'Artificial intelligence Robo-lawyer' hired by UK Serious Fraud Office

The technology was used to automatically spot legally privileged information among 30 million documents in the Rolls-Royce case

Ramy Caspi
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An "AI lawyer" has been hired by the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the department will begin to automatically analysing documents this month.

The SFO leads the UK’s fight against serious and complex fraud, bribery, and corruption. Its investigations cross international borders, involve multi-million pound (GBP) losses and huge volumes of data and correspondence across all document types it analyses to determine if criminal activity has taken place.

During a previous four-year investigation into fraud at Rolls-Royce, the Serious Fraud Office piloted OpenText, a similar technology which involved reviewing 30 million documents.

By automating document analysis, AI technology allows the SFO to investigate more quickly, reduce costs and achieve a lower error rate than through the work of human lawyers, alone.

The SFO said that technology was up to 80% cheaper than using outside counsel to review those documents and identify legally privileged material.

SFO’s Chief Technology Officer, Ben Denison said:

“AI technology will help us to work smarter, faster and more effectively investigate and prosecute economic crime. Using innovative technology like this is no longer optional – it is essential given the volume of material we are dealing with and will help ensure we can continue to meet our disclosure obligations and deliver justice sooner, at significantly lower cost. The amount of data handled by our digital forensics team has quadrupled in the last year and that trend is continuing upwards as company data grows ever larger.”

According to a article published by SkyNews, OpenText, the "AI lawyer", goes "further than just flagging legally privileged material. It can also scan and organise information from multiple document types - PowerPoint, Outlook calendar invites, Word documents etc - displaying the information relevant to an investigation on a timeline for an investigator to then review."

Mark Barrenechea, Vice Chair, CEO and CTO, OpenText, said:

“Advances in AI technology, the ability to review and analyse vast amounts of information, and provide timely and meaningful insights will forever change the way the legal profession operates. The Serious Fraud Office is leading the way in the use of digital technology to investigate economic crimes, and OpenText is excited to partner with them as they look for truly revolutionary ways to use the lasted advancements across the organisation”

The SFO told Sky News they expect the system to cost "around £12m over the expected lifetime of 7 years - which is offset against the savings the new tech will bring by enhancing our ability to review and investigate in a targeted way, without solely relying on human review."