International law firm Taylor Wessing has embraced automated business development (BD) by launching a free expert system to help clients understand their legal position in relation to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, in a further step toward law firms productising legal tech for client use.
The Modern Slavery Act tool, which is publicly accessible via the firm website, uses a series of questions to guide a client through key issues that relate to the new Act, allowing users to provide answers that range from simple ‘Yes’/’No’ responses to a more ambiguous ‘Not Sure’, which appear via a drop down menu for each question.
While the question process can first appear to be quite simple, the expert system tool shows a high degree of autonomy and will steer a client through certain bespoke branches of questions until it has got all the answers it needs to provide the client with a provisional statement in relation to the Modern Slavery Act, which the British Government made law in part to prevent companies exploiting forced labour, often via foreign suppliers.
The publicly accessible tool states on the Taylor Wessing website that it is powered by UK-based tech company, Rainbird, which operates in approximately the same field as US-based expert system maker, Neota Logic.
While this is perhaps not what some some people may describe as an AI system, there does appear to be what one could call ‘probabilistic inference’, i.e. based on what answers are given the system will respond with what it estimates should be the next question in the branch to help the client reach the end of the question and answer process.
After experimenting with the system, Artificial Lawyer found that it does indeed lead you through quite a range of different question branches depending on your responses. I.e. the system is not leading all clients in the same direction, but is able to create for each user what seems to be the most logical line of questioning depending on your specific needs or company situation. Moreover, it is a wholly automated, with no human input during the question and answer process.
At the end of the process you are given the option to have a downloadable report, also for free. Though Taylor Wessing adds that they offer to: ‘….charge a fixed fee of £500 plus VAT to review the statement [generated by the system] to check that it complies with the Modern Slavery Act and formally advise you on any amendments that may be required.’
The report also offers clients the chance to have the firm provide training on the new Act, as well as offering to help clients amend their standard contracts to take into account the Act’s provisions, especially with their suppliers. This billable work will be carried out by the firm’s lawyers, rather than automated systems.
Fundamentally this appears to be about using advanced legal tech as a BD tool. It is exploiting a freemium model that appears to move from zero cost, to a small fee for checking a company’s statement, to generating more valuable and complex advisory work for some of the clients that use the system.
It is also further evidence of the effort of law firms to ‘productise’ legal tech, i.e. to use technology to create a tangible product that clients can use and find value in. In this case there is a balance between the zero fees generated for the lower value checking with what is presumably hoped to be the chance to generate high value matters with the tool acting as a gateway for client interest.