions of law that are the most likely to resonate with the particular judge deciding a given matter.

In all of these areas, we should not think of AI as the end-all, be-all solution for clients’ needs. AI is not an “easy button.” Rather, AI is just one tool among many that lawyers have to serve our clients. It is by linking AI to our other tools—including the innate human gifts of judgment, creativity, and advocacy—that we best serve our clients.

We always used to say: “There’s got to be a way to automate this.” Well, now there is. AI can do a great deal of the work that we used to send to contract attorneys, and can do so faster, at a higher quality, and at substantially less cost to our clients.

What types of efficiencies and benefits have you seen in your legal practice surrounding the use of AI?

AI has absolutely transformed the way that we respond to large government investigations. Ten or twelve years ago, the only tool we had for responding to a large investigation was to hire a small army of contract lawyers and do our darnedest to try to educate them about the myriad issues at stake in the matter. We basically had to trust strangers to do the difficult work of deciphering our clients’ business documents and then understanding how those documents fit into our cases. It was a bad system at best, and it would cost clients a fortune.

We always used to say: “There’s got to be a way to automate this.” Well, now there is. AI can do a great deal of the work that we used to send to contract attorneys, and can do so faster, at a higher quality, and at substantially less cost to our clients.

AI cannot do everything. But it works really well on the parts of a matter that require the most labor and the least legal judgment. Something that really excites me is that AI can help law firms with attorney retention. Document reviews often require long hours and tedious work, which can quickly burn out good lawyers. By using AI, we can reduce human stress, burnout, and turnover, and instead allow our talented attorneys to focus on the kinds of problems that drew people into the profession in the first place.

Liz Roegner is an account executive at Relativity. Before joining Relativity, she was a practicing attorney with Choate Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston, where she focused on commercial litigation, government investigations, and insurance/reinsurance arbitration.