AI in Legal Practice Summit
25 October 2017

Highlights of the inaugural AI in Legal Practice Summit

Published on 25 October 2017

Calming the fear and challenging the hype around artificial intelligence became the prevailing theme of the Centre for Legal Innovation’s inaugural Artificial Intelligence in Legal Practice Summit. Held at Gilbert+Tobin’s Sydney offices, the Summit saw lawyers, LegalTech specialists, intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders from Australia and New Zealand working together to explore the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) for legal practice. This Special Report brings highlights from the Summit.


Lawyers don’t have a monopoly on legal services; adaptation is essential

“Everyone is talking about AI as if it is this magical brain that exists in the cloud, without even having a foundational understanding of AI,” observed Professor Dan Hunter, Foundation Dean of Swinburne Law School. Professor Hunter, an expert in internet law and cognitive science models of law, assured attendees that the advent of AI in law did not precipitate a robot lawyer revolution – rather, that while there will be lawyers, it will be increasingly imperative to outperform lawyers using technology to enhance their legal service offering.

“AI in law is being driven into products rather than services. What’s more troubling is the use of AI in products being sold directly to consumers. We might have a lock on the legal profession, but we don’t have a lock on legal services. The profession doesn’t need to exist.”

However, like many fellow speakers and panellists, Professor Hunter  felt the main way AI might disrupt law is at the ‘bottom end’ of the legal services market.

“We’re going to see a commodification of wills, conveyancing, and family law matters,” said Professor Hunter . Essentially, simple legal services with often standard solutions were likely to be turned into products. “There will be cheaper servicing of people’s legal needs, including those who currently cannot afford lawyers. This means great outcomes for society, but not so great outcomes for lawyers in these fields.”

Conversely, while the top end law firm may still exist, its business model and approach may transform.

“AI systems are already here, and they will affect what we do as lawyers.  The future is not as bad as it seems.”


Technology may change how lawyers work and how they charge – but lawyers will remain

“We live in a rarefied world,” said Amber Cerny, Director of Law at Ernst & Young. Large law firms and professional services providers benefit from working with major clients with significant legal budgets.

“If we bring in tools that reduce the cost of production, there will be an expectation that the cost reduction will be passed on to clients.”

It is essential, therefore, for lawyers to better explain the value of their legal services.

“Consulting firms are much better at explaining what they do and getting paid what they’re worth. Value will drive client expectations.”

Like many, she counselled calm. “Video didn’t kill the radio star. Technology is just another thing that’s going to add to the toolkit of lawyers. Don’t be afraid – embrace it.”


Contain the hype – and focus on AI that fixes specific legal problems

“For lawyers, we need to contain the hype,” said Caryn Sandler, Head of Legal Service Innovation at Gilbert + Tobin, a firm well-known for taking active steps to adapt to digital disruption. “I’m living proof of a change we are witnessing within the industry. My type of role did not exist two years ago.”

Gilbert + Tobin has introduced g+t<i>, a mix of lawyers, technologists, process experts and business development professionals dedicated to developing LegalTech solutions for the firm.

“We’re seeing success by taking a very narrow legal task or problem and creating a decision logic flow or technology solution,” said Sandler. For the firm, AI has been particularly useful in due diligence for data visualisation, scoping and identifying anomalies.  . Efficiency and progress can also be monitored in real time. This approach has been crystallised in dd<i>, which was developed in conjunction with a US start up. Version 2 of dd<i> is available out-of-the-box, refined by input from G+T lawyers. In addition, the firm has developed a stamp duty app for internal use, allowing lawyers insights as to whether stamp duty is payable in a particular transaction.


AI will most benefit the underserviced legal market

Consistently, all speakers believed AI would most impact the underserviced legal market, where simple problems had long been left unanswered due to the unaffordability of legal services.

Ailira is one of many examples; a chatbot created to answer basic legal questions and channel anything of complexity to a qualified human lawyer.

“Ailira provides free legal information through an expert system, which automates research and expert advice,” explained Adrian Cartland, lawyer and creator of Ailira. “You can ask Ailira questions, and she can ask questions of you. By way of example, my girlfriend, a speech pathologist, used Ailira to pass the Adelaide Tax Law exam – and scored better marks than me!”

By asking between 5-7 questions, Ailira effectively automated the simplest 80% of legal advice. Ailira can provide basic advice on estate planning and simple wills, and recently provided a prototype on domestic violence advice for the South Australian government.

“We can generate documents like wills, trusts, DV intervention orders. Everything hard is sent off to humans. Ailira is not here to replace humans but to assist lawyers, who are often better at contextual reasoning.”

A consumer version of Ailira will be available shortly.


Highlights and insights from attendees

Overall, the practicality and optimism of the Summit made an impression on attendees.

“Anything that helps lawyers do their work faster is a good thing,” one attendee commented. “Given the high rate of mental illness in the profession, if we can help our lawyers work 9-10 hours a day rather than what they’re working at the moment, that’s good. It will great to see how technology can help lawyers live better lives and improve what they can do for their clients.”

Other attendees raised the possibility of new and different applications of AI.  One of the questions focused on the consequences of the global reach of out-of-court settlements assisted by AI.

“Are we looking at an international AI jurisdiction?” he asked. “It is open to parties in a peer to peer environment to resolve their disputes external to the courts and to make that binding. If so, what is the future of the courts?”


In-depth reviews – from lawyers and technologists

What distinguished the Summit was its practical, conversation based focus. Lawyers from firms, legal departments and government agencies around Australia and New Zealand spoke about how they have developed and used AI in practice, and intrapreneur and entrepreneur technologists explained their contributions and collaborations with firms.

“We could not have asked for a better first major event for the Centre. We believe the best solutions for the legal industry will come out of identifying challenges, opportunities and sharing experience through collaborative, inclusive  discussions - we are delighted that we achieved that goal with the Summit” said Terri Mottershead, the Director of the Centre.

Explored in depth in the next Summit Special Report story is the experience of lawyers and other legal professionals, discussing their successes and failures in terms of practical uses of AI, as well as how they dealt with resistance some met from within their workplaces. Ethical implications and issues of liability will also be considered, as well as other emerging technologies and the impact on talent management in the legal industry.


Missed this in 2017? The Centre for Legal Innovation is holding the 2018 Artificial Intelligence in Legal Practice Summit in Sydney on 31 August. Register now to meet likeminded people, talk about legaltech, and share experiences.