Slaughter and May on Luminance: 'Associates will get their lives back.'

Slaughter and May, Senior Partner, Steve Cooke, spoke to Artificial Lawyer (AL) and added some extra detail to the Luminance launch, which was announced this week along with the news that one of its major clients would be the leading UK law firm.

‘How did the firm and Luminance get to know each other?’ AL asked. Cooke says he knows Mike Lynch well and aside from having done plenty of legal work for Lynch’s ventures over the years they also like to lunch together. (N.B. Lynch runs Invoke Capital, which is a major investor in Luminance.)

Steve Cooke, Senior Partner, Slaughter and May

During one lunch Lynch asked Cooke about his interest in piloting what would become Luminance. Cooke was enthusiastic as Lynch always seemed to be at the cutting edge of new ideas. Moreover, clients would no doubt benefit from this added AI efficiency. That said, the firm’s techies also had a look at what was on offer and were in favour of using Luminance over other AI offerings. Cooke notes that the decision to go with Luminance was an objective one.

Cooke explains that they used a parallel system to test Luminance, i.e. running a group of associates and the AI software at the same time over the same due diligence exercise.

The end result, after a bit of tweaking that was part of the machine learning one would expect in an AI cognitive system, was the decision to formally make use of Luminance beyond the pilot.

Beyond the usual benefits AI systems provide, perhaps the most compelling idea that Cooke raised was this:

We hire some of the brightest young lawyers in the world and then we make them spend two years doing work that is non-challenging (i.e. having to do due diligence work.)’

‘When I started out in my career it wasn’t like that. But as technology has advanced data rooms have been filled with more and more documents.’

The hope is that Slaughters can now allow their junior associates to ‘get their lives back’, as Cooke puts it. No doubt the associates will be truly grateful and be able to do more interesting, client-facing work.

AL also asked Cooke whether he thought the use of AI meant they could skip the need to build large process centres as other law firms have done.

Cooke noted that his firm had not gone down the same road as some rivals and seemed intrigued by the idea that they may be like some countries that had skipped much of the industrial revolution and went straight into a more advanced, tech-based economy.

Indeed, it seems that Slaughters may have saved itself the pain of building large process centres and skipped directly to the use of AI. The associates and the clients of the firm will no doubt be thankful.