Meet my new lawyer. It’s a chat bot, aka, an artificial intelligence system. It’s smart, free, and gets the job done. Although it won’t be putting lawyers out of a job any time soon—that’s not its purpose—it may make their lives, and their clients’ lives, easier.
Just yesterday I was putting the finishing touches on a Letter of Agreement—same basic boilerplate I’ve been using for years—when I decided to run it past my new lawyer at LawBot.co. LawBot offers a free online system that can analyze contracts and alert you to errors. Not spelling and grammar errors. Substantive legal errors. Keep in mind that, over the years, numerous law firms—of all sizes—have signed off on nearly the exact same contract I was going to upload. So, I expected it to pass with flying colors.
It took me two seconds to upload the contract and less than 30 seconds for the system to review it. Turns out there are five clauses that need my attention—three protecting my company and two protecting my clients. Nothing major, but serious enough that I’m making the changes the chat bot suggested. Wow. And this advice was free.
Let’s explore in broad strokes…
Chat Bot Lawyers
Joshua Browder is a British entrepreneur and founder of DoNotPay, the first of its kind website using artificial intelligence that enables members of the general public to appeal their parking tickets, automatically. The system prompts users to complete narrowly defined legal claim documents that are then sent to the appropriate people/authorities. Easy. Right? You bet.
Since its launch, the chat bot has attracted over 175,000 successful users and saved UK and New York drivers an estimated $5 million.
As the story goes, at 18 years old, Browder began to receive a large number of parking tickets. Having formed the perception that these tickets were disproportionately targeting the elderly and disabled, and noticing the “formulaic nature” of the process by which they could be appealed, Browder created DoNotPay. (He started learning programming languages when he was 12.) Watch his solution in action.
Bankruptcy, divorce, employer relations, insurance, housing, criminal…and the list goes on…DoNotPay has expanded their legal claim system across multiple areas, in both the US and UK. You can see more here: https://youtu.be/-rabJDCBUbY
Multi-layered Benefits of Artificial Intelligence
Although DoNotPay is designed to circumvent lawyers, in many cases the relatively narrow form filling system escalates to the need for a real lawyer. The same goes for LawBot. Its provision of initial information often creates a pathway to lawyers, rather than replace them.
Both services are currently free, but both also envision a paid service for law firms to take advantage of that pathway.
It would work by embedding a button on the firm’s website that links the visitor to the chat bot system. After completing the chat bot conversation, the system then sends the user back to the original law firm site. Voila. As users move from asking a chat bot questions to wanting to speak to the lawyer at the firm, these systems become viable lead generators.
In general, we can agree that the unsophisticated purchaser of legal services, e.g. consumer / plaintiff based law like immigration, traffic citations, employment claims, etc., or criminal defense, is intimidated by the prospect of talking to a real lawyer, at least initially. They don’t know if they have a case. They don’t understand the jargon. They don’t want to waste any money. The idea of a courtroom with a judge is frightening.
So, the chat bot is a solid bridge. It is a starting point for the person who needs legal counsel. It will analyze the user’s input, but it will also define legal terms and suggest next steps when it can’t automatically file the complaint or request with the appropriate agency or authority. Good for your clients and good for you. Why? Because legitimate prospects arrive at your door with some understanding and a little more confidence that they actually need legal counsel – your legal counsel.
Such qualified lead generation, sans human energy, could be a boon for the law firm that represents plaintiffs.
Commercial Law Firms
For commercial law firms, the use cases for artificial intelligence are burgeoning. Along with proprietary knowledge management systems, law firms are beginning to deploy artificial intelligence systems to predict the likelihood of success in litigation. For example, LawBot offers parties in litigation a customized analysis of the litigation and reports on the factors affecting the prediction, as well as winning guidelines for the legal team based on previous litigation data and results for similar matters.
For better or worse, many expect the litigation intelligence use case will soon shift from cure to prevention, allowing lawyers to provide specific advice for specific clients that will save clients time, costs, and the headache of litigation. I know real life lawyers do that now, but confirmation and detail can be an asset to business counseling model.
Jason Koebler, writing for The Atlantic, (“Rise of the Robolawyers,” April 2017 issue), reports that in the past year “more than 10 major law firms have ‘hired’ Ross, a robotic attorney powered in part by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence, to perform legal research. Ross is designed to approximate the experience of working with a human lawyer: It can understand questions asked in normal English and provide specific, analytic answers.” You’ve seen the commercials. Wine growers, airline mechanics, etc. Same thing.
All this and more suggests that artificial intelligence can not only extend an attorney’s capabilities, but can also free up time for business development and more challenging, enjoyable, or profitable work. (See video link at post end.)
Robots are not replacing lawyers anytime soon, maybe never. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that artificial intelligence can replace 69 percent of paralegal time, while only 23 percent of a lawyer’s job can be automated. But, recovering 23 percent of a highly skilled lawyer’s time is significant, particularly when that lawyer can invest it in activity for new business generation.
While you may not be ready or able to make artificial intelligence work for your practice at this point in time, most experts agree that its role and importance in legal will only continue to grow. This is a fast moving target and law firms are already behind the curve. Where artificial intelligence makes sense for a business model, such as it does for the legal business, you can bet the opportunities and offerings will not lag. Therefore, it is important to stay updated. Two recommended, practical sources are: Today in Legal Artificial Intelligence (Market Intelligence for Strategic Advantage) and Artificial Lawyer.
Before you go…check out Andrew Aruda #OneTake, where he talks about “How Small Law Firms Can Use (Ross) AI.”
As always, if you need help with marketing, analog or digital, I remain…