Macfarlanes takes Kira relationship to next level

Macfarlanes has taken its relationship with Kira Systems to the next stage, agreeing a longer-term commitment for the use of its contract analysis software, which the City firm has been using for around 18 months across its real estate, commercial, corporate and finance practices, in particular developing its capability within banking and derivatives.
Kira – which refuses on principle to announce relationships with law firms that have only used its software once or on an ad hoc basis – will announce the existence and formalisation of its relationship today (26 March).
We caught up with Christopher Tart-Roberts (pictured), head of knowledge, innovation and legal technology at Macfarlanes, who told us: “Quite a lot of the work we’ve done has been developing what Kira can do within our finance capability. Kira comes out of the box, pre-taught, but quite a lot of that knowledge is corporate and commercial. We needed to expand that out so Kira can also extract the same information from our finance documents: loan agreements and ISDA agreements etc., so we have spent quite a lot of time building our own bespoke models.
“The recent change is that we have agreed a longer term commitment to working with Kira and working with them more closely in terms of how they are developing out the product. I’ve been having a lot of conversations with their people who are building the pre-taught models, in order for us to have more influence and involvement in what Kira teaches Kira to do. They are doing a lot of work to build out the arsenal that Kira can understand. We’ve done a lot of work ourselves to build our finance capability and while Kira is doing the same thing, there is a bit of duplication. It’s also good for me to know what’s on their roadmap so I won’t direct so much resource in one area if I know something is coming out in the near future.”
While Tart-Roberts wouldn’t use the word ‘exclusive’ for the firm’s relationship with Kira he says that Macfarlanes isn’t actively using any other contract analysis tool at the moment, partly thanks to the constraints of time. He says: “I suspect that over time we will be using a patchwork of AI providers to service different projects of different types.”
The advantage of using one system is that staff at the firm can become skilled at using it and Tart-Roberts says: “We have spent quite a lot of time training the AI ourselves and from that perspective I wanted one system so my guys can skill up and make the most of a system: Kira’s ability to allow you to build on the out of the box capability with your own teaching was for us quite a significant factor.” Macfarlanes is using Kira’s Quick Study feature to teach Kira client-specific language: a key factor in its selection.
Kira enables Macfarlanes’ lawyers to automatically extract key data from contracts, with the commercial team now using the tool to conduct faster, more comprehensive and accurate commercial document reviews.
On one such matter, Macfarlanes was able to complete a review project with Kira on 1500+ commercial documents in just two days and provide their client with a detailed risk assessment. Tart-Roberts told us: “Without the AI no one would have been able to process that number of documents and review the diligence points they were interested in in that very tight time frame. It allowed us to do some work that would otherwise have needed to be done on a smaller sample basis. AI got us 70-80% there, and our lawyers got us the rest of the way.”
The move comes as clients are increasingly asking for proof that law firms are using the likes of contract analysis software as part of their panel assessments.
Tart-Roberts says: “It is increasingly expected by clients. It’s almost invariably a part of panel pitches: when we’re asked to tender for a significant relationship and pieces of work, almost invariably we’re being asked to demonstrate that we can put forward what you’d call a ‘good CV’ in terms of our legal technology innovation story. Clients want to know that we are taking it seriously and exploring what’s out there, that we are on top of technology and utilising it for our clients’ benefit, and that we’re pushing the envelope where we can and actively seeking opportunity where we can to use the technology to improve client service.
“For us that’s the big thing: it’s not about ticking the box that we’re using AI, but more about thinking ‘what’s going to make the difference? What is going to improve the client experience? What’s going to help to make clients place their business with us rather than somewhere else?’”