Welcome back everyone to Artificial Lawyer, which after a holiday season hibernation has restarted regular publication.
This piece is an overview of some ideas to consider in 2018, as well as the answers to the Christmas Quiz (please see below).
2018 – The Year Ahead – Are We There Yet…?
First, ever since the year 2000 it has always seemed amusing (to me at least) when a new year begins and the date is noted.
Since I first started to read comics and science fiction books back in the late 1970s, it was made 100% clear that by 2018, if not sooner, we’d have people living on the Moon and Mars; robots would be in all our homes and taking care of most daily chores; we’d have flying cars; perhaps the first faster than light interstellar jump drives would be in Beta testing; computers would basically be like people and a bit matronly for some reason; and computer keyboards would not have keys but instead glowing plastic rectangles that we’d somehow know how to use and even though we’d press them randomly and they’d make cool blooping sounds it would all work fine.
We’d also wear a lot of shiny polyester and on occasion crash helmets, though why we needed to wear spacey-style crash helmets at home was never explained. Oh, and we’d all live in massive skyscrapers that had their own gardens and parks inside.
It looked like an excellent future, aside from the polyester and the ubiquitous hi-rise living. And, of course, like all future predictions it didn’t turn out that way. Although, it wasn’t all wrong, just mostly.
Machine learning voice systems such as Alexa are indeed now starting to enter our homes and be used in legal tech applications. Household robots still seem a very long way off, no matter how much Boston Dynamics amazes us with its latest bipedal droid. Housing…? Most of us still live in the same kinds of houses we grew up in, even if vacant investment property towers now dot the landscape of most major cities. There’s been some initial efforts made on flying cars, but they still seem a long way off. But, Elon Musk is hoping to build his Hyperloop – and who knows, that may come off one day.
Space travel….well, that was the big error in our predictions. Those who grew up in the ’70s could see a straight line from the 1969 to 1972 Moon landings to the future and it was an amazing future indeed. I was almost certain I had a good chance of living off planet by the time I was 40. To a ten year old that really did seem more than likely.
Today, plans are still afoot for manned missions to Mars, but the deadline just keeps dragging on and the Moon landings are a distant memory. We have the ISS space station, and that is such an amazing feat of technology, and China is also soon to build its own manned space station. But, that’s as far as we’ve got. They even scrapped Concorde and the Space Shuttle….Though, we now have SpaceX and a host of other private space companies.
In short, the future predictions have been uneven. Some simply didn’t happen. Some happened partially, but came out in ways no-one had thought likely. And in fact, in terms of the majority of things that matter to us now, what came about was not predicted by many at all. While luminaries like Arthur C. Clarke made a lot of guesses that turned out to be right, most futurists didn’t.
The reality is that the things that have reshaped our lives up to 2018 are not the things most mainstream futurists were focused on in the past. Instead of Moon bases we got iPhones and YouTube. Instead of household robots we got machine learning systems focused on analysing data and automating cognitive tasks.
In short, the most significant change since 2000 has been the revolution in information technology.
The Industrialisation of the Legal Sector
Turning information into computable data and having the machines and software to leverage that on a global scale, at incredible speeds, has been where the real action has been and where it still is today. And this brings us back to the law.
Until very recently there was no technology that really changed the way legal work was produced. Even relatively recent developments, such as document management systems, while incredibly useful didn’t really change things much.
A lawyer from ancient Rome would not feel out of place in most law offices today, because it’s still primarily a manual craft. It may operate at a global scale, but the work itself – until very recently – is still nearly all manual, i.e. if something has to be read then a person has to do it, if something has to be written then a person has to do it, even if that is on a computer.
And given that the world of law is fundamentally a world of text then that means that the law remains – for now – a manual industry dependent upon crafts people working in what is a large, but fundamentally ‘cottage industry’. Or, as the historian and thinker Roger Osborne described the pre-Industrial wool industry, this is ‘craft manufacturing at scale‘.
But, now things are changing.
While Artificial Lawyer has a strong focus on AI tech, that is one part of the bigger picture of what is now happening to the legal world. The wider meaning of ‘New Wave Legal Technology’ is not just about machine learning, but includes all legal technology that performs work, i.e. is automated, hence the sub-heading of Artificial Lawyer has always been: ‘AI and Legal Automation News + Views.’
And this new wave of automation is itself part of a larger picture, which can best be described as the industrialisation of the legal sector. This industrialisation is the increasing automation of work in a legal setting, from review to analysis, to document production, to self-execution of contracts, and much more besides.
AI is at the vanguard of this and for a good reason, legal AI tech has the power to replace human cognitive labour in the legal workplace, and that is something we have never had before. And, as noted, we also have other tech that will and is already part of this epoch-shaping change that is coming, such as: blockchain, smart contracts and legal bots (both voice and text).
Now is perhaps not the time to go into all of this in detail. But, suffice it to say here that 2018 is not just another year, it is (for me at least) the year industrialisation really starts to make deeper inroads into the legal world. In 2016 legal AI systems were a novelty, in 2017 the number of firms starting to make use of them in certain practice areas sky-rocketed, now in 2018 automated systems that perform review work will start to bed down and be used much more widely.
But this is just the beginning. The Industrial Revolution that arguably started the modern world we have today didn’t happen in a year, or even a decade, but over several key decades starting in the late 1700s. Thus, we cannot expect the entire legal market to change overnight. But change is now underway and happening among the world’s leading law firms in markets across the planet. It is also change that seems very unlikely to stop. It will grow in scale, in depth and in its impact.
There are at present eight main branches of legal AI, as far as I see it, then we have smart contract and blockchain tech becoming much more prevalent this year (and expect plenty of news on this front in 2018).
So far the vast majority of the market’s focus has been on AI doc review and in second place probably AI-driven litigation analysis. But this is just a beginning. There are literally dozens of companies out there developing great new tech.
Moreover, automation via machine learning systems, or self-executing contracts, will also combine with process automation systems and doc template automation, to add a broader and deeper impact. What in 2015 seemed like a bunch of disparate applications will form together into a wider, connected eco-system of legal industrial tech, just as the first phase of the Industrial Revolution involved a mix of different technologies.
All in all, Artificial Lawyer predicts that 2018 will be just as exciting as 2017, but in different ways, with the biggest change being, I hope, that this isn’t just about new technology, such as legal AI applications, but the beginning of a new era for the legal market.
I look forward to working with you all throughout the year. And, as ever, if you want to get in contact, to share news, to just have a chat about the Legal Industrial Revolution, or to understand better how this matters to your firm, then I can always be reached at: Richard@Tromansconsulting.com
Happy New Year.
Richard Tromans, Legal Industrialist and Founder, Artificial Lawyer + Tromans Consulting.
Answers to the Christmas Quiz.
Just before everyone headed off on holidays Artificial Lawyer posed 35 questions, some for fun, some a quite tricky test of readers’ knowledge of the key players and technology that forms part of the New Wave of legal technology.
The answers are below in Red. While there is no prize as such, other than the kudos of getting all of them right, Artificial Lawyer would be interested to hear from anyone who did. Congratulations to all of you who did well.
1) Which of the following is commonly seen as the inventor of the smart contract concept in 1996?
- Nicholas Cage
- St Nicholas
- Nick Szabo
- Nicholas Parsons
2) When ROSS Intelligence first launched they illustrated their website with a photo of a very elegant and minimalist style library, where is this library?
- New York City
3) The two founders of Florida-based legal data analytics company, Premonition, grew up in which famous place?
- Cambridge, UK.
- Manhattan, New York.
- Paris, France.
- Primrose Hill, London, UK.
4) The term ‘NLP’ is often used in relation to legal AI technology. It stands for:
- New Lawyers Please.
- Neural Lawyer Programming.
- Natural Language Processing.
- Natural Legal Programming.
5) When UK law firm, BLP, started to use RAVN’s AI tech back in 2015 to extract real estate information, the lawyers using the system gave it a nickname. What did they call it?
- Robbie the Robot
- Archie the Bot
6) Which legal AI company’s co-founder has also written a children’s book (about machine learning)?
- Ulf Zetterberg, Seal Software.
- Peter Wallqvist, RAVN/iManage.
- Noah Waisberg, Kira Systems.
- Lewis Liu, Eigen Technologies.
7) Which person in Scotland applied this year to trademark the term ‘legal engineer’?
- Billy Connolly.
- Richard Susskind.
- Philip Hannay.
- Robert the Bruce.
8) A number of law firms have taken investments in legal tech and fintech companies this year. Which of the following hasn’t (whether directly or via another entity).
- Allen & Overy.
- Mishcon de Reya.
- Wachtell Lipton.
9) Jimmy Vestbirk, the founder of Legal Geek, started out in life making web-based applications in what area?
- Industrial design.
- Camper vans.
10) Legal AI and data analytics start-up, CaseCrunch, which famously beat a group of lawyers at predicting litigation outcomes this year, has in the last 12 months had two other names, these were (in order):
- BotLaw, then LexyLaw.
- LawBot, then Excelsior.
- Elexirr, then LawBot.
- LawBot, then Elexirr.
11) Smart contract platform, Agrello, was the first legal tech company to launch an ICO. At its post-launch peak on 10 Sept, 2017 its ‘DLT’ tokens had a market cap of how much?
- Around $40m.
- Over $400m.
- Around $4m
- Below $4.
12) California-based legal bot and A2J pioneer, Joshua Browder, famously started out helping people to overturn parking fines using his DoNotPay platform. Where did Browder first get the idea?
- San Francisco, California.
- London, UK.
- Boston, Massachusetts.
- Shanghai, China.
13) Legal AI experts, such as Kevin Gidney of Seal Software and Brian Kuhn of IBM, have talked about a future convergence between AI-driven NLP technology and what other major branch of tech?
- Automated Vehicles.
- 3D Printing.
14) It has been proposed that law firms that DON’T use AI-assisted document review tools for due diligence matters, will in the future see:
- Their professional indemnity insurance premiums increase.
- Their professional indemnity insurance premiums decrease.
15) Before RAVN merged with iManage it worked with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office on a massive project to isolate legally privileged documents. The SFO investigation was for which company?
- Fox Corp.
- Virgin Group.
- Rolls Royce.
16) Before Eigen Technologies’ co-founder, Dr Lewis Liu, decided to create a legal AI company he had many different roles. One of which was helping to design what piece of technology while at Oxford?
- A time machine.
- A faster than light engine.
- A new type of LCD screen.
- A new type of laser.
17) Tim Pullan, the founder of legal AI-powered risk and compliance system, ThoughtRiver, first got the idea for giving a contract a ‘risk score’ when he was working at which company?
- Standard & Poor’s.
- Goldman Sachs.
18) One of the legal tech companies that law firm Mishcon de Reya invested in following its MDR LAB incubator in 2017 was Ping. What does the company offer?
- Golfing equipment.
- Email support.
- Virtual data rooms.
- Billing software.
19) ROSS Intelligence’s origin owes a lot to one of its co-founders’, Jimoh Ovbiagele, experiences as a young man, when:
- He won the lottery and couldn’t find any suitable legal advice on how to set up a trust.
- His parents separated, but they couldn’t afford the legal input needed to formalise things.
- He grew tired of having to do legal research as a young commercial associate.
- He had a vision one night that revealed to him legal AI was the solution to research challenges he had always been looking for.
20) In a survey of the Top 30 UK law firms by Artificial Lawyer and The Times in 2017, how many firms said they had ‘No Interest’ in legal AI applications?
- Just one.
21) Which legal tech company has worked with Kira Systems to create more powerful, combined applications, sometimes illustrated by the idea of avocados and toast?
- Rocket Lawyer.
- Neota Logic.
22) Indian legal AI company, AnviLegal, promised to bring major change to the world of NLP-driven document review in 2017, by doing what?
- Creating a completely new method for machine learning.
- Marrying together machine learning with collaborative systems.
- Starting a price war by offering super-economy monthly fees.
- Launching a buy-out fund to take over all its rivals.
23) In 2017 Wolters Kluwer launched an AI tool with Skopos Labs that can predict what?
- The outcome of US Presidential elections.
- Whether a piece of US legislation will become law.
- Whether Daenerys Targaryen will become Queen of Westeros.
- Which future US Supreme Court judge will be selected for the role.
24) At last count there were how many legal AI-driven document review companies (not including e-discovery vendors) globally as of December 2017?
- Up to five.
- Up to ten.
- Up to fifteen.
- More than fifteen.
25) The Global Legal Hackathon was announced recently and will take place in late February 2018. It is hoping to bring together participants from all around the world to push forward legal innovation. If it meets its goals it will also be:
- The quickest legal hackathon ever.
- The largest legal hackathon ever.
- The most efficient legal hackathon ever.
- The most technologically advanced legal hackathon ever.
26) US-based legal AI company, Seal Software, made a ground-breaking step this year by opening an office in which developing market?
27) New York-based smart contract pioneer, Clause, recently made the major decision to do what, in order to help develop global standards for this key area of legal technology?
- Conducted an ICO.
- Open-sourced part of its smart contract code.
- Created an AI assistant to help people create contracts.
- Fitted an IOT device to an orbiting satellite that could communicate data to a smart contract on Earth.
28) Billy Bot, is a legal/chat bot that is primarily designed to support what sort of lawyers?
- Costs lawyers.
- Patent attorneys.
29) Swiss-based PartnerVine has created a marketplace to provide what type of legal goods or service?
- Automated advice on cryptocurrencies.
- On-demand lawyers.
- Advice on fine wines.
- Automated contract templates.
30) LexisNexis has a legal tech incubator in Menlo Park, California, where does Thomson Reuters have one?
- Zurich, Switzerland.
- Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Auckland, New Zealand.
- Prague, Czech Republic.
31) ‘RFRNZ’ is the name of a new legal AI doc review company currently in development in which European country?
32) French insurance giant, AXA, recently became one of the first ‘traditional’ businesses in the world to sell smart contracts to the consumer market. What do its Fizzy smart contracts insure against?
- Flat Champagne.
- Skiing accidents.
- Flight delay.
- Credit default.
33) Which Australian law firm has publicly announced it is working with two different legal AI doc review companies: both Canada’s Beagle, with which it has had an Asia-Pacific joint venture, and Luminance?
- Minter Ellison.
- Clayton Utz.
34) Legal AI experts in Europe and North America report that they have experimented in using NLP with many different languages, from Mandarin Chinese to Russian, and all worked after sufficient training. However, which language has proven to be especially tricky?
35) Final question, why is this particular language (in 34) so tricky when it comes to NLP?
- It is using two different phonetic alphabets at the same time.
- Its characters are written vertically.
- It uses logograms instead of words.
- It is using logograms and two phonetic alphabets at the same time.