This AI Reads Contracts So You Don’t Have To

An Ontario firm's machine learning tools are helping legal professionals give clients what they need in a faster and more cost-effective way.


The considerable amount of time that lawyers have to dedicate to reviewing complex legal documents translates to racked-up fees for clients, and for some people, that can rule out their ability to access legal assistance. The lawyers, for their part, may be overburdened with backlogged workloads amidst an increasingly competitive market where clients are expecting faster turnaround times.

Kira Systems’ machine learning software specializes in analyzing and reviewing legal contracts. The sophisticated program can read complex texts and uncover insights and gaps to help lawyers increase the accuracy and speed of their performance across a range of tasks.

Kira’s AI goes beyond just looking for keywords in the text; it can search for complex concepts within huge volumes of legal documents, and it can also search within specific provisions, allowing lawyers to rapidly analyze and respond to the terms of a contract. The software can look for gaps if there is something commonly included in similar documents that’s missing in the document under review.

The normally time-consuming task of crunching large volumes of legal text can be accelerated by between 20-90%, according to Kira, all while reducing instances of human error. The product does not require advanced tech skills, and it’s straightforward for lawyers to implement themselves.

Outside of North America, the company has a presence in both the UK and Germany, and they have raised $65 million in funding to date.

Improving the timeliness and quality of legal reviews

A key application for Kira’s software is lease abstraction. Lease abstracts are concise and easy-to-digest overviews of a lease agreement written in plain language, containing the legal and financial highlights of a lease. They also act as a reference point for specific provisions within the document so readers can look them up in greater detail. Lease abstracts are necessary because of how lengthy legal contracts can be, but pulling the key points of the lease takes time.

Abstraction software like Kira’s bypasses the need for an in-house team of analysts to manually scour documents like these, and instead it digitally scans and extracts the relevant points in no time. Naturally, this saves money as well, since fewer resources are being applied to the process.

The software facilitates the customization of the lease abstract, personalized to the individual reading it. For example, if you’re the property manager of a residential building, certain pieces of information inside the document will be more relevant to you than, say, an investor, who can also get their own customized version.

Also of benefit is the software’s notification system. Leases contain important dates (e.g., windows for potential rent increases), and the system can notify the relevant users when these dates are imminent.

Another application is with due diligence. In the legal world, this is when lawyers go through documents with a fine-tooth comb and examine all the possible outcomes of an action before consummating it. Professionals establish the facts and weigh up the risks and opportunities present in a transaction.

Through machine learning, the software can automatically identify and extract key details from documents. The technology also has a feature called “smart fields”, which are models that hone in on over 1,000 of the most commonly reviewed clauses and provisions while delivering actionable insights into the user’s data.

Lawyers can provide their clients with up-to-date information on the project’s status and export and send summaries in a variety of formats. This is significant for legal professionals given the increased demand for efficiency among clients and the shortening of transaction timelines.

Deloitte, a leading global provider of professional services including auditing and financial advisory, is a Kira client. They’ve been connected since 2014, and the AI helps Deloitte to efficiently extract information from contracts to comply with regulatory standards. They reportedly save 30% of the time spent on the task when compared with a manual review.

Ontario: a hub for innovation on a global scale

Kira has been a hit with huge international corporations at an international level, and they have assisted with transactions valuing hundreds of billions of dollars. They are now one of the fastest growing companies in Canada and have a subscription retention rate of over 95% with customers — the highest in the subscription software market for legal tech.

Founder Noah Waisberg left a $300,000 job on Wall Street and returned to Ontario in 2011 with the idea for Kira Systems. The province’s booming AI industry and renowned talent pool made it a no-brainer for Waisberg.

Here, he met co-founder Alexander Hudek, and the pair emerged three years later with a machine learning tool capable of reviewing contracts and discovering insights on par with a human lawyer.

According to Vinay Nair, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Kira, Ontario is “really pushing the envelope on machine learning and AI technology in the world.”

Canadian privacy laws also played a pivotal role in their success. For international clients who are highly sensitive to privacy concerns, there’s greater trust with Canadian cloud-based software services like Kira’s: “From an international perspective, it helps us get a lot of European customers, specifically because their data privacy laws are probably more rigid than anywhere in the world,” said Nair to Invest Ontario.

Technology is continuing to make waves with law firms, which are increasingly finding that adopting software to improve their workflow is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge. Kira, along with other Canadian firms like ROSS AI, is pioneering the way forward.

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.