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One of Canada's Leading Tax Lawyers Shares His Thoughts on Applying AI to the Law


David Chodikoff, a tax litigation lawyer at Miller Thomson, spoke with Blue J about how innovation in the practice of law, such as adopting new technologies like Blue J Tax, is key to staying ahead of the curve.

Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) often rank high on lists of digital transformation trends in the legal industry, and there’s a very good reason: legal softwares that utilize ML and AI help lawyers work smarter and more efficiently. One of the most time-consuming parts of practice is the legal research and due diligence required to determine where a client stands. These new tools drastically reduce the time it takes to uncover actionable insights relevant to the case at hand.  

But advancements in legal technologies are only transformative when there are pioneers at leading law firms who are willing to implement new products. David Chodikoff, a partner and national leader within the tax litigation and customs disputes resolution group at Miller Thomson LLP, is one such pioneer.

Chodikoff is a former Crown Prosecutor at the Department of Justice who has appeared in over 560 cases heard by the courts. In addition to working at Miller Thomson, he is currently working on his 10th tax book.

Miller Thomson is a leading full-service national law firm that was founded in Toronto. The firm is widely regarded as one of Canada’s best in business law.

Innovation is critical to meeting demands

Across nearly all industries, company spending on AI is expected to grow to $47 billion in 2020, up almost 600% from the $8 billion spent in 2016, according to research done by Thomson Reuters.

Historically slow to change, the legal industry is also beginning to adopt AI. In fact, according to the Altman Weil “Law Firms in Transition” study from 2017, 29% of firms surveyed responded that they were starting to think about adopting such tools. This gradual shift is driven in part by individuals like Chodikoff who continue to push the innovation envelope.

“I think innovation is critical,” says Chodikoff. “When you see how firms are evolving on a global basis and dealing with the demands that our world is putting upon businesses, you have to be thinking about and employing ways to better serve the interests of your clients.”

What clients want

In today’s competitive legal landscape, clients are demanding bulletproof advice at a reasonable cost. Firms that adopt AI-backed legal research software are taking proactive measures to ensure that clients walk away knowing they’ve received the highest quality legal advice without paying exorbitant fees.

“At the end of the day, clients care about results and costs,” says Chodikoff. “Clients want excellence of service, problem solving at the highest level, and cost efficiencies.”

How does artificial intelligence help?

In addition to the obvious time-saving benefit, AI-based legal research tools offer lawyers a quick way to access data-backed support for their professional hunches.

“Artificial intelligence adds a dimension to your thinking,” says Chodikoff. “The analysis identifies insights that you might not have thought of and may lead you to a case that adds to your approach to a particular issue. That’s invaluable – you can’t put a price on that.”

The AI tool that Chodikoff mentions is Blue J Tax, a joint effort between Blue J Legal and Thomson Reuters. The software applies AI to all relevant past judicial decisions in an effort to help lawyers and other tax professionals determine the strength of their position on issues like real estate, taxable benefits, carrying on business, worker classification, and many others. The software also has an advanced search function that finds cases by specific factors, rather than by keyword or boolean searches.

“With Blue J Tax, you can find a case that helps with an argument and you never know if that’s going to be the winning argument before a court,” says Chodikoff.

On top of making lawyers more efficient, Chodikoff says that Blue J Tax is comprehensive and acts as “additional blanket coverage” by considering every relevant case in the selected area of tax law.

“Prior to the availability of Blue J Tax and the rapid analysis of information that it enables, I’d either conduct my own research or rely on the assistance of an associate or student of law to conduct that research.”

According to Chodikoff, the use of Blue J Tax alongside his own research and the stellar work of the Miller Thomson’s legal librarians has allowed him to bolster the quality of his legal research.

“If you’re looking for a way to ensure that you’ve covered everything … and of course in litigation the cardinal rule is ‘prepare, prepare, prepare’, it strikes me that one way to ensure you’re prepared is by using technology. Blue J Tax is one way of doing so,” he says.

Widespread adoption is coming

“The practical benefits to law from AI are intelligent computational tools. The relationship between AI and law is truly synergistic,” wrote Edwina L. Rissland in a 1990 article for The Yale Law Journal about artificial intelligence and the law.

It’s been almost 30 years since Rissland wrote her paper, and the message still holds true: the practice of law benefits from being involved with AI, and vice versa. Those who hold off adopting technologies powered by AI are depriving themselves and their clients of tools that can make a real difference in practice.

“At some point, the use of artificial intelligence will be standard fare,” says Chodikoff. “Technology continues to cause evolution in everything, including the law, and whether it takes longer or shorter, it’s going to have an impact. It’s just a question of time.”

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