The Serious Fraud Office has hired an “AI lawyer” which is set to start work this month and automatically analyse documents.
It previously piloted similar technology developed by Canadian firm OpenText during its four-year investigation into fraud at Rolls-Royce which involved reviewing 30 million documents.
The SFO said that technology was up to 80% cheaper than using outside counsel to review those documents and identify legally privileged material.
OpenText, the “AI lawyer”, goes “further than just flagging legally privileged material” an SFO spokesperson told Sky News.
“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.”
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.”
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OpenText’s software can be trained to identify communications between corporate entities and their legal advisors, although this can be spoofed in a number of ways.
Asked if the SFO anticipated that committed fraudulent organisations might seek to take advantage of the automated analysis, a spokesperson told us:
“There would be rather serious ramifications for the lawyers if they attempted to falsify documents and it is always possible for the SFO to challenge a company claiming legal professional privilege in court.”
During the Rolls-Royce case, the pilot software was able to scan for privileged information “at speeds 2,000 times faster than a human lawyer” according to the SFO.
Ben Denison, the chief technology officer at the SFO, said that the amount of data handled by the company’s digital forensics team had quadrupled in the last year.
“That trend is continuing upwards as company data grows ever larger,” Mr Denison added.
“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 investigation into Rolls-Royce was the UK’s first criminal case to make use of AI technologies, according to the SFO.
The office added that law enforcement organisations in the UK and as far away as Australia have asked about its experience of the technology.
OpenText’s software will begin to be the SFO’s primary case management tool from this month.
A new case that the SFO is looking at is already exceeding the Rolls-Royce case in size, with over 50 million documents requiring review.
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