AI in the C-Suite: The Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer

This is a Guest Post for Artificial Lawyer by Matt Buskell, Business Development Head at UK-based AI company Rainbird.


Do you remember 1996? DVDs were first launched in Japan, Travelocity opened up as the first online booking agent, while eBay and Ask Jeeves also opened their online doors and the Spice Girls had their first UK Number One.

You get the point, well except maybe not the Spice Girls bit. It was an inflection point with technology. Twenty years later we are that same point again with AI.

In 1996 I was fortunate to work for a very innovative company that had developed the first generation of SaaS solutions for managing supply chains. I also spent a lot of my time sat in meetings trying to convince executives that the internet was going to change the world and they needed to keep pace.

What we forget is many of these execs back then either dismissed the technology, or worse, had convinced themselves that they ‘got it’ and had a solid plan.

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Matt Buskell, Rainbird

For example, I remember sitting with a large UK retailer and asking: ‘What’s your internet strategy?’ Their response was: ‘We have it fully covered. We’ve hired a company to build us a website and they are going to make our product catalogue into a PDF that can be downloaded.’ That retailer no longer exists.

This in turn has made me consider how we need to be better prepared this time around for the coming changes created by another technology inflection point, in this case AI.

One way to be better prepared is to have a senior member of staff whose job it is to focus on how to utilise AI across the organisation. In this regard I propose the creation of a Chief AI Officer (CAIO) role.

Where Would a CAIO Fit?

The first question is: where and to whom should an AI function report? (Though of course, this first depends on a law firm making use of AI software to begin with.)

How about the CAIO reporting into the Chief Information Officer (CIO)? Well most CIOs are now primarily tasked with reducing IT costs and delivering service in an ever-increasingly complex technical landscape. In short, they are too busy keeping the lights on.

What about reporting to the Chief Strategy Officer? Not a bad place to have this function. Or, perhaps to the Chief Digital Officer? Though not all law firms will have such roles, even if they now exist in many corporates.

Despite those options I would argue that AI presents such major opportunities in terms of driving strategic innovation and could so dramatically impact process improvement, that the CAIO role merits reporting directly into the CEO and operating as a leader of their own department.

What Would a CAIO Do?

The CAIO in a law firm has a tremendous opportunity to increase efficiencies by leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to trawl vast volumes of case files and other written documents.

For example, in relation to a firm with a focus on insurance law, the CAIO would help develop systems that would be able to look at the general terms and conditions that are in place among the insurance providers and correlate them with how successful certain terms have been defended in a particular situation.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 08.54.42The result is an automated predictive model of how claims disputes can be resolved. Knowing this helps insurers take certain groups of claims in aggregate where they are less likely to win and simply negotiate an amicable resolution rather than fight the case.

But, that is just one small example. The same types of NLP techniques could be used across all practices of a firm, having a significant impact.

However it could also be used to create new online services and also promote new services amongst the firm’s client base, e.g. expert systems.

This is where we take the experience and judgments that a lawyer could make and train the system to make the same judgments. Naturally we cannot replace the lawyer, however if the judgment is narrow in scope then a type of AI called Cognitive Reasoning can be trained.

For example, if you were a law firm and wanted to determine which of your clients may be affected by the Modern Slavery Act you could teach the system how to identify this risk and then have it interact with your clients en masse.

Potentially you can canvas thousands of clients in minutes and get a profile of their risk levels. The law firm will get both an explanation of why the system thought a client was high risk, but more importantly will identify clients that could be a potential lead in relation to this type of legal need.

Often the role of IT in a law firm is very tactical (e.g. website management, email and billing systems). That is to say there is a differentiation between these operational IT related topics and the new AI-enabled business opportunities that a CAIO would cover.

Some law firms also have Product Managers who are responsible for creating new service offerings. These people often have law degrees and are a great conduit to the lawyers for some of the AI concepts. So one possible suggestion is to move some of this product development function into the CAIO department or have the CAIO actively educate this resource on a regular basis.

Considering these factors here is a potential organisational chart for a CAIO team:

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The CAIO Department Organisational Chart, Source: Rainbird.


As a company executive or law firm manager it is easy to miss the mark with AI. It needs focus, but with the right people and especially people with the right mind set, to leverage AI and make full use of if.

This is about a shift in thinking and like the Internet the people who embrace this will find new models for their business. Those who don’t could fail.

What’s also clear is this requires a new type of team dynamic. The team picked to lead this transformation needs to be quite an eclectic mix of personalities. You will have the revenue focused business strategy people mixing with highly academic focused AI experts and pragmatic process improvement experts.

One thing is sure: this group is going to make for one hell of an interesting office party (perhaps they will play the Spice Girls).


Now you have read this article, what are your views? Do law firms need a CAIO and if they did how would they fit into the organisation and what should their role be?

Artificial Lawyer would be keen to hear your views and experiences, especially from those working in tech roles inside law firms. You can leave a comment below, or Tweet at @artificiallawya.

And, if you’d like to discuss this idea in more detail with Matt, he can be reached at: