17 October 2019

Automation without knowing code: Pioneering the future of legal documents

Published on 17 October 2019
Checkbox.ai CEO Evan Wong is remarkably humble. After all, to call Checkbox.ai revolutionary might be an understatement. At its heart, it solves a complex problem simply - can you automate decision making and documents without knowing how to code? In response, Evan - who recently made the Forbes 30 under 30 list - developed Checkbox, a multi-award winning no-code automation platform. Users can rapidly prototype automation of their own precedents through a drag and drop document design studio. 

Significant, omnidirectional impact of legal innovation

Needless to say, the impact of legal innovation on Evan has been significant.

“There has been significant, omnidirectional impact on all stakeholders within the ecosystem,” said Evan. “The push for cost savings in corporate legal departments to receive more for less and their growing awareness of technology has driven law firms to look into legal innovation. 

“This meant new roles, skill sets and demand for technology. This in turn has created opportunity and attracted entrepreneurs like myself to build legal technology businesses, with the often additional benefit of improving access to legal services,” observed Evan.

As technology drives shifts in how lawyers work, new skills were required of lawyers, resulting in new legal technology courses being offered by law schools.

“The progression in any of these areas then places pressure on all of the others, propelling the industry forward. For Checkbox, legal innovation has defined our business and equally, our business is defining legal innovation.”

The lawyer as strategist, not harbinger of risk

Chief among the opportunities presented by legal innovation is a shift in how lawyers are seen.

“There is now an ability for legal as a function to move up the value chain within corporations to become a part of the strategic decision-making process rather than simply the final sign off on risk,” said Evan. “Legal innovation enables this by eliminating all of the manual and low-value work that currently ties up lawyers. Lawyers are extremely smart and sharp people, but they spend way too much time on process, rather than exercising professional judgment.

“Innovation by its very definition requires change,” observed Evan. “Change is always a risk and introduces threats. But I believe that innovation is good for the profession and only poses a threat to those organisations and people who are resistant to the change whilst the industry continues to move on.”
 
Legaltech doesn’t need to mean AI; aim for easy practical wins

While many legalpreneurs have named artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) as the next big things in legal innovation, Evan disagrees.

“There was a huge AI hype circa 2018 but that has now rapidly died down,” said Evan. “Most of the problems currently faced by the legal profession do not require AI. And for the problems that do require AI, the technology just isn't mature enough to be used commercially. And even if success is achieved in one area, the specificity of legal work and the repetition required by AI make it very hard to scale across the entire industry. 

“What I've come to realise is that the legal profession has much easier and more practical wins that can be achieved today. This is why the conversation has run back to simply automation, data, collaboration, and even non-technology process and design solutions. No doubt, AI will be pivotal to the legal profession and will most certainly bring about another revolution to the industry, but I don't see that happening within the next 10 years.”
 
Seek to understand, not fear

Education is the single biggest factor in preparing the legal profession for innovation.

“People are scared of things that they do not understand. But they also do not come to understand it, because they are scared,” said Evan. “By providing opportunities for legal professionals to learn more about technology, innovation and disruption will help support and create a community so that conversations can be had. This is very important to bring together as many minds to solve big industry-shaking problems and attracting the ears to listen to them.”

For the next generation about to enter the law, Evan advises an open mind.

“Dabble, experiment and be proactive in legal innovation and technology. There are so many opportunities nowadays to learn more about this space whether that be in law school, law firms, or at events. You do not need to be a tech wiz and no you do not need to know how to code to be a lawyer,” assured Evan.

“What you do need to know is what technology is out there and enough on how it works,” said Evan. “This is the minimum level of competency you will need so that you can make proper decisions around technology for your firm and your clients.”

The Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) is crucial to this process. 
 
“CLI is a very important platform for people in the profession to have conversations, get educated and establish networks on the topic of legal innovation,” said Evan. “How can you respond to disruption and change if you do not know about it or only find out too late? Ideas and knowledge always require a platform to spread and CLI ensures an efficient way of keeping the industry up to speed. Having attended a CLI event myself, I definitely see how important it is whether you are in corporate counsel, law firm, technology vendor or service provider.”