“If you’re a lawyer with technological skills, the world is your oyster!”
This is a recent comment made by Michael Skapinker of the Financial Times during a chatwith Reena SenGupta, and Joshua Browder.
As founder of RSG Consulting, Reena SenGupta’s experience of helping lawyers utilise new technology is that technology can absolutely be used to fit into the defined lawyer role. She works with lawyers to make new technologies fit into their practices, looking at how can LawTech make lawyer processes and client experiences better.
Joshua Browder (of DoNotPay chatbot fame) looks toward how the profession will actually be restructured by these new technologies. He acknowledges that compassion is a huge part of the law, that robots aren’t going to be arguing in the supreme court any time soon.
But, “in death penalty cases, a lot of the appeals have to do with how incompetent the original lawyers were,” Browder asserts, giving rise to the following questions:
Can tech flaws fill in the gaps in human error?
And vice versa?
Is AI-human partnership heading towards better and more efficient overall performance?
To answer that, we need to know what the current partnership of Artificial Intelligent (AI) and law looks like. There has already been huge headway here; Browder notes that "IBM Watson claim they can save up to 33% of clients fees just by checking billing".
So how does that come about? - Through Machine Learning Software (MLS).
MLS can look at unstructured data so actual language processing has dramatically advanced.This data was previously required to be quite structured, but now IBM’s new tool Outside Counsels Insights can show clients anomalies in lawyers’ bills based on billing guidelines. Browder wants us to know that this is just the top of the iceberg in terms of what MLS can do. Impressive? I think so.
But even so, LawTech is very clearly not replacing lawyers.
By SenGupta’s measure, we are seeing the rise of the legal engineer; “the lawyer that’s embracing technology, [who] can switch from being a technologist to becoming a lawyer who understands design-thinking.” RSG Consulting by their own definition is an “innovation agency and think tank for the legal profession”, whose mission is to “help lawyers progress and be a better fit for 21st century business, society and government”.
In my experience, every law firm now has a legal engineer, but as SenGupta points out: maybe they call them something else; “maybe a data analyst – but this like a whole new profession.”
Echoing the sentiments of SenGupta and Skapinker earlier, Browder (who also wants to make the entire $2 billion legal industry free) acknowledges that someone with an understanding of technology and law really does have the world at their feet. He simultaneously believes that technology like DoNotPay is “really good at replacing lawyers”.
These might seem like conflicting beliefs, but they’re actually not. AI is disrupting the legal industry in a way that is going to make it easy for newly graduated law students to say no to becoming lawyers. They’re going to want to work in the tech industry, because that’s where they’re valued; they won’t spend three years in a basement working discovery at the beginning of their bright careers.
Why is this happening?
This is happening because clients don’t want to pay lawyers to do work that a machine can do and discovery work is already being replaced by eDiscovery.
Although tech doesn’t have the same flaws that humans do, the reverse is also true. Recognising the limitations of AI is key; empathy, social cues, exceptions to rules to name a few.
Additionally, data; these techniques require large amounts of data to work. If the data is sparse, it’s a totally different story, so AI isn’t infallible. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it can definitely be used to take care of admin so that the professionals can focus on more pressing issues.
SenGupta says that the simplicity of what Browder is doing is a big lesson for lawyers. Browders’ DoNotPay chatbot is a completely free automated service which sets it apart from no win, no fee lawyers. It provides free access to legal advice on parking fines. Human rights lawyer Stephen Manning is already using this technology to help refugees and Browder wants to expand on that with an immigration chatbot next, saying:
“Everything that a consumer would ever want, I’m trying to do”.
Browder and SenGupta are both clear that legal industry disruption through AI is inevitable and that LawTech is very clearly not replacing lawyers. What it is doing, is carving a redefinition of the role of lawyers into an industry packed with need to be technologically savvy.
SenGupta provokes the question of how much AI can standardise and automate, and how much AI will always “rely on human judgement”.
Browder offers a different perspective; less that technology needs the law - but that the law needs technology.
Different viewpoints; both based on legitimate experience.
Genuine automation of services is helping lawyers to streamline client experience. Genuine automation of legal services also allows tech platforms to connect better with each other and helps lawyers improve their clients experience by making processes more predictive and therefore better, faster and standardised.
It’s an exciting time to be in the legal field!
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