Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Evolving your firm's artificial intelligence from carthorse to racehorse

Evolving your firm's artificial intelligence from carthorse to racehorse


In part two of a two-part series, Chrissie Lightfoot dissects the bridge between sedentary technology and the robot lawyer who could take your job within a couple of years

Law firms have, since the start of this year, only just begun to think of using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies as a racehorse, not a carthorse. Global players Taylor
Wessing and Norton Rose Fulbright have each independently collaborated with software and AI developer Neota Logic in creating AI apps, named TW: navigate PSC App and ContractorCheck respectively.

Taylor Wessing's app, introduced in April of this year, acts as a guide and adviser with respect to the recent changes to the Companies Act, where there
is now a requirement for companies to identify and name persons of significant control in their returns to Companies House. Norton Rose Fulbright describes its app, introduced in late 2015/early 2016, as 'an innovative tool designed to help organisations accurately characterise their people to manage risk, so that contracts truly reflect an individual's contractor or employee status. This smart identification tool has been tailored to apply the
key characterisation indicators across multiple jurisdictions.'

Both firms have rethought how they deliver specific aspects of lawyering and are beginning to focus on racehorse elements of lawyering, which
are the high-end, intellectual capital, reasoning,
and judgement elements usually locked away in a lawyer's mind. Neota Logic works in collaboration with law firms, and elicits knowledge and experience from a lawyer to then 'brain dump'
that information into software. Algorithms are then created which respond to the client or prospect without the need for a person. In theory it means a lawyer or law firm could serve hundreds or even thousands of clients, prospects, or queries seamlessly while they sleep - and get paid for it.

Each bespoke AI app mimics and replaces what
a lawyer does in relation to the process, reasoning, and judgement elements (the knowledge and experience aspects) of a lawyer's specific area of
law. For example, a lawyer will ask a series of questions to a client who will reply with their answers: throughout, the lawyer pulls on their knowledge and experience of the law and provides the client with the answers they seek. This kind of AI technology is beginning to prove popular for:

  • Online compliance;

  • Online legal assessment; and

  • Providing online advice solutions.

Using this kind of technology is also proving
to be a smart way of marketing, creating, and building relationships with firms' new and existing clients.

Inviolable lawyers

Currently, there are automated, cognitive computing (CC), and AI systems that support lawyers and which replace lawyers. Nevertheless, as machines become more intelligent and lawyers become more comfortable in deploying and working with these systems, it is inevitable that the machine will make a switch from carthorse
to racehorse functionality, and will replace more and more of a human lawyer's key roles in relation to the four elements of legal services provision (commoditisation, research, reasoning, and judgment), edging into the realm where lawyers think they are immune and untouchable.

But they are neither immune nor untouchable. No area of law, including corporate, commercial, intellectual property, employment, property, tax, bankruptcy, family, or litigation will escape the march of the machine. Within the legal ecosystem, we will see AI evolve from CC (which demands a significant amount of data) and mimicking the human brain to iterative intelligence and design algorithms (rules-based programming and self-learning where the AI or robot learns for itself); then, eventually, artificial general intelligence will come about via the Google Brain, White House BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies),
or DARPA AI projects - possibly in around
15 to 20 years' time.

It is not insurmountable that we will witness a world champion AI lawyer, not unlike a world champion AI player in Go, the Chinese strategy board game, within the next few years (for full reference see part one of this series: SJ 160/21).
The rate of technological development and AI >> >> innovation is exponential. Accordingly, the likelihood is that many aspects (but not all) of lawyering as we know it now can and will be done with little human intervention within five to ten years. This prediction is in line with the global research suggesting that, within ten years, 57 per cent of blue-collar and white-collar work, globally,
will be replaced by automation, AI, or robots.

So, in 2016, you have two choices: the first
is to embrace the rise of smart CC, AI, and robot technologies; management may be responsible
for providing the environment to facilitate change and innovation, but the responsibility to embrace change rests with each and every lawyer in our firms. The second is to ignore emerging technologies,
do nothing, and get left behind.

Paper-pusher pushout

Another prediction is that massively overpaid paper-pushers will be sidelined within one to three years.
If you understand that smart AI technology is not here to replace you (well, not immediately) but to make you a better lawyer that forces you to use your instinct, emotional intelligence, and capitalise on your mind, then you have made the first step in future-proofing your career and business. The brave new legal eco-system will require 'algorithmic angels', in which the primary lawyerly role will be:

  • To interpret that the AI or robot is correct about the law; and

  • To provide a supportive relationship to clients and general counsels.

There will only be three kinds of human worker
or lawyer within the next ten years when the machines rule:

  • Those with high-end emotional intelligence
    and relationship skills; Those who provide support to the machine systems; or

  • Unemployed.

With the exception of those firms that have already gone public in relation to the deployment of AI systems (some of which were named earlier), companies and firms already using or considering using these technologies include a selection of those from:

  • The Big Four accountancy firms;

  • Magic Circle firms;

  • The top 50; and

  • Those outside the top 50, i.e. those with distinct specialities that aim to use AI to win new clients and compete with the top 50. These types of private practice include real estate, immigration, pensions, and finance.

Renovating private practice

Rethinking legal services may also entail rethinking what type of business of law will be most suitable going forward. Law firm consultant George Beaton has recently released a fascinating piece of research on why 'Big Law' should start to reinvent itself due to the mix of legal service providers predicted to be in the market in ten years' time. These types of private practice include Big Law; traditional or remade traditional law; new law; standalone automated legal service providers (for example, Riverview
Law); and in-house general counsels. The findings predict that a staggering 50 per cent of big law
and traditional firms will be 'remade' and will lose significant market share to the other types of businesses within the next decade.

Accordingly, my advice, as ever, is to future-proof yourself and your business now. It is inevitable that smart tech, AI, and robots do -
and will continue to - support us positively in our current roles, but eventually they may replace lawyers entirely in carrying out particular tasks once AI exceeds human lawyerly intelligence; we're talking a handful of months or years here, not decades. Ask yourself
the following:

  • Can you afford not to be prepared for the time when 'the machine' evolves and inevitably does your fee earning and performs business processes quicker and more accurately, more creatively and smarter than you? Can you afford not to embrace the machine, when your existing and new competitors are already using it, or about to? and

  • Can you afford not to deploy CC and AI technologies when your existing and new clients are beginning to expect some form
    of these systems as part of a legal service offering?

If you ask me today, 7 June 2016, what I believe
the next 'big thing' in legal is going to be, my reply is as follows.

My human brain is available for hire now on a one-to-one basis, but in the near future - say, five
to ten years - everyone on the planet (potentially seven billion people; nine billion by 2050) and
Mars and beyond will be able to help themselves
to it (for an adjusted, volume-based, significantly reduced fee, or in some instances free of charge where I see the value in creating goodwill and building a client base for another premium service) in the form of an AI app and available online (omnipresent 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year) via an AI platform in the cloud.

I am not complacent about what my role will
be in the ensuing months and years. Nor should you be. Do not assume that smart technology, AI, and the robots will not be able to do significant elements of your job, even the complex stuff. Prepare for the possibility that they could and most likely will.

Part one of this series, 'What is the next Big Thing for Big Law?', published in our 31 May issue, Solicitors Journal 160/21

Chrissie Lightfoot was named in the 2015 list of the World’s Top Female Futurists, is author of bestseller The Naked Lawyer and its sequel Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045 @TheNakedLawyer