BY SHURA COLLINSON
“AI will not replace lawyers, but will enhance connections to data beyond the abilities of a human mind. And data can win cases,” believes Michael Lew, founder of LegalComet, a legal tech advisory service based in Singapore.
After all, data is now more valuable than oil or gold, Lew said at the Legal AI conference at the Skolkovo Technopark on Friday, where international experts met to discuss the use of artificial intelligence in the legal profession.
The Legal AI conference was the latest in a series at Skolkovo devoted to the subject of legal tech, following the Intellectual Property in the New Tech Regime conference held in February, and the Skolkovo LegalTech conference held last December.
AI is currently primarily used for automation, machine learning, Natural-Language Processing (NLP) and chatbots, said Lew, but in the near future, the focus will be on emotional analytics, real time universal translation, robotic personal assistants, and cognitive cybersecurity, which mimics the human brain in order to stop threats.
“I think there is a lot of potential for real time emotional analytics and language in the legal sector,” for example in dealing with client requests, said Lew.
AI can perform tasks that are very time-consuming for human lawyers, such as analysing hundreds of pages of legal documents and contracts, he said. Some companies in Asia already offer such services, he noted. AI can provide answers and results quicker than a human lawyer ever can, and since the use of chatbots and automated programmes is cheaper than the cost of a human lawyer, AI allows more people to access legal advice and legal documents.
Chatbots designed for business by Nanosemantics Laboratory, a resident of Skolkovo’s IT cluster, can have up to 10,000 conversations at a time, for example. This means that unlike a human operator whose time is expensive, a chatbot is never in a rush to end the chat and move on to the next customer, Anna Vlasova, head of the linguistics department at the Nanosemantics Laboratory, told the conference.
People ask chatbots questions that they would feel too awkward or embarrassed to ask a human, such as whether they will have to strip off for a medical procedure.
Nanosemantics Laboratory has introduced its chatbots into 80 projects, primarily for banks and telecoms companies such as mobile operators, said Vlasova. The bots converse naturally in several languages, answering questions, generating leads, selling or promoting goods, and even joking with their interlocutors. The chatbots can be integrated into any existing messenger apps, and they also have a hidden advantage, says Vlasova: they help companies to discover new information about their customers’ requirements and concerns.
When people know they are communicating with a bot, they don’t behave in the same way they might when interacting with another human, she explained. They are not worried about asking questions that could be perceived as stupid, and will ask a bot questions they would feel too awkward or embarrassed to ask a human. For example, customers shopping for a car will ask the bot whether they can use cheaper, own-brand replacement parts for the car, while patients interacting with chatbots in the medical sphere are anxious to know whether they will have to strip off for a medical procedure, for example. The bots can then use these questions to provide the company with (anonymous) feedback on issues that are important to customers or users.
Pravoved.ru, another resident startup of the Skolkovo Foundation’s IT cluster, has developed a robot-lawyer platform that raised $1 million from venture funds last month. People remain cautious of robots – they worry the robot won’t understand them and fear confidentiality breaches – but when Pravoved.ru asked professional lawyers to assess online consultations given by both human lawyers and robots, without revealing which was which, the experts proved 14 percent more likely to recommend the robot, Pravoved’s founder, Valery Meshkov, told the conference on Friday. Robots are more likely to provide fuller consultations, providing all the relevant information at their disposal, while a human may make a narrower selection of information to share, he added.
Robots are also more objective than humans, said Meshkov, pointing to research that has shown that human judges are more likely to rule in defendants’ favour if they have eaten recently than if they are hungry.
This does not mean that robots will replace lawyers, but they can help lawyers enormously, he believes.
“Accusations that lawyers who help in the development of AI for use in the legal sector are digging their own graves are unfounded,” Meshkov told the conference. “Lawyers will still be needed, but their time will be much more valuable.”