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Artificial Intelligence Experience at Telefónica Group: Client-Centered Integrated In-House LegalTech

By Rodolfo Christophersen posted 11-09-2021 09:39

***Please enjoy this blog posted posted on behalf of author, Juan Manual Haddad, Regulatory and Competition Affairs Manager, Telefónica.

It all begins when attorneys and other members of legal departments ask ourselves: where do we add value, really? If we assume that in some instances we only review the cover page of a contract and enter simple information, then we may take the leap to create AI-based software automation. That is how MAITE was born.

Since 2004 within Telefónica Argentina legal, we have traveled across four Legaltech stages:

1. Digital record: in this first stage, we moved from analog to digital support. Jurex was the first information system we used to digitally record trial information; for example, claims and responses and other data useful for the legal department. We did not achieve much value at this stage other than an ability to run some faster searches.

It was a mistake to view the software as being by lawyers for lawyers. In practice, all of the company had to come to legal to obtain the information, and so this did not end up adding much value.


2. Open legal data: once we understood that the information we generated was useful to the entire company, we made the software available to everyone. For example, accounting was able to use the software to forecast the potential cost of claims against the company, and make monthly updates.

This second stage allowed us to make clear to the company the information legal was generating impacted the company’s bottom line and thus was relevant beyond the legal department.


3. Automation of responses for the Judiciary. In this third stage, which began in 2015, we created the Justice Access Portal, which has an RPA (Robotic Process Automation), a software that responds to approximately 8,000 monthly judicial requests, mainly related to criminal justice.

Today, criminal investigations begin with the tracking of the geolocation of the mobile phones of the accused. For the company, the technical mechanism for linking the device with the identity of its owner to trace its movements is always the same.

Because of that, we created a digital interface in which we grant direct access to judicial agents. It involves filling in and receiving information without human intervention.

Although we immediately saw its benefits, we realized that the system was not being used at the beginning. Upon investigation, we understood that there was resistance to the use of the technology, which we had to overcome for this tool to bear fruit.

This involved labor intensive work far greater than the technological, including travel to each Argentine province to explain how the system works, and convincing federal judges on the benefits of using the Access Portal that we had created for them.

The experience marked a detail that one should never overlook: no software by itself solves problems – only people solve problems.

4. Artificial intelligence and the business case. At the end of 2018 through 2019 is when we began to incorporate artificial intelligence into our systems; that is what Maite reflects.

When we realized that we could develop an algorithm with a certain ability to learn and predict, able to answer simple questions about contracts that we handle daily in the legal department, we developed a conceptual test.

Given that the system reduces the process of answering inquiries from 11 steps to 2 steps (from expiration and values ​​of lease agreements where we place our antennas, for example) makes us 70% more efficient and lowers costs, Maite allowed us to demonstrate to our colleagues the value added by this this development.

Our latest achievements

We revamped the backend of our Justice Access Portal and replaced external providers with our own trained staff. In this way, we gained autonomy and development capacity of our legal team.

By the end of 2021, we will have developed eighteen (18) automation systems that work together with Maite. We are deepening Robotic Process Automation (RPA) techniques to generate reporting for regulatory compliance. With this, we transform profiles, maintaining flexibility for the work required today when working in teams: engineers and lawyers coordinate tasks, and at the same time we program – and work together with – automated computer systems.

Finally, we are working on the first concept trial in the legal area incorporating TRUST OS technology (Telefónica Tech's Blockchain API) to provide reliability to the legal management of information. Example: contracts processed using Maite can be signed and then uploaded to the system for ultimate uploading to the Blockchain, providing security to all parties, operating as a digital certification.

An essentially human path

Going through this evolution has revealed the permanent change in the legal services industry, to the point that now we, who traditionally have been purchasers of outside legal services, have become sellers of legal services, while those who provided us with LegalTech systems may now become our customers.

These are the current times: we must learn, be flexible, adapt, think differently and add value. Even a large company like Telefónica, a world benchmark in telecommunications, is branching out into the market to engage in another business, one that has emerged in the manner described above.

Our experience in incubating legal technology would be an unthinkable achievement without the disruptive technical advances of today. Above all, though, it is the result of our change of mentality, our daily effort to be better, and the unavoidable change of mentality required by this era.