Chrissie Lightfoot considers how developing technology is meeting the needs of every aspect of legal services provision, and the challenges providers of such technology face from the legal industry.
I share the convention that provision of legal services nowadays entails these four elements: commoditisation, research, reasoning and judgment. Less well known is that there are currently several key providers of smart cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and robot technologies relating to all of these aspects of legal services provision.
Truly understanding what each of these technologies actually do, or can do, can be somewhat daunting. Not surprisingly, there remains a lack of AI deployment in law firms and I believe that being confused about it all has some part in this lethargic take up. If there were a portal called LegallyAIconfused.com, no doubt it would be oversubscribed and making a fortune by now.
The current technology players with a small foothold in the CC, AI, and robot legal field range from established blue-chip tech providers to new start-ups, and they deal with different aspects of the lawyer’s role. If we break down a lawyer’s tasks in a legal project from beginning to end, we will find that there is a technology that can handle the majority of these tasks far more quickly and accurately than a human lawyer.
A lot has been written about IBM Watson, KIM (the AI platform) of Riverview Law and even RAVN Systems being deployed in a handful of law firms in relation to commoditisation, research and reasoning. But I wanted to hear of a smart technology that could provide the final element: judgement.
Such was my curiosity that when I received an invite from the powers that be at Neota Logic’s London base to ‘pop in and visit us’ I jumped at the chance. Three hours later, I emerged from the Neota briefing room thinking ‘eureka’! If I am correct, Neota is the tool with the potential to augment a human lawyer’s intelligence to a level not exploited before.
I confess that, until recently, I little understood what Neota Logic brings to the AI legal party. It’s an AI platform (not unlike KIM) with which you can build innovative solutions; it’s not an out of the box solution. This AI technology enables you, the lawyer, to model your reasoning (rules) and judgement into the software.
My guess is that this kind of technology will only be of interest to those lawyers and law firms seeking real change, who seek to own an AI app or system and/or be widely known in their specialism. The kind of lawyer who would be curious about this kind of technology would be the type to go to Neota Logic with an idea and request Neota help them with the algorithm to create exactly what they envision.
However, the challenge though remains for these CC, AI and robot technology providers to break down a number of barriers erected by both lawyers and law firms, including:
· Lawyers do not understand fully the differences between the technologies offered by these providers;
· Lawyers and law firms are focusing on using technology as a quick solution to their process problems, rather than looking at the opportunity to create a completely new way of providing legal services;
· The perceived cost and time required in working with the AI system in the early stages;
· Such technology is unlikely to get the buy-in and vote of top management /equity partners, due to the usual problems surrounding corporate governance of law firms and self-interest of those that hold the power and equity points (the partnership agreement), ergo;
· Many law firms will take too long to arrive at the decision to embrace this revolutionary new technology;
· It requires the buy-in of lawyers who are not afraid to give up their Intellectual Capital/Intellectual Property to ‘the machine’ and spend time ‘teaching’ it;
· Law firms are notorious for buying technology but then failing to exploit it to its full potential.
On the plus side for these technology providers, smart lawyers and smart law firms are just beginning to embrace it because they can see an opportunity to monetise their unique algorithm creations. Ask yourself: are you one of them?
Chrissie Lightfoot is a qualified solicitor and author of The Naked Lawyer.