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AI at ILTCON 2017 - Part 1

By Joe Davis posted 02-05-2018 14:27


There are few who would disagree that 2017 was the year of AI hype.  Everyone in the legal profession worried that they would be replaced by robots - or at least that’s what many news outlets would have us think.  Artificial intelligence (AI) was a hot topic at ILTACON 2017, with three “standing room only” sessions focusing on helping attendees understand the basics of the technology, its use cases, and best practices from firms that have already begun to deploy it.

Each session was moderated by Andrew Arruda, CEO and co-founder of ROSS Intelligence, and featured an array of industry experts.  The first session in the series featured Sam Whitman, KM Leader and member of the AI working committee at Mayer Brown and Martin Tully, who was a litigation partner and co-chair of the data law practice at Akerman at the time, but has since become a founding partner at Actuate Law.

As you might expect from a panel of articulate experts, the whole event was eminently quotable.  Below you'll find a curated list of some of the most memorable excerpts.

Andrew Arruda on the three reasons AI was top of mind in 2017:

“One, you've got to have the computing power.  [Until recently] you just didn't have the compute power needed to run through all the possibilities that an algorithm can produce.  The second thing you need is digital information.  These computers, they need digital information … and that just wasn't readily available.  With the advent of the internet, we've been digitizing a ton of our stuff, and if you think about the legal profession we've had a head start on that process, and so you can start to do really exciting things.  And the last one's almost a by-product … and that's the maturation of algorithms.  And so if you have the digital data, and you have the computing power to start testing your algorithms, you're now able to see what works, see what doesn't, change it and iterate so that things can improve, and that's why you're seeing the breakthroughs.”

Martin Tully on what excites him about AI:

“...taking the routine, daily rudimentary steps and taking them out of the way so that you can really focus on what's more important of higher value. Think of the chef and the prep cooks. The prep cooks spend all day chopping all the vegetables and getting everything ready, the chef comes in and delivers the magic that's on the plate, and quite frankly, can demand higher value in the consumer marketplace. That's where I see AI can really help in a lot of spaces - it's the prep cook. And rather than paying for a lot of time and effort to do the basic underpinnings, let's get to what it really is that adds value.”

Sam Whitman on his view of AI:

“I always view AI as being the technology that doesn't exist yet. As soon as it does get invented and exists, we immediately think it's just normal technology - it's not that unique anymore. Back in the day, going from a slide rule to a calculator, that was a huge, great leap. That would have been considered artificial intelligence at the time.”

Andrew Arruda on our perspective:

“It's artificial intelligence until it works, then it just becomes software.”

Martin Tully on AI taking lawyer’s jobs

"...more like Jarvis helping Tony Stark than it is SkyNet wiping out the humans - or the lawyers."

Sam Whitman on AI’s role in due diligence

"AI is going to change law, obviously.  It's going to mke lawyers work more efficiently.  We'll go back to due diligence.  I don't know how many people, when they're starting to take the bar exam, said ‘I can't wait to do a 10,000 page due diligence review.’  That's not why people became lawyers.  They wanted to help.  They wanted to take on and tackle the hard questions.  They wanted to be challenged.  If you're ever done a due diligence, it's soul-destroying. … There's so much human error that can possibly happen when you have some do repetitive mundane tasks like due diligence.  If you put that over into an artificial intelligence tool, suddenly it's not only faster, often times it much more accurate and it's better, so why should we be afraid to give lawyers the information they need to do what they're supposed to be doing is making decisions and using their expertise to lead the client to the best outcome possible for them?  …  I don't think that's something for us to be  afraid of.  I think we should embrace it and realize that's the way the legal market is going.”

Martin Tully on AI’s role in talent retention at law firms

“Why wouldn't you want to use technology and AI and other types of things we were talking about to make it a more interesting place to work to increase your retention?  If your sales pitch to a new associate is 'hey, come join us and you'll [do], what was the term, soul destroying work for the first 3 years', that's not a great recruiting tool.  But if you can say ‘we're really embracing these tools and technology to make your entire experience more interesting,’ and ‘you can be on the cutting edge of developing these things that will bring more value to clients, building new skill sets,’ wow, I want to be part of that firm.”

Sam Whitman on law firm metrics

"Not only do I want to have big data, I want to have better data… I'm not saying that I want lawyers to be treated like fantasy baseball players or fantasy basketball players, but I kind of do.  I would like to know statistics on certain people within the firm so I know if a client says 'we have one week to get this deal done, how are you going to do it?' I can pull out my 'A' team, saying ‘we'll put this partner, we'll put these two associates on and these 3 paralegals, and we'll make sure we can get it done because their numbers are fantastic.’  Maybe a lawyer will be interviewing at a firm and they won't even have to write their CV or the deals they've been on, it's 'here are my stats.  Whenever we have a fixed price or a fee cap, I come in under budget and on time 76% of the time’.... Those are the types of information I as a client would love to be able to have in determining who I'm going to give my legal work to."

Martin Tully on the notion that there will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future

“I don’t think that's true for a couple of reasons.  Number one, legal jobs will not go away, they'll just be different.  No different than our jobs as lawyers are very different today now that I have information retrieval at my fingertips as opposed to using Corpus Juris Secundum.”

Andrew Arruda on the “90% fewer lawyers” author

"Even I think he's crazy."

Martin Tully on chatbots

"Yes, there are legal chatbots out there right now.  There's the one we've all read about that gets people out of parking tickets.  In some countries, there are legal chatbots that are being used by people to answer some routine legal questions … and people are relying upon them.  So what question does that immediately raise in everyone's mind? Is the robot practicing law without a license?  What are the ethical implications of having some machine give you legal advice?  I imagine the American Bar Association might have a thing or two to say about that.  But there's two sides to that sword.  On the one hand, ultimately there still has to be legal advice and an attorney-client relationship between somebody and somebody else.  The tool that we developed at Akerman with respect to data breach notification, one of the things that makes it massively different from all the other things out there is that it is legal advice.  We stand behind it, including our malpractice coverage, because it's basically our analysis that's built into the tool.  A lot of these other applications don't have that, so how comfortable can you be?"

Martin Tully on the ethical duty of competence

"More and more states are passing ethical rules, the American Bar Association has a model rule that’s out there of technical competency, and there are already some people running saying that if there are tools available like Mayer Brown is using and like Akerman is using and what other firms are using that can actually provide legal services in an automated fashion  - faster, cheaper and more accurate - it is tantamount to malpractice not to use them.  Why wouldn't you?"

Martin Tully on the three ways law firms will respond to AI

“Number one, there's going to be the ones that embrace advanced information systems, augmented intelligence, artificial intelligence, whatever you want to call it - really tech-enabled delivery of legal services is what we're talking about.  Those firms are going to advance. ... You're then going to have the second tier which are going to be reluctant - 'well, I'll wait and see how this whole email thing pans out before I really get involved in it.'  ... without taking that real innovative next step, but eventually will be forced to, otherwise they will be relegated to the dustbin of history.  And the third bucket is the dustbin of history.  They're going to be those who are going to say 'you know what - this is great.  I've got 10 years left until I retire, I'm just going to try to ride this sucker out, and I don't need to know any of this stuff, I'm just going to practice what I can, and then that's it.’  They're going to self-select themselves out of the future."

Sam Whitman on his role promoting AI in his firm

“If I'm not irrationally exuberant who will be? And who will push the firm to try to adopt and research and take on these new technologies? Someone has to be the person saying 'hey, pay attention to this, this is really cool, this is going to be a game changer.’  And whether or not it pans out to be that big a game changer, we'll see.  But someone has to beat the drum within the firm and say ' we need to pay attention to this.'  ... I agree that there's going to be winners and losers if people don't take on this technology, but what scares me more than anything - if law firms don't try to take on this technology, whenever something happens in technology, whenever it's a great disruptor it's always from outside the industry that's causing the disruption.  I’d rather see my firm, or a peer firm or any firm be the ones to be a leader in it than to see some other company come in and completely disrupt us.”

Martin Tully on AI’s effect on law firm compensation structures

“You're using these tools now to automate the delivery of legal services and the robots [are] doing the work so to speak.  Sure, you're now able to do better things, but how do you compensate the people who are the ones driving that?  It's no longer ‘hours times rate’ is it?  In fact, what you’re doing is trying to eliminate a lot of the ‘hours times rate’ stuff in order to focus on the higher value.  So how within a law firm structure that is built upon originations and ‘hours times rate,’ how do you incentivise people within that organization to actually take this and move it forward?  Compensation structures have to change.  And then how do you price this to the end user?  The client is going to say 'if you can push a button Andrew, then why am I paying you?’"

Listen to the audio recording, download the slides and view the cartoons created during the session here:

Read Part 2 of this post here: