Last week’s LEXPO in Amsterdam brought together a nice mix of lawyers, technology providers and a few in-house legal specialists. On the agenda of the legal innovation event were Legal Market Development, Legal Innovation and – inevitable, Legal Artificial Intelligence (AI). Master of Ceremony, Matthew Homann opened the event by classifying lawyers into two categories: the lawyer who prepares and the lawyer who fights the future. In the course of the two days event, it becomes very clear that lawyers should better prepare, and that innovation and Artificial Intelligence are opportunities and not a threat to resists.
In various sessions, speakers paint the picture of the future law firm where boring and repetitive work is automated and smart, technology savvy lawyers co-operate with machines. Firms just have no other choice. “Law firms operate in a price taking business”, says keynote speaker Ron Friedmann. “To prosper in flat times, lawyers need to sell more, reduce cost, improve service and understand clients and prospects.” He names legal technology, including AI as key ingredient to accomplish this.
Jordan Furlong agrees with Friedmann: “Law is a buyer’s market. And AI is an efficiency enhancer that shrinks, streamlines and standardizes legal work”.
All speakers also agree that there is no need to fight the future. “If a machine can take your job, you are just not a good lawyer,” says Furlong. It does not matter how much work you will automate: clients will always want to have a relation with a human lawyer. For real important work, they do not want to talk with a robot.
Richard Tromans (Artificial Lawyer) talks about the Legal Renaissance and calls AI the best thing that ever happened to the industry. It enables a lawyer to be a lawyer instead of the process engineer that they were becoming to be. Steven ter Horst from Houthoff Buruma agrees: “Legal technology it is the biggest opportunity to move up the value chain. It makes work easier and more fun. The biggest win is in getting more insight and assign the work properly.”
In one of the break out sessions, the analogy with the medical world was made. For a blood analysis, we do not care about the human relationship. Any laboratory that delivers good quality bloodwork will do. Some medical devices have become so smart that they can diagnose the stage of certain diseases. We trust these techniques and the diagnoses. But when it comes to actual treatment, we still turn to the human specialist.
It is a simple fact that computers outperform humans on document classification and information extraction activities and boring and repetitive work can easily be automated. That does not mean that a robot can take a lawyers place. Computers do not work without humans, and quality control will remain a human lawyer’s job. Companies and law firms will need “data science lawyers”, technical-legal hybrids with a background both in law and data science.
To learn more about the defensibility and quality control of legal technology, contact prof. Jan Scholtes.