Artificial Lawyer Interview: Nick Watson, Ruby Datum

Artificial Lawyer recently caught up with Nick Watson, Managing Director of virtual data room and document management company, Ruby Datum. Watson is also the founder of the LawTech London group which regularly discusses key issues in the legal tech space. We discussed what his company is doing and the other areas of legal tech that get him excited.

First, when and why did you start Ruby Datum?

We launched in May 2017, but the project was in development for a few years before that. We were originally making bespoke virtual data rooms and client extranets, that’s how the idea for Ruby Datum originated.

Beyond data/document storage what is Ruby Datum providing?

Nick Watson, Ruby Datum

We apply advanced techniques behind the scenes to index and ‘relate’ documents. Using machine learning we enable the user to find the right information fast.

We aim to continue incorporating machine learning in other areas and to automate as much as possible for the user. But, usability will always be the key. The best artificial intelligence works when the user doesn’t know it’s there.

We also have something new being worked on that will completely turn mergers & acquisitions on its head, as well as other areas of law, but it’s top secret at the moment!

You’ve often spoken about the pros and cons of machine learning. How do you see the way things are going now with legal AI systems?

Machine Learning has a prominent future in law, but it’s still too complicated for many to understand. I think we’ll see improved techniques, more unsupervised learning and friendly user interfaces to allow rapid teaching, without needing lawyers to take big chunks of time out of their busy schedules.

Another topic you’ve mentioned in the past is GDPR. We’re all snowed under by info on this. But, do you really think it’s a big deal, or is this just a massive marketing opportunity for software providers and law firms?

We’ll have to see who is made an example of [by information regulators in the EU], but the principles behind GDPR are incredibly sound and should be good practice for anyone. There are too many companies maliciously processing data and there needs to be severe implications for doing so.

Security is often overlooked and data breaches are becoming more likely and common. Companies need to take data protection a lot more seriously.

You speak to a lot of lawyers and legal tech people, do you feel that the current surge in interest in legal tech is sustainable and a change in the status quo, or is this just a blip that won’t last?

I think it is just the beginning.

I initially came from a web development and digital marketing agency, and we worked with clients from all sorts of industries at different stages of technology. You notice the same patterns time and time again. The legal industry is one of the final players to start adopting the latest tech and I welcome the exciting journey we’re all embarking on together.

Finally, what are you predictions for 2018? What do you expect to see happen in the world of legal tech next year?

I think the AI buzz will dwindle somewhat and then come back with a vengeance. We’ll see plenty of people get it wrong, but some key players will take the time to properly understand it before implementation and lead the industry.

I think we’ll start to see the High Street law firms diminish, and some will be absorbed by law tech companies that require legal expertise to help develop their systems.

Finally, I think we’ll see a strong drive by the clients for fixed fees and greater transparency, and more innovative business models that incorporate tech in order to achieve those goals.

Thank you and good luck. 

P.S. if you’d like to see a short video about Ruby Datum by Nick, please see below.