The next legal frontier? Isn’t it obvious? …

Posted on October 15th, 2016 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This is an edited and updated version of a two part blog written by me which was published as a two part series on the LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions portal on 6th & 13th June 2016. The blog posts (combined here) reflect an element of the content of my keynote speech I shared with delegates at the Lexis InterActionShare conference in April 2016. It is reproduced with kind permission.

At the recent LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions’ InterAction Share event in London, I shared with delegates my insight and advice in relation to the rise of smart technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), robots and machine learning in the legal ecosystem and how these technologies are being, and will be, deployed in the industry.

By addressing all of the above, it naturally led to my tackling the challenging question “what is the next legal frontier?”

It’s important to realise and understand that it is inevitable that the roles of lawyers, general counsel, marketers, business development, social media and CRM specialists etc. are going to change in light of such overwhelming technological advances.

The question that is hotly debated today is whether advanced technologies will support or replace lawyers. Well, the research speaks volumes. Note how we thought a few years ago compared to now. The answers to a recent survey in 2014/15 in relation to what law firm owners think about smart tech / AI today affecting their roles and businesses was very different compared to a handful of years ago back in 2010/11. The Altman Weil Flash Survey found that 35% of law firm leaders in the US could envision first-year associates being replaced by AI such as IBM’s Watson in the next five to ten years, with 47% predicting that fate for paralegals. Only 20% of these leaders are now sure that computers will never replace human practitioners. You can join the dots for yourself.

This is by no means a US-only phenomenon, with some firms in the UK and USA already seriously starting to make use of smart technology and AI. In the last 3 months alone here in the UK we’ve witnessed a rush of law firms revealing in legal media and mainstream press that they are deploying AI and robot automation within its business. What this means for the transiting roles of those lawyers in those firms, only time will tell.

But there’s always going to be a place for human subject matter experts (for now, anyway, maybe the next 10 years). Smart technology is not here to replace professionals yet, I say, but to make us better lawyers, or marketers etc. Smart technologies are forcing us to really use our brains and emotional intelligence. That’s a really good thing, surely?

Ideally, we need to work alongside ‘the machine’ as we’re not going to be able to halt its relentless march throughout the legal ecosystem. As a result of the AI infiltration and Armageddon, new roles for us all will evolve to the legal strategist, pricing agent-provocateur, social collaborator, social-human lawyer (i.e. the rainmaker), big data guru, intelligent e-personal assistant, iCyborg lawyer, RoboManager and so on.

Some of these roles may not even be done by lawyers. For example, smart (human) secretaries are now the bridge between lawyer and client in cultivating existing and new relationships. The AI virtual assistants available via KIM technologies will no doubt impact (support and/or replace) many roles – lawyers, General Counsels and support staff. The role of human CRM and marketing professionals will shift too – for example, intelligent relationship agent, relationship manager, the big data guru, the data artist, the data steward and such – supporting individual lawyers in tracking a contact through an individual’s entire life-cycle.

Against this backdrop, I was hugely pleased to witness Business Edge, the new business development module in Lexis InterAction, at the Share event, where I touched upon the potential impact of AI and smart technologies (such as Business Edge) on ALL job roles in law firms. They will enable support personnel (the real workers that make sure all the cogs turn properly and the boiler room remains stoked) to help fee earners (I still detest this term) manage their relationships throughout the life cycle of engagement with a contact. I have no doubt that smart technologies such as Lexis InterAction’s Business Edge capability will be a real boon to lawyers when their role in the months and years ahead will primarily be to:

  1. Interpret that the AI / Robot is right about the law; and
  2. Provide a supportive relationship to clients and General Counsel.

And the role of the ‘support worker’ will continue to be in supporting the lawyer in making the above happen extraordinarily well. In this new incarnation, law firms will not be in the business of law anymore, but in the business of supporting intelligent relationships and relationship management. Use of these kinds of technologies will enable the skill and experience of senior, associate and junior lawyers, and all support personnel to be focused on the parts that really matter – i.e. adding commercial value, finding solutions, rainmaking, interacting with prospects and clients, negotiating, persuading, advocating, doing deals, and being creative – rather than spending time on ‘mundane’ tasks, which usually account for 60-80% of time spent on any legal matter.

I am confident that LexisNexis Business Edge along with enterprise collaboration, data room software and content technologies (such as HighQ), cognitive computing, AI and machine learning technologies (such as the well reported and beginning to be well deployed technologies of IBM Watson, ROSS, KIM, RAVN, KIRA, Luminance, Neota Logic etc etc) will assist in firm growth and client loyalty as they (whether collectively or independently) help ease the pain and help support personnel market their algorithmic angels to existing and new clients as well as communicate and interact intelligently more often.

Wouldn’t it be magical if some of these technologies could combine and collaborate to automate 100% of ALL aspects of some areas of legal service? Imagine what this could mean for the law firm, lawyer, general counsel and client?

I envisage that the future of law will witness the rise of more relationship agents, (in whatever guise – human or robot) and the majority of human roles will simply be to manage / project manage / over-lord and be intelligent about relationships via ROARing (Reaching Out And Relating) supported with exisitng and emerging smart technologies such as those noted above and Business Edge. CRM systems, such as Lexis InterAction, will facilitate the valuable intelligent relationships (human and robot).

To succeed in the future of law will require every individual to be imaginative and creative in how they approach existing and new clients by using the information on client relationships intelligently – facilitated via all kinds of technology at our fingertips. It is these kinds of things that will distinguish us humans from ‘the machine’. Embracing all these forms of technological deployment will free us all up to do the thing of real value – client humanness activities. Getting clients and keeping them. The thing ‘the machine’ can’t do… yet.

So, what is the next legal frontier? Isn’t it obvious? Cultivating intelligent relationships using human wisdom and machine intelligence, together. Period. It always was. It always will be…

Chrissie Lightfoot is named in the2015 list of the ‘World’s Top Female Futuristsand author of bestseller The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell You! and its sequel Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful 2015 to 2045

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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 at 6:35 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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