Digital disruption is here and it’s happening – even in the seemingly conservative judicial element of the legal profession. As with any change, it has caused some consternation but, with the right tools and forward-thinking leaders, digital transformation can be a powerful business enabler.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, is already starting to play a key role in this digital transformation. AI applications can sift through vast amounts of information, automatically crunch the data and identify patterns significantly faster and more accurately than humans.
With 1.4 million civil claims and petitions brought to the county courts each year, and each new case increasing the body of knowledge that a lawyer must get to grips with, firms hold increasingly vast amounts of information. Amongst all this data – including witness statements, court logs and judge summaries – will be the hidden facts, nuggets and insights that could help a lawyer win a case.
Traditionally, the task of manually extracting this vital information from mountains of unstructured data has fallen to junior associates, but this process is prone to inconsistency, inefficiency and human error. Universities such as Liverpool are looking at how automated solutions can assist. In simple cases, where the facts are undisputed and well-established precedents exist, AI software can diagnose the situation and produce a draft judgement for the judge to review, freeing up time for more complex and contentious cases.
In line with this, chambers are looking to invest in AI that can offer leading-edge efficiency and outstanding client service. Billy Bot, which is the brainchild of Stephen Ward, MD of national chambers Clerksroom, is one example.
In tests, Billy has been getting incredible results. Traditional chamber management tasks and processes, from a clerk first taking the enquiry through to allocating the case to the most appropriate barrister, are time-consuming, monotonous and laborious. Over 50% of the processes can be automated using AI. With total access to diary data, Billy Bot can query our MLC case management system for barrister availability, conflict check, create the case in the system and acknowledge the booking to the client by email. The technology integration into Advanced’s case management solution means Billy holds over 15 years’ worth of accurate data.
Of course, the AI robot will never be able to replace the relationship of expertise and trust that develops between a law firm and its client. There will always be a need for lawyers who understand the nuances of situations, and provide the insight and empathy required. However, AI can free up firms to do more high value and highly paid work. This means time spent interpreting and advising on their clients’ issues, rather than the more tedious aspects of due diligence and routine work.
AI and indeed other digital innovations also provide an opportunity to bring greater transparency into the profession, with the introduction of self-service processes that can help to de-mystify the various stages of legal activities. Many legal problems go ‘un-lawyered’ today, and research shows there is a substantial legal need that is not currently being met by providers. This offers enormous scope to better align legal resources through technology. According to the Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute for The Legal Services Board and the Law Society (2016), only a third of people with a legal need seek any kind of third party advice, and just one in ten with legal problems actually instruct a solicitor or barrister. It is a similar story with small businesses. Research by Kingston University revealed that over half of organisations experiencing legal problems tried to resolve them on their own – or when advice was sought, accountants were consulted more often than lawyers.
With the support of digital innovations, clients can track their own cases, and instantly review what is happening by accessing their information online. This will greatly reduce the amount of time legal professionals spend on the phone providing updates or allaying concerns about progress. By using technology, specifically around AI-driven automated processes, to reduce the time it takes lawyers to complete research and casework, it should also lead to reduced bills and simplified pricing structures – further encouraging people to instruct law firms.
With the rise of advanced technology, these are just some examples of how AI can transform the legal industry. The possibilities are unlimited and AI is ready for the taking now.
*Blog post adapted from article for forthcoming issue of Barrister Magazine.