Written by Will Tait • Published 8th August 2019 • 6 minute read
Legal technology has finally broken into law.
Working in the media industry, you simply cannot fail to notice the way the invention of the internet, the mobile phone and the unfortunate discovery of social media has had in the last decade upended the entire sector. It’s like how conversations about the weather, the tried and trusted British medium for small talk, have sort of lost their innocence due to the apocalyptic nature of global warming.
Just as one can no longer nod to the lovely sunny day we are having in February without causing a worry about rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions, it has also become rather hard to have a chat about the British press without wondering whether everything is going to be ok in 10 or 20 years.
Considering therefore, the significant impact that technology has had on the media, it makes it all the more incredible that during the exact same period, another of the UK’s globally respected industries, the legal industry, has been steaming along as if the technological boom had never happened.
While consumers have become almost relentless in their pursuit of free content since technology’s genesis moment, we have by contrast happily begun paying more for two things: plastic bags and lawyers.
Since the recession, legal fees have more than doubled for a service that has remained spectacularly similar. The industry now generates over £25bn annually for the UK economy under a system that rewards slower working methods. All this is very attractive and very confusing for technology companies who can offer solutions to the latter but might harm the former.
While many have fought the law, only a few have won.
Here are our picks of the companies who have broken the law…
Walk into any bookmakers in the country and you will find a detailed layout of the form for any horse or greyhound that runs in the UK. Now imagine if that concept was applied to lawyers. Premonition calls itself the world’s largest litigation database, but what really makes it break the mould is how it ranks lawyers by win rate. It knows which lawyers win in front of which judges with which types of cases. It’s possible because of how law is so often decided by precedent, much unlike racing. Premonition claims this can increase win rates by an average 30.75%. When law is worth big money, that’s substantial.
The FT have compared the methods to sabermetrics, the empirical analysis technique used in Baseball made famous by the Oakland Athletics. Faced with the franchise’s extremely limited budget for players, GM Billy Beane turned to studying data to try and give his side a competitive edge. Despite their lowly status, by recruiting players focusing purely on outcomes instead of perceived baseball wisdom, the franchise clinched the American League West title, matching the New York Yankees for wins in the regular season. The tactic has since been adopted widely across the MLB, reducing its effectiveness, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes before the whole UK legal industry is playing its own version of Moneyball.
Almost 8% of the start-ups founded in Europe are AI companies, with the majority of those being founded in the UK. Based in the “Silicon roundabout,” East London’s RAVN could be the pick of the bunch. Their cutting-edge AI technology speeds through thousands of pages of documents to help organise and summarise their contents and immediately collect the requirable data. When legal cases can reach over 100m pages, it’s easy to see why this job needs to be outsourced to the robots. Since acquired by iManage, even the Serious Fraud Office has enlisted RAVN’s help to tackle the large piles of documents central to their work.
When there is a will there is a way, and in this case, there is a way to write your will without any lawyers. Why? Well taking out the legal professional can save you quite a fair bit of time and money. Farewill offers an online journey through a 30-minute questionnaire that produces a will at the end. Its team of experts then check over it to make sure everything is clear, then you print and follow legal protocol by having it signed by two witnesses. All for under £100.
What’s most interesting about Farewill though is the concept of not using a lawyer at all. Time will tell how many other areas of the legal world will be streamlined like so to save people money and hassle. If they keep that up, many may welcome our new robot overlords.
Another contender for best use of AI could be Luminance. Barely four years old, the company can already count 10% of the global top 100 amongst its clients. The software combines machine learning from Cambridge University with a slick interface that gets to work on reading and understanding your documents. It then picks out the important information potentially saving weeks of work. One client said it saved them 85% of the time they would have otherwise spent on a recent GDPR task. Only problem now is working out where to find those billable hours.
Life isn’t always fair, but Kleros is? Kleros is a Paris-based Greek-named app who are offering one of the most unique solutions in modern law. As our lives are moving more and more towards global online platforms, Kleros argues that disputes will arise in areas that cannot be solved by traditional court systems. Their solution? That’s right: A Blockchain Dispute Resolution Layer.
In layman’s terms, Kleros is a peer to peer platform that uses crowdsourcing and blockchain to put your dispute into the hands of a community. The assembled group of online jurors pass their judgement on your case, which Kleros claims can be based on virtually anything.
The use of blockchain here provides two benefits. The first is security, making any attempt for one of the “claimants” to influence the result almost impossible. The second is incentive. Jurors are financially incentivised to assist with the case, but also to assist in the correct manner. Jurors are only paid during the token redistribution if they vote for the agreed resolution. For those familiar with game theory, this works like a focal point or a Schelling point. The theory says that people, or players in a game, have an apparent ability to co-ordinate without communicating, because some answers feel natural or relevant. In this way, jurors can find a solution (or equilibrium) without communicating, as they are all more likely to vote in favour of the fair or expected decision. Simple.
Give any lawyer three wishes, and the first thing they will ask for is state-of-the-art deep learning and reinforcement learning model that can predict the legal language suitable for lawyers and draft up contracts. Luckily, Genie AI’s SuperDrafter has the machine learning capabilities for the job. Using academic research from UCL and advice from Lord Neuberger – Genie AI has set out to solve one of the most brain draining activities in the legal world, writing up contracts. Yet another pesky way these technology firms are eating into the billable hour!
And the best news. Its anonymiser component means it’s GDPR compliant! The AI can automatically redact sensitive information from contracts and preserve client confidentiality. Whoopee
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