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Arlington-Based BlackBoiler Uses State Grant to Research Distrust of AI

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Arlington-based tech startup BlackBoiler is using a recent $100,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia to understand how to overcome mistrust of artificial intelligence among lawyers.

BlackBoiler is developing an AI-enhanced software to help lawyers write and navigate corporate contracts. The tech could save companies and lawyers both time and money, but many in the field are reticent to adopt such a product, according to BlackBoiler spokeswoman Gabriella Millard.

“One of the major challenges is the distrust and fear of AI by the end-users, which can hinder an AI initiative’s ability to scale at an organization. BlackBoiler believes AI should not be viewed with fear,” Millard tells ARLnow.

The company will use its research to present and design its product in a way that law firms may more readily embrace, she said, adding that many lawyers are suspicious of AI because they distrust new technology and fear that AI will replace jobs in the industry.

In the legal sector, paying people to review and write contracts comprises nearly $35 billion in annual spending. BlackBoiler, meanwhile, automates up to 70% of that corporate-contract process.

“AI won’t replace lawyers, but lawyers who use AI will replace lawyers who don’t. That’s because AI, or any well-developed legal technology, allows knowledge workers to become more efficient. Mundane, repetitive tasks can be automated, allowing lawyers to spend their time providing more meaningful counsel to their clients,” said Millard.

One way BlackBoiler is looking to gain trust among lawyers is to let users choose how strong the AI’s contract markups will be.

“When a contract is reviewed you can set the AI at 100% strength to completely markup a contract according to your standards and historical edits, or change the strength to 80% so that it is not as ‘aggressively’ edited,” said Millard.

Based on past research, she said the company believes lawyers may be less hesitant to use AI-enabled software if they have more control over the technology.

“We believe AI adoption can be driven by recognizing that humans and machines must work together — and learn from one another. Humans and AI actively enhance each other’s complementary strengths,” Millard said. “For example, BlackBoiler does not eliminate the need for human expertise. Instead, it enables an ideal partnership between human reviewers and machines.”

Millard says the research will help other companies beyond BlackBoiler. The company intends to share its findings with other AI-powered technology companies so that they can make their tools easier to adopt as well.

The $100,000 award was one of 34 grants given by the inaugural Commonwealth Commercialization Fund, which is a state program that awards funding to companies that are conducting technology-based research to accelerate their businesses.

BlackBoiler was founded in 2017 and has an office along Lee Highway near the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. The company received $3.2 million in funding last fall, and since then, it’s used the money to make several new hires, including two senior contract analysts, two software engineers, a customer success manager and a sales director, Millard said.

How Blackboiler’s AI-assisted contract review system would work (courtesy of Blackboiler)

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