Artificial Lawyer is Two – Thank You!
This month Artificial Lawyer (AL) turned two years old and I really want to say a massive thank you to all the readers, all the legal tech companies, lawyers and legal tech/innovation professionals, and many, many more, who have made this site what it is today!
I want to thank you for reading AL and for becoming in many cases loyal readers who check in daily to see what’s happening in the world of legal transformation.
I’d like to thank the many people who have given time to speak to me for interviews and to explain what it is their company or law firm is doing. Without your willingness to engage with AL there would be little to read here.
And, I’d also like to thank all the firms, tech companies and event organisations that have invited me to speak or chair meetings on AI and automation, taking me from Japan to Brazil, to the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and shortly to the US for ILTA. And of course, the many meetups and conferences in London – and all just in two years. (Special shout out to Legal Geek!)
Finally, I’d like to say thank you to the advertisers and sponsors. Your input is a really positive force, providing readers with access to great job adverts and information about excellent legal tech services and products.
This is done in the most unobtrusive way. (There is just a tiny percentage that is sponsored content and that which is sponsored is very well-written by experts at legal tech companies and this is always clearly labelled). This also guarantees that there is no need for AL to set up a pay wall, as so many media sites have been compelled to do, making sure that it remains free for all to access.
And all of the above has meant that AL is now viewed and enjoyed by thousands of people globally – and perhaps most importantly of all, these are people who genuinely have an interest and professional passion for this subject area. In fact, I was just looking at total views since the start of 2018 and it’s in the 100,000s!
What Have I Learned?
It is hard to believe that AL is just two years old. So much has happened in those 24 short months that it feels like many years have passed, though in the best possible way.
But, aside from realising I love legal automation and AI – which personally I see as improving how society and the economy functions as a whole, not just how lawyers work – what have I learned in these two frenetic years? Here’s a few thoughts.
- Inventors and startups really do have something special about them. I don’t know about you, but whenever I meet the people involved in a legal tech startup, or a very innovative business that is a bit older and larger for that matter, I am always amazed at the positive energy coming from them. And they are, in 99% of cases, amazingly nice people. I’ve worked in several fields in my lifetime, from teaching to journalism to consulting, and startup founders and people with a creative/inventive focus in the legal sector really are some of the most pleasant people I have ever dealt with. Why is this?
- They have taken, in many cases, a big risk, leaving behind convention and social expectations to build something new. And, even the people who are not founders are taking a punt, because they are joining a new company and they have no idea what will happen six months down the line. No easy thing to do when most people instead spend much of their energy seeking out and securing financial and career stability.
- To be this kind of person, I believe, demands that you are able to defeat the pressure to conform to the status quo, and to risk being called foolish, or to fail. That takes character. They also tend to have a vision of how things can be better and are actually putting their money where their mouth is and actually doing it. I take my hat off to them.
- Nearly every invention you see around you started off with someone with an entrepreneurial/creative/inquisitive streak – in short, someone who took a risk and knew they might fail. Maybe not all of them were startups, some may have been in R&D in large companies (or law firms…), some maybe were scientists inside universities. But, all are part of a shared spirit of inventiveness that is not afraid to try and change things. Human civilisation is founded on technology and constantly improving that technology, it’s what separates us from other equally social species on this planet. In which case, for me at least, there is something very special going on here with legal AI and automation and it’s great just to be able to follow its growth and be part of the conversation as it steadily transforms this essential $750 billion sector of the global economy.
- I also have a huge respect for innovation and IT teams in law firms (and the legal ops teams in some of the larger corporates). In some firms they are able to have a highly transformative impact, especially when backed by a management team who really ‘get it’ and want to see how they can produce work, or create new value, with AI and automation, and really change things for the better. For these teams it must be a very exciting time and they are doing tremendous work in firms all around the world. My hat also goes off to them!
- But….not all IT and innovation teams are in this position. It must be very hard to argue for radical change in the way billable work is done when working for a partnership of lawyers who pay your salary every month by billing their clients for work done ‘the old way’. Telling the bosses they are wrong and need to rethink their business strategy is never easy.
- I have worked in businesses that did not want to change, or question how they did things. It can be very frustrating (and it’s one reason I set up my own business…but that’s another story…). At such firms a queue of startups lining up outside your door offering change solutions is not always what you want as there is little you can do with them if you don’t have the necessary internal support. My heart goes out to people stuck in the middle there. Change is easier when management supports you and gives you the time and the resources needed to make change real. From my experience as a management consultant that story is repeated again and again, not just for tech, but for all types of change projects. The lesson is always the same: if the top table doesn’t really want change, then little of substance will really alter with how the business operates.
Of course, there are ways to change things and educating the partners and corporate C-suites about what all this AI and automation new tech can do, what problems it can solve (and which ones it cannot) is a good place to start – so get them reading AL…. !
- So much has changed in such a short space of time. It is hard to believe that when I first started writing about legal AI as a subject the number of law firms actually making any use out of data-led review systems was tiny (see below). It all felt like a very experimental little flame, almost something that could fizzle out if someone just blew on it a bit too hard.
- Today there are literally hundreds of law firms and inhouse legal teams at some of the world’s biggest banks and companies using different types of AI and legal automation technology. For example….if you just look at Kira and Luminance….then add in the mass of corporate clients at Seal Software, which have dozens and dozens of clients combined….and then consider that there are over 30 AI companies just doing AI doc review, and that is excluding ediscovery systems; then add in all the other branches of legal AI, from analysis systems focused on time and billing; to case prediction systems; to legal research; and of course the expert systems and legal bots…to name a few; then add in the fact that Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis are now offering AI tools for legal research…then, wow, legal AI has really come of age very, very quickly – and totally confounding the critics in the process. Has the legal world radically changed as a result yet? Nope. Not yet. But this is an excellent start and there are clearly signs that lawyers are changing how they see the production of legal work.
When you add it all together there is so much happening now. And it’s fair to say that even when legal AI companies launched some years ago the real growth in their clients has been over the last two years.
It’s been a real privilege to come along on this journey – one that has really only just got started.
One could use the analogy of climbing the foothills of the Himalayas and realising that as you crest the top of what felt like a mountain you realise that before you is a vast panorama of opportunity and exploration still before you. That is where we are.
From where I sit right now, it looks like there is a lifetime’s work ahead for all of us to really change the legal world, but I 100% believe that it is possible. Just as many other economic sectors in the past have been transformed and benefited from industrialisation, so too the law will change. It’s just going to take an enormous amount of work all around the world.
- And last observation: this is global. Two years ago the focus was very much on the UK, US and Canada in terms of legal AI and automation companies. But, we have seen so much development around the planet since then, from Mexico, to Brazil, to China, to India, to Israel, to Singapore, to Australia, to many different parts of Africa, to all across Europe, and many other places. Proof of this is the fact that I spend a lot of time doing Skype calls with people all around the world. And this is also reflected in AL’s readership, which is truly global.
- The largest readership group is in fact the USA, followed closely by the UK. But other countries in the top 10 for readership include: Canada, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and India. In fact, I recently tried to count how many countries there were which had notable readership numbers coming to AL and there were 31 nations in total. Legal tech truly has no boundaries!
All of the above has happened in 24 months. What happens next is this:
Artificial Lawyer or AL, as many now refer to it, will keep growing. Over the coming months you’ll notice a few new additions. Some will be soft-launched, others I’ll make sure I bring to your attention. But, there is plenty new in store and much more to share and do through this little old blog I started back in July 2016 without the slightest idea back then how it would change my life.
Thank you to everyone again, it’s been an honour to come on this amazing journey with you all. I look forward to many exciting years ahead.
P.S. I will be at the massive ILTACon conference in the US this August and I’ll be moderating three sessions on legal AI. It would also be great to meet people focused on AI and automation there, if you’re coming along. Drop me a line if you are going, probably closer to the date, as I am on holiday now for a couple of weeks. Really looking forward to meeting so many people from North America who have been at the cutting edge of legal transformation.
P.P.S. As mentioned, I’m taking a short break, but AL will be back to normal publication in a week or so. And, I’ll be re-posting some long reads from the last couple of years to keep you occupied on the beach. See you all soon!