One year after the CBA Futures Report, the debate over ABS still rages on and appears to be the most contentious issue, even while foreign firms state they’re eyeing our territory for opportunities. Although there are concerns about professionalism, much of the resistance, especially by personal injury lawyers, is based in protectionism.
Yet ABS may be the great bait and switch of legal innovation. The alternatives to practice may not come in the form of other business structures, but in other technological structures which allow for law to be conducted in different ways.
Legal services rely on enormous amounts of data and information. Despite our significant educational training, the judgement applied by a lawyer actually factors into a relatively small portion of the services provided. Only so much of this repetitive and tedious work can be delegated, and even then there are professional obligations to those under a lawyer’s supervision.
What should be the obvious solution is delegation to a system with greater reliability and less need for oversight, likely in the form of automation. Artificial intelligence systems are already spotting patterns and trends in raw data areas like journalism, and due diligence, litigation discovery and e-discovery software platforms are already modelling these applications.
This is the argument made by Tony Williams of Jomati Consultants LLP. In a report last November, Civilisation 2030: The near future for law firms, the consultants look at trends like smartphones and digital memory to predict that the next 15 years will likely result in artificial intelligence being used extensively in the legal industry.
Pioneers in this area are already using AI to develop strategic guidance. Michael Cross points to the predictive modelling used by the personal injury firm Hodge Jones & Allen in London to assess their caseload. Legislative changes in civil litigation which affected profitability, not unlike the tremors felt by personal injury practitioners in Canada, spurred their interest in a more efficient process within the firm,
The results of the analysis were used to produce models able to predict the likelihood of cases being won or lost. The firm says these models are now being turned into Excel-based programmes that its inquiry team will use to help make initial assessments of the likelihood of a positive outcome for each case.
The team doesn’t use these results to replace lawyers, but uses the modelling to assist the team in making better decisions.
Jomati predicts that AI would result in a rapid decline in the cost of legal services,
To sustain margins a law firm would have to show added value elsewhere, such as in high level advisory work, effectively using the AI as a production tool that enabled them to retain the loyalty and major work
AI applications would pretty much become the standard, because refusing to use the system would simply be inefficient. The value that a lawyer would add is in their insight into how to actually apply this information to real-life clients, and the interpersonal people skills they would bring to maintain the relationship.
While some personal injury firms expend their energies resisting regulatory changes in ABS, others will explore how to make their services more efficient and effective through automation.
This could change some of the hiring practices in law as well, with an increased emphasis on the interpersonal skills and Emotional Intelligence (EI). Neither is needed much for a junior associate who spends most of his or her time in a cubicle for 12-14 hours a day.
If law schools pick up on this cue, they may even change their application processes.
Other service-based industries, especially in the health setting, use an interview process, often employing an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) before admission to assess a candidate’s bedside manner. A future physician’s temperament is increasingly more important in the effective delivery of health services than their encyclopedic knowledge of medicine.
Imagine reducing or eliminating the hyper-competitiveness of law school, simply by carefully choosing candidates who are more able and willing to work cooperatively.
Some law students are already learning about artificial intelligence in law, such as the machine learning course at Michigan State.
For the lawyers who are interested in the subject, we are hosting a panel at the CBA’s Legal Conference this week in Calgary:
AND THE FUTURE OF LAW FIRMS
SATURDAY, AUGUST 15 – 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM
Much of the debate surrounding the future of law practices centers around how New Law and the emergence of Alternative Business Structures are changing the delivery of legal services. But could the impact of Artificial Intelligence make such developments pale in comparison? AI processing systems are already being tested in the workplace and by some estimates they will be performing low-level knowledge economy work on a large scale by 2030. As a result it is expected that the cost of process legal work will rapidly drop. The panel will explore what this will mean for the economic model of law firms.
I will be joined by Dera J. Nevin of Proskauer Rose LLP, Noah Waisberg of Kira Systems and Ian Kerr of the University of Ottawa. We hope you can join us, and I promise it will be a fascinating discussion.