The highest and best use of AI is where AI is combined with human intelligence to get the best of both worlds. This lets AI do what it does best: search through a large number of data points, find things like hidden patterns, and “learn” from previous applications. AI frees humans to do what they do best: use experience, knowledge, and insight to see nuanced connections, and use lateral and system thinking.


If true, then the idea behind BlackBoiler, an innovative high volume contract review tool, should work.



BlackBoiler Background


Like many ideas in the legal tech space, BlackBoiler grew out of an idea from a young lawyer, Dan Broderick. While a young associate at Thompson Hine, Dan often slaved away on repetitive, mind-numbing work when trying to create and negotiate high volume contracts. Each time, he had to manually review multiple previous contracts to find the best language to apply to a new contract. It occurred to Dan that this was not only time-consuming and inefficient; it also did not achieve the best result since the number of contracts a human, even one as bright and eager as Dan, was limited by time and access. (The negotiation/pre-execution process is notoriously repetitive and inefficient).


Dan concluded that trying to read through every word of a contract to determine where standard language might be called for, find the right clause(s) and make sure the language was applied correctly in the specific context—is inefficient and error-prone. But of course that’s just what lawyers traditionally did.


It also occurred to Dan that other young lawyers like himself were all doing the same kinds of things for the same client, each attempting to reinvent the wheel for each contract. In reality, all these contracts ought to contain standard language. Dan concluded there had to be a better way that would let him do what he did best and yet enable him to see and apply “best” contract language from previous situations. And a way that would free him of doing work that a machine could do just as well and probably better.


Dan’s idea—to use AI to reduce tedious contract review and accelerate the negotiation process–led to the founding of BlackBoiler by Dan, who now serves as CEO, Garen Riedel, an entrepreneur, and Jonathan Herr, a former DARPA software engineer and computational linguistics expert. BlackBoiler created and recently patented an AI-assisted contract review system. The system automates the review and negotiation of contracts by leveraging actual work product. Like most AI tools, BlackBoiler’s AI learns from past negotiated agreements and pre-set standards. Through proprietary data extraction techniques, BlackBoiler can create editing models and then leverage these models to markup new inbound contracts instantaneously.


Dan concluded there had to be a better way that would let him do what he did best and yet enable him to see and apply “best” contract language from previous situations


Dan estimates that BlackBoiler’s AI tool can reduce contract review time as much as 98% and reduce costs ( billable hours) by as much as 50%. Dan says BlackBoiler can automate some 75% of high volume contract review and negotiation.


BlackBoiler Automates Contract Negotiations


Dan and his team showed me how the product works recently. BlackBoiler does indeed take a proposed contract that might be emailed to a lawyer and, in seconds, comes up with suggested language and clauses based on contractual language the client has used before. The lawyer then reviews the proposed changes and accepts them, rejects them of makes revisions. The tool then learns from whatever changes the lawyer makes. The contract is then sent back to the other side with the marked-up changes. It looks to be an efficient and easy to use AI human partnership.


Here’s a video showing how it works and a link to a well-written article by Dan on the subject.


I asked Dan what would happen if both sides to a contract negotiation had access to the BlackBoiler tool. Would we end up with a computer negotiated agreement? He chuckled and said in every case, there still has to be a human review. But if both sides had the tool, he believed it would lead to a much shorter negotiation process. Points of contention would be quickly identified and could then be addressed.


Not all outside lawyers will be overjoyed by the BlackBoiler tool. Automating 75% of contract review and negotiation work means a substantial reduction in billable hours. And Dan agreed that adoption by law firms versus in house departments has lagged.


But there is little doubt that these kinds of tools are the future since they can be used in any number of contexts. All that’s needed is a large enough data base-previous contracts and standards—to make it work. Insurance companies, for example, have a vast number of settlement agreements in their files. These agreements could form the basis of automated contractual language that not only lead to a better product but also a more timely one. Settlements are often negotiated in principle in mediation with the details to filled in later. This often leads to a lengthy, time consuming negotiation process over details. BlackBoiler’s tools would enable the agreement to be generated quickly and competently on the spot.


AI, and humans. A combination hard to beat. And one that will eliminate the kind of mind numbing tasks that make lawyers hate their jobs.


Are there dangers? Sure. Contracting parties might be too quick to rely on the automated provisions pulled up by BlackBoiler and not give them all the needed review. But that can happen with any form. And the improved ability to find the “best practice” language more than offsets this danger.


AI, and humans. A combination hard to beat. And one that will eliminate the kind of mind numbing tasks that make lawyers hate their jobs.


With offices in Washington D.C. and New York City, BlackBoiler is a National Science Foundation-backed software company focused on the automation of contract review.