Friday, 7 April 2017

Law firms’ knowledge and use of AI is a golden marketing opportunity

It’s not a matter of whether law firms will need to market their knowledge and use of AI (artificial intelligence), it’s a matter of when. The smart law firms are going to start now.

I walked out of last week’s Legal Marketing Association Annual Meeting (LMA) seeing the single biggest marketing opportunity for law firms as demonstrating a keen knowledge of AI and how AI is going to change the delivery of legal services.

I’ve been to LMA meetings for almost twenty years and have never even heard AI mentioned. AI and machine learning may have been discussed in relation to e-discovery, but this year there were multiple sessions with legal technology and software executives and entrepreneurs presenting on AI and its implications for law firms.

Why now? Because the tools that consumers of legal services expect law firms to use will bring fundamental change to the traditional business model of law firms, that being to charge solely by the hour.

Businesses and consumers are not going to tolerate law firms charging for hours spent on tasks and projects which can be automated by software and AI.

The age of AI may not fully be upon law firms, but the consensus at LMA was pretty close to what Richard Susskind, author, speaker and advisor on the future of legal services, had to say at this year’s British Legal Technology Forum:

People are probably over-estimating what AI can do in the near term, but unfortunately [they] are underestimating what its impact is going to be long term in the industry.

AI is close enough along, that speaking at LMA, Mark Greene, a 30 year veteran in the development and deployment of business and marketing strategies, warned new associates that they should become knowledgeable on new tools and AI so as to remain valuable to a their law firm. Going the traditional partner track is going to be much riskier, per Greene.

Former big law attorney, now Professor of law and Director of LegalRND at Michigan State University, Daniel Linna commented for this post on Facebook about the growing efficiencies that software and tools are already bringing to the law, saying it’s a mistake to ignore expert systems (or some might call them bots–think Turbo Tax for law).

The legal industry across the board could significantly increase productivity (double?) and also quality with better knowledge management and expert systems. Look at what Illinois Legal Aid Online and Michigan Help Online can do with expert systems and document automation.

Many law firms are building expert systems, like Foley FCPA, Akerman data breach navigator, Denton’s for European financial regulations, NetApp & ThinkSmart NDA automation. Lots of low hanging fruit.

AI folks say lots in legal cannot be automated because legal work is unstructured. Well, let’s start structuring it. We need more best practices and standards. Why do lawyers, even in the same firm, do the same task 10 different ways?

One way for law firms to market their knowledge of AI is to use AI — or at least tools and software appproaching AI.

In addition to the firms mentioned by Linna, Seyfarth Shaw, in connection with its subsidiary SeyfarthLean Consulting, announced in February an agreement with Blue Prism to deploy robotic process automation (RPA) software to the firm, marking the first adoption of Blue Prism’s technology for the legal industry.

Blue Prism’s software robots are implemented as digital labor to eliminate low-return, high-risk, administrative and processing work to improve organizational efficiency and effectiveness while reducing operating costs.

Seyfarth’s chair emeritus Stephen Poor sends a message we’re going to hear the likes of more frequently.

We’re excited about the opportunity this creates to free our lawyers from some of the more mundane legal tasks so they can focus on helping our clients solve their most complex business issues. In testing various use cases, we’ve already seen how Blue Prism’s RPA software can help us create exponential gains in productivity, and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of possibilities.

CARA, an automated research assistant from Casetext, uses AI and natural-language technologies to automate legal research tasks, allowing firms to spend time on higher-value, billable work—and not miss key precedents or decisions.

Quinn Emanuel quickly got the word out, as part of Casetext’s recent funding announcement, that they’re on board with Cara. From partner, David Eiseman:

CARA is an invaluable, innovative research tool. We can upload a brief and within seconds receive additional case law suggestions and relevant information on how cases have been used in the past, all in a user-friendly interface. This feature is unique to CARA, and a major step forward in how legal research is done.

“Important for law firms to understand,” per Greene “is that they’ll not be driving this change in legal services and business models with regard to AI, their clients will. The best thing firms can do is to be informed.”

Being informed alone won’t be enough. Lawyers and law firms will need to demonstrate that they are informed and have a working knowledge of AI.

Sure, writing and speaking about AI in the traditional fashion, is a start. But networking through the Internet via blogging and social media offers lawyers so much more – the ability to become a leader in the area — quickly.

Listen to the influential sources and key subjects (including terms, companies and products) on AI via Feedly. Share what you’re reading about AI via Twitter, engage the sources and what they’re saying in your blog.

Doing so will get you cited by the influencers, demonstrate you’re keeping abreast of developments in AI and build an enviable network of those in the know on AI.

Doing a quick look around, I did not see lawyers out blogging on AI in a way that sperates them from the pack. The opportunity is still there.

AI may even be the perfect place for law students and associates to start doing some online networking and blogging. Look at what Greene had to say about demonstrating your value — knowledge of AI.

Hey, I am am far from an expert when it comes to AI. But I do see a big marketing opportunity here for law firms. Firms are probably even acting at their peril in not marketing re he knowledge and use of AI – large corporate consumers of legal services will be watching.

If law firms have jumped on cannabis, privacy, food safety, and consumer finance regulations to make a name for themselves, firms can do it with AI — via the use of AI, or at least demonstrating a working knowledge of AI.


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