Artificial Intelligence: Will It Help the Delivery of Legal Services but Hurt the Legal Profession?

On March 23, 2018, I attended a competition among “startup” applications of artificial intelligence (AI) applied to the delivery of legal services. Here are the results by way of quotations from the website of the development institute LIZ (the Legal Innovation Zone), and my comments.

Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University” in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

About Us: “The Legal Innovation Zone is a business incubator designed to build and support ideas that will change the status quo of Canada’s legal system.”

“Entrepreneurs, lawyers, students, tech experts, government members and industry leaders converge in the Legal Innovation Zone to drive legal innovation. Based on the model of the DMZ — Canada’s #1 university-based incubator, where more than 150 startups have grown their businesses — we help support, foster and develop solutions and technologies that aim to improve the justice system and legal services.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. We provide co-working space, support and resources to companies and individuals working on their own ideas. Learn more.
  2. We partner with organizations, governments and the legal community to support their own legal innovation agendas by assembling collaborative working groups to tackle challenges. Learn more.

Member of the Ryerson Zone Learning Network

“The Legal Innovation Zone belongs to Ryerson University’s network of Zones, each specializing in sectors that are poised for growth and transformation. These zones are helping to support the next generation of entrepreneurs and change makers from Ryerson and beyond.

“Visit to learn more!

AI Legal Challenge Winners Announced

“On Friday, March 23rd, the Artificial Intelligence Legal Challenge, held by the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) at Ryerson University, in partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG), was won by Evichat for the development of an AI social media eDiscovery tool. Startups Diligen, an AI contract analysis company, won second place and Splyt, an automated online separation tool, took home third place. For more information see our press release and click here for photos of the event.

“On March 15th and 16th, Neota Logic visited the LIZ to provide training sessions to our team working on the Global Family Justice Initiative‘s Family Assist online portal. The team is excited to share the portal at our upcoming Family Law Innovation Conference on Monday, June 4th.”

“The consumers of law. More information at

Press Release; at:

“Toronto – March 26, 2018 – The Artificial Intelligence Legal Challenge, held by the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) at Ryerson University, in partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG), was won by Evichat for the development of an AI social media eDiscovery tool.

“The AI Legal Challenge is an initiative led by the LIZ and supported by MAG, which included $80,000 in seed funding and an opportunity for the six finalists to spend 4 months in the LIZ and access to all of their resources. The goal of the challenge was to increase the use of artificial intelligence in law to better serve the consumers of law.

“’Right now, people spend a lot of time and money navigating a system that was built primarily for legal professionals. That is a problem,’ said Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. ‘I congratulate all those who took part in this exciting challenge. My Ministry is proud to support the state-of-the-art digital solutions that are the result of this competition – solutions that we hope will one day remove barriers to access and help Ontarians resolve their legal issues faster and easier.’

“Lynn Norris, Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Modernization Division announced the winning team and presented them with $40,000 in seed funding to help support and grow their startup. Diligen, an AI contract analysis company, won second place and $25,000 in seed funding while Splyt, an automated online separation tool, took home third place and $15,000.

“’MAG’s commitment to innovating our justice system is reflected in this AI Challenge,’ said Chris Bentley, Managing Director of the LIZ. ‘Supporting legal startups that are using the transformative power of AI will benefit the people and businesses who need legal services, and will contribute to a more innovative society.’

“The six finalists participated in a ‘Final Pitch’ [presentation] held at Ryerson University as part of a day long AI Legal Forum which also included fireside conversations with Andrew Arruda, co-founder of Ross Intelligence and Shelby Austin, Partner at Deloitte. The Judges for the Final Pitch were Shelby Austin, Partner, Deloitte; Michel Hélie, Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Law Division; Christopher Johns, Executive Director Innovation Office, MAG; and Hersh Perlis, Director of the LIZ.

About Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University

The Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) is a co-working space and the first legal tech incubator with a focus on building better legal solutions for the consumers of legal services. The LIZ helps support, foster and develop solutions and techniques to improve legal services and the justice system.

For further information, contact:

Hersh Perlis, Director, Legal Innovation Zone or 416-562-9911

Background information: Of the approximately 30 groups (AI “startups”) who had applied to LIZ to receive its help in developing their AI applications for legal services, six had been chosen to make their final “pitches” during this final day of the competition. They had worked on their applications for about four months at LIZ’s premises near Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. The three winners split the $80,000 provided by Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General: first prize was $40,000; second, was $25,000; and, third, was $15,000.

The speakers and judges present on Friday, March 23, 2018, were:

  • Andrew Arruda, CEO/Cofounder, ROSS Intelligence;
  • Shelby Austin, Strategic Analytics & Modeling, Partner, Deloitte;
  • Chris Bentley, Managing Director, Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University;
  • Michel Hélie, Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Law Section, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario;
  • Christopher Johns, Executive Director, Innovation Office, Ministry of the Attorney General;
  • Lynn Norris, Assistant Deputy Attorney General of the Modernization Division; and,
  • Hersh Perlis, Director, Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University.

Here is what I saw: describing the “startups” in the order of their presentations and quoting from the written descriptions of their presentations as provided. Although it’s not said in so many words, in my opinion they’re looking to serve the retail market as well as supplying their services to law offices:

  1. is developing the world’s first AI based chatbot to support individuals in the immigration process. The platform provides a self-assessment eligibility checker, document preparation and guiding users through the various steps of their application.” Interesting information provided: during the next three years, 1,000,000 immigrants are expected to come to Canada.
    Founder: Nargiz Mammadova; Website:
  2. Diligen uses the latest machine learning algorithms to improve the due diligence process for M&A [mergers and acquisitions] and Corporate finance transactions at large law firms.” Interesting information provided: “contract review” is a global market.
    Co-Founmders: Laura Van Wyngaarden & Konrad Pola; Website:
  3. Evichat is an eDiscovery tool that allows lawyers to efficiently collect and review mobile communications and social media data from litigants – reducing costs, resources, and time spent on the file.” Co-Founders: Puneet Tiware & Milesh Pandey; Website:
  4. Legalicity’s NLPatent is an AI-powered patent analysis tool that automates the prior art search process in minutes – examining millions of existing patents to identify those with a similar concept to the proposed invention, and then evaluating the novelty and obviousness of the idea relative to this prior art.”
    Founder: Yaroslav Riabinin; Website:
  5. Loom is a data-driven legal research assistant that finds, classifies, and sorts case law for you. Using a combination of legal analysis and machine learning, Loom provides hard numbers on win/loss rates, judge ruling histories, litigation trends over time, and more.”
    Founder: Mon Datt; Website:
  6. Splyt is a platform that allows users to complete an application for divorce online. With a primary focus on uncontested divorce in Ontario, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide guidance with the divorce application process, each of the application and auto-filling the various court forms required.” Interesting information provided: there are approximately 30,000 divorces per year in Ontario, and this is a $40 million market.
    Co-Founders: Faiza Malik & Syed Hussaini; Website:

Winners: 1. Evichat; 2. Diligen; and, 3. Splyt.


My Questions

  1. Can AI additions bring the large economies of scale necessary to create affordable legal services? Can such AI additions produce affordability without changing the method by which legal services are provided? Or will they merely be like improving a bicycle when the solution requires a motor vehicle? No matter how a bicycle is improved, it cannot be made to provide, speed, capacity, and convenience of a motor vehicle. In other words, AI applied to an obsolete method of production might improve its cost-efficiency, but not enough to produce affordable legal services for middle income people. Except for a producer having a monopoly, no manufacturer is content to merely make itself more cost-efficient with the use of AI. All of them have moved to “support services” methods of production.
  2. Law Society control: will these applications of AI to legal services be separate commercial services providing their legal products and services directly to the public in a buyer-seller relationship, or devoted solely to serving law offices to aid them in providing services within the much superior solicitor-client relationship? Will they be commercial services outside of law society control?
  3. The dividing line is very fuzzy, broad, and changing, that exists between what is permitted “legal information” provided by non-lawyers, and what is “legal advice” which only lawyers can provide lawfully. There are many sources of these AI services under development such that law societies won’t have enough inspectors and other resources necessary for finding, examining, and prosecuting them for UPL (the offence of the “unauthorized practice of law”, e.g., see ss. 26.1-26.3 of Ontario’s Law Society Act). Will they have to be licensed by the law societies? Would that mean licensed so as not to take away work from the general practitioner and small, unspecialized law firm? In other words, law societies promoting “apps,” are promoting a “poison pill.” At first, by providing that majority that cannot afford legal services with a place to go for their legal services, they can provide a safety-valve that can relieve some of the pressure building to solve the problem. But in the long run they will eat up the general practitioners’ market.
  4. All of the manufacturing of goods and services has moved to: (1) support services methods of production, i.e., using external, highly specialized, high production volume services for making parts of their goods and services because that kind of production creates the large economies-of-scale necessary for maintaining affordability for consumers of their goods and services, which law firms are not capable of because their production volumes are too low (e.g., a law book company is a support service for law firms, and legal research could also be provided by support services such as LAO LAW at Legal Aid Ontario); and, (2) as well as making themselves more cost-efficient by using AI, our law societies should sponsor both the creation of such support services as well as AI applications. Both are necessary for law firms to be able to produce affordable legal services for middle and lower income people.
  5. But Canada’s law societies have no history as sponsoring agencies that are able to make available innovations that enable affordability. And so they remain as being like an elected government without a civil service. Therefore they cannot govern. That is why the unaffordable legal services problem exists. Will the unregulated development of AI-aided legal services provide another example of that inherent inability to govern because law societies won’t be able to cope with the unauthorized-practice-of-law competition created by AI-aided services direct-to-the-public? More threatening, AI is being rapidly developed for retailing legal services by the large commercial producers such as, LegalZoom, LegalX, and RocketLawyer.

I suggest further reading, such as these sources:

  1. Suzanne Bouclin, Jena McGill and Amy Salyzyn, “Mobile and Web-based Legal Apps: Opportunities, Risks and Information Gaps” (SSRN, June 16, 2017) 15:2 Canadian Journal of Law and Technology 229, Fall 2017, forthcoming, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law Working Paper, No. 2017-17.
    • This is an excellent article that raises all the major issues of concern, concerning “APPS” (applications of electronic technology to the production of legal services), including: (1) they are being developed by many sources in a very unregulated fashion, and, (2) without any formal or structured analysis of their likely impact upon the unaffordable legal services problem. The article concludes with a 10-page appendix of “Legal Apps in Canada,” that provides descriptions of their individual purposes and functions.
  1. “Artificial Intelligence, Technology, and the Law” (a symposium), vol. LXVIII, supplement 1, 2018 University of Toronto Law Journal (a 124 page collection of articles);
  2. “Focus Feature: Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and The Future of Law” vol. LXVI, number 4, Fall 2016 University of Toronto Law Journal (pages 423-471);
  3. The books by Richard & Daniel Susskind on the future of the legal profession (Oxford University Press): The Future of the Professions (2015); Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2013); The End of Lawyers (2008); Transforming the Law (2000); and, the CBA Legal Futures Initiative, by Richard Susskind (2012);
  4. Professor Julie MacFarlane, The New Lawyer, How Clients are Transforming the Practice of Law, 2nd edition (UBC Press, 2017);
  5. Benjamin H. Barton, Glass Half Full, the Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession, (Oxford University Press, 2015);
  6. Steven J. Harper, The Lawyer Bubble, (Basic Books, 2013);
  7. Sharon D. Nelson, James A. Colloway, and, Ross L. Kodner, How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times (American Bar Association, 2009);
  8. Ken Chasse, “Access to Justice—Unaffordable Legal Services’ Concepts and Solutions” (SSRN, June 7, 2018); this article explains how to create and finance a single civil service of permanently developing expertise to serve all of Canada’s law societies, because their major problems are the same, having the same cause, and are most effectively dealt with by national solutions;
  9. Ken Chasse, “Alternative Business Structures’ ‘Charity Step’ to Ending the General Practitioner” (SSRN, September 30, 2018). This “charity step thin-edge-of-the-wedge” is the “foot in the door” that will get thicker if lawyers don’t start electing benchers (law society managers) who are determined to stop the per capita reduction of general practitioners and small, unspecialized law firms who serve middle and lower income people. (What’s a “bencher”? – Click on this Globe and Mail article: “The bliss of being a bencher”; and then click on this Wikipedia article, “Bencher.”)


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