Productizing Legal Services

Three evolutions have put the idea of productizing legal services firmly in the spotlight. First, there is the increased demand for Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs): clients don’t like billable hours because they prefer to know in advance how much something will cost. So, lawyers started using fixed fees for certain services (e.g., a non-disclosure agreement will cost you amount X), or started offering subscription billing, e.g., as an option. With subscription billing a client pays a monthly fee, which entitles him or her to x amount of work, or, e g., to so many contracts, etc.

Another area where productizing legal services pops up is in software that analyses and automates workflows in law firms. The increased usage of AI is leading to major progress in automating workflows, which in turn allows these workflows to be productized.

But the best examples of legal services being productized are probably the services offered by robot lawyers and legal chatbots. These services have completely been automated and turned into products that offer a solution to a legal problem. There already are solutions, e.g., to create legal documents and forms, to review contracts, to appeal parking and other traffic tickets, to offer first advice on divorce, or that will submit damage claims for you with regard to flights, that assist you with requesting maternity leave or in case of landlord contract violations, etc. And the list is growing on an almost daily basis.

So, what does it mean to productize legal services? Simply put, productizing legal services means that you are turning your legal services into products. Services are normally delivered one at a time. (Which implies that there is a limit to the number of billable hours one can do over a given period of time). Products on the other hand can be produced and sold at scale. Producing more products is a matter of enhancing production capacity. And with software solutions, that is not hard to do. Now, obviously, not all legal services lend themselves to being productized. But the three evolutions described above show that many can. A study found that, at present, 23% of the work a lawyer does can be automated. With the continued progress that is being made in the field of legal Artificial Intelligence, that percentage will only rise.

There are several benefits to productizing legal services. The first one, already hinted at above, is scalability. Not only does a robot lawyer, e.g., take seconds to review a contract, where a lawyer takes hours, but if it reaches its capacity, it’s just a matter of increasing that capacity, typically at minimal cost. A second benefit is predictability: With a product, you know in advance how much it will cost. A third benefit is a better match between offer and demand, as the client knows in advance what he or she will be receiving for his or her money. As a result of this, you gain consumer trust, which is a fourth benefit. A fifth benefit is that when you start productizing your legal services, you are really maximizing your productivity.

As the above examples illustrated, the role played by technology is crucial in productizing legal services. Only now have we reached a point where the technology is available to start productizing legal services. These technologies allow to automate the workflow and thus maximize your operational efficiency. They also allow the scalability of the solutions offered.

The way to start productizing legal services is by analysing processes and workflows, standardizing and automating them the maximum extent. If you want to launch yourself in the robot lawyer market, find a common problem, preferable in a niche that requires some expertise; analyse how much of the workflow can be automated, and if it can, offer an easy to deliver solution. Even without considering offering robot lawyer service, analysing workflows and processes at your law firm will allow you to automate them, which will benefit your firm.

 

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OneDrive for Lawyers

You may not have noticed, but Office 365 keeps on being updated, and a lot of the subtle enhancements have to do with the ongoing integration of additional cloud services. Let’s have a closer look at Word and OneDrive.

OneDrive comes in different versions with different features. Anybody can sign up for a free account, but, as a lawyer, you are typically expected to sign up for a professional version of ‘OneDrive for Business.’ Many law firm management software providers advise to use Office 365 Business Premium. (If, for some reason, you are using a version of OneDrive that does not offer certain features, it is good to know it may well be possible to subscribe to those features separately).

In Office 365, it is possible to save documents to the cloud, which is done by saving them to OneDrive. A first advantage of having a document in OneDrive, is that it can be accessed from anywhere at any time, and on most devices. There are apps for mobile devices and tablets, and it is even possible to use Office Online, a free web version (with a limited feature set) of the most popular Office applications.

Another advantage of using OneDrive is that the copies saved by autosave are saved in the cloud, too. If your device would crash while working on a document, you can continue working from another device. Microsoft also automatically makes backups of all your OneDrive documents.

One of the biggest advantages of using OneDrive, is that you can share files and folders with other people. If you need feedback from your client, from other lawyers, or even from an external consultant, there is no need to email anybody a copy of the document, you just give them access to the document in OneDrive. And you have the option to determine for each person whether they get access to just read or to edit the texts. etc. It is also possible to insert comments into the text, where Word will keep track of who said what. What’s more, the person you want to give access to one or more documents, doesn’t even need to have Office 365 themselves. They can use the free apps, or Office online to access the documents. All you have to do is send them an email with the link.

OneDrive is specifically designed for people to cooperate on documents. It has built-in capabilities such as advanced permissions management, versioning control, eDiscovery, and records management to ensure documents are managed, controlled, archived and can be retrieved in one place with reduced overhead.

“But is it safe?” you may wonder. The short answer is that it is. Typically, professional cloud service providers have excellent security measures in place. Your data is in all likelihood more secure in the cloud than it is on your own servers. Add to that that the professional version of OneDrive allows to use two-step authentication to access documents. OneDrive also offers a more advanced permission management system, called the Advanced Security Management (ASM), which will detect abnormal usage and allow you to monitor how your documents are being accessed and used. (If your version of OneDrive doesn’t include ASM, it is possible to order it separately).

It is important to remain aware of the terms and conditions of OneDrive, especially if, as a lawyer, you store evidence on OneDrive. Microsoft has strict policies when it comes to, e.g., nudity or graphic violence. Storing such content, even if it is evidence in a case, may be a violation of Microsoft’s terms and conditions, and may lead to your account being suspended. One possible workaround, is to sign up for ‘Customer Lockbox’ which gives you greater control over what Microsoft can scan on your OneDrive, but it offers no guarantees. If Microsoft does find anything it considers a violation of their terms and conditions, your account may be suspended.

We started this article by referring to the constant updates of Office 365 and the addition of additional cloud services. For many of these cloud services, is making progress with the integration of Artificial Intelligence. You may know that within Word, e.g., you have the option to translate text in a document to different languages. Those translations have been getting better and better. Another new feature is an intelligent dictionary for acronyms, which will tell you what a certain acronym in a certain context means. Specifically interesting for lawyers are the advancements Microsoft has been making in the field of eDiscovery on OneDrive.

Needless to say that the usage of OneDrive is integrated most modern software packages for law firm management.

PS: this article was written in reply to a request for information about OneDrive for Lawyers.

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When robot lawyers and lawyers compete

‘Man versus Machine’ contests are always popular. We have already seen such contest where Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems defeat human experts at chess, Jeopardy, and Go. And in recent months, robot lawyers have been giving human lawyers a run for their money, too. In the headlines this week is a story of an Artificial Intelligence system outperforming human lawyers in reviewing non-disclosure agreements. Some months ago, in October 2017, there was a similar story about an AI system that was better at predicting the outcome of cases about Payment Protection Insurance than human lawyers were. Let’s start with the latter.

Case Cruncher Alpha

One of the first occasions where robot lawyers beat their human counterparts happened in October 2017, in the UK. The Artificial Intelligence system taking on the human lawyers was Case Cruncher Alpha, developed by Casecrunch. Casecrunch is the current name for the company that previously had developed LawBot, Lawbot-X, and Divorcebot. It was started by a group of Cambridge University Law students. (See our article on Legal Chatbots). Case Cruncher Alpha is designed to study existing legal cases in order to predict the outcome of similar cases.

In the contest, CaseCruncher Alpha competed with 112 lawyers. All of them were commercial lawyers from London. None of them were experts in the specific matter the cases dealt with.

The purpose of the contest was to predict the outcome (success or failure) of cases dealing with Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). The topic is well known in the UK, where several banks were ordered to pay damages to customers to whom they had sold insurance products that they didn’t require. The contestants were given real cases that had been handled by the UK Financial Ombudsman Service. The lawyers were permitted to use all available resources.

The result was a staggering defeat for the lawyers: they achieved an average accuracy score of 62%, while Case Cruncher Alpha scored 86.6 %. (No data were provided on how individual lawyers did, or on whether there were any that had scored better than the AI system).

Richard Tromans from artificiallawyer.com rightfully points out that evaluating the results of this contest is tricky. They do not mean that machines are generally better at predicting outcomes than lawyers. What they do show is that if the question is defined precisely enough, machines can compete with, and sometimes outperform human lawyers. At the same time, this experiment also suggests that there may be factors other than legal factors that contributed to the outcome of the cases. But what the contest undoubtedly made clear was that legal prediction systems can solve legal bottlenecks.

Ian Dodd was one of the judges. He believes AI may replace some of the grunt work done by junior lawyers and paralegals, but that no machine can talk to a client or argue in front of a High Court judge. In his view, “The knowledge jobs will go, the wisdom jobs will stay.”

LawGeex

Another occasion where robot lawyers got the upper hand was in a contest in February 2018, in the US. In this case, the Artificial Intelligence system was developed by LawGeex, the company that was started in 2014 by commercial lawyer Noory Bechor (cf. our previous article on AI and contracts). Noory Bechor had come to the realization that 80% of his work consisted of reviewing contracts and was highly repetitive. He believed it could be done faster, cheaper and more effectively by a computer, and that’s why he started LawGeex.

In this challenge, the AI system competed with 20 lawyers in reviewing Non-Disclosure Agreements. All 20 lawyers were experts in the field. The LawGeex report explains: “The study asked each lawyer to annotative five NDAs according to a set of Clause Definitions. Each lawyer was given four hours to find the relevant issues in all five NDAs.” In that time, they had to identify 30 legal issues, including arbitration, confidentiality of relationship, and indemnifications. They were given scores reflecting how accurately they identified each issue.

Once again, the AI system did better than the human lawyers. It achieved an accuracy rate of 94%, whereas the lawyers achieved an average of 85%. There were, however, considerable differences between how well the lawyers did. The lowest performing lawyer, e.g., only scored 67%, while the two best performing lawyers beat the AI system and achieved, depending on the source, either 94 or 95% accuracy. For one specific NDA, one lawyer only identified 55% of the relevant issues, while for another one the AI system reached a score of 100%, where the best human lawyers reached 97% for that one.

The human lawyers were no competition for the AI system when it came to speed. The AI system cleared the job in 26 seconds, while the lawyers took 92 minutes on average. The longest time one lawyer took, was 151 minutes, while the shortest time was 51 minutes.

Gillian K. Hadfield is a Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Southern California who advised on the test. She says, “This research shows technology can help solve two problems: both making contracts faster and more reliable, and freeing up resources so legal departments can focus on building the quality of their human legal teams.” In other words, the use of AI can actually help lawyers expedite their work, and free them up to focus on tasks that still require human skills.

 

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The General Data Protection Regulation, Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we warned about the looming deadline of 25 May 2018, the date by which the GDPR becomes enforceable. Part 1 of the article dealt with the scope of the GDPR. It also discussed how the GDPR introduces one single set of rules that applies in the whole of the EU, what the lawful bases of processing private data are, and about parties’ responsibility and accountability.

In part 2 of this article, we will first have a closer look at the most important ‘Digital Rights’ the GDPR introduces: The Right of Access (art. 15), the Right of Correction / Rectification (art. 16), and the Right to Erasure (art. 17), and the Right of Data Portability (art. 20).

Right of access by the data subject (Article 15): As the name says, the Right of Access is a data subject right. It gives EU inhabitants the right to get access to their personal data and to information about how these personal data are being processed. Upon request by the data subject, a Data Controller must provide an overview of the categories of data that are being processed (Article 15 (1) (b)), as well as a copy of the actual data (Article 15 (3)). The Data Controller must also inform the data subject on the details about the processing such as: what the purposes are of the processing (Article 15 (1) (a)), with whom the data is shared (Article 15 (1) (c)), and how it acquired the data (Article 15 (1) (g)).

Right to rectification (Article 16) and the Right to Erasure (Article 17): As was the case under the old Data Protection Directive, the data subjects also have the right to obtain from the Data Controller the correction of inaccurate data, and the completion of incomplete data, without undue delay (Article 16). In a famous case, the EU Court of Justice had ruled in 2014 that EU inhabitants also had a right to be forgotten. In the GDPR, this right to be forgotten was replaced by a more limited right to erasure. Article 17 provides that the data subject has the right to request erasure of personal data related to them on any one of a number of grounds including non-compliance with article 6.1 (lawfulness) that includes a case (f) where the legitimate interests of the controller is overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data.

Right of Data Portability (Article 20): The British Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) summarizes the right to data portability as follows: [it] “allows individuals to obtain and reuse their personal data for their own purposes across different services. It allows them to move, copy or transfer personal data easily from one IT environment to another in a safe and secure way, without hindrance to usability. It enables consumers to take advantage of applications and services which can use this data to find them a better deal, or help them understand their spending habits.” The right applies both to data that has been ‘provided’ by the data subject, as well as data that has been ‘observed,’ such as information about their behaviour. The Data Controller must comply with the data subject’s request, and must provide the data in a structured and commonly used Open standard electronic format.

The GDPR contains far more regulations, e.g., on data breaches (art 33-34), on the Data Protection Officer (art. 37-39), on sanctions and pseudonymisation, but those are beyond the scope of this article.

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The General Data Protection Regulation, Part 1

Are you aware of the important deadline of 25 May 2018 that is looming? “What deadline is that?”, you may ask. It is the deadline to comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). (The official name is the ‘REGULATION (EU) 2016/679 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC ‘). It came into effect on 25 May 2016 and provided a two-year transition period to comply with its requirements. It therefore becomes enforceable on 25 May 2018. And that is important because non-compliance with the GDPR can lead to severe penalties of up to 4% of worldwide turnover, or of 20 million EUR, whichever is biggest! In this two-part article, we’ll have a closer look at the GDPR.

So, what is the GDPR? As the name says, it is a EU regulation, which means it becomes directly enforceable and does not require any legislation on a national level. Its primary purpose is to protect the personal data of private citizens and residents, and to give them more control over those personal data. It also wants to simplify and unify the regulatory environment for national and international businesses, by creating one set of rules that applies throughout the EU. (To that end, each member state of the EU must create an independent Supervisor Authority to hear and investigate complaints, sanction administrative offences, etc.; and these Supervising authorities can organize joint operations). The GDPR replaces the 1995 Data Protection Directive, which was conceived before the Internet era, and was hopelessly outdated and not suited to deal with the changes the Internet has brought.

The GDPR has far-reaching effects and is already having an impact on the legal market. To comply with the new regulations, a lot of the existing software that companies are using has to be modified. This is obviously the case for CRM software but also affects, e.g., eDiscovery software, document management software, etc. The GDPR has also led to entire new ranges of services and products, which, given the scope and scale of the GDPR, makes sense. There are apps to test one’s knowledge and compliance or readiness with regard to the GDPR. There are intelligent checklists and other AI solutions that can review the data you are keeping. There already are AI solutions that can review your contracts.  There are online reviews and tests, including quite detailed online interviews, as well, to check whether you are complying with the GDPR.

The GDPR also provides new opportunities for lawyers. Some law firms already are assisting their clients by checking whether they are GDPR compliant and by making recommendations if they are not.

So, with the deadline only months away, how well prepared are we for the GDPR? Not very well, it seems. Research by the UK Government revealed that in January 2018, only four months before the GDPR becomes enforceable, less than half of businesses in the UK were aware of the upcoming data protection laws, or of what the new legislation means for how information security is handled. In other words, the majority of UK businesses is not yet in order. The situation is worst for the construction and manufacturing sectors, where only one in four businesses is aware of the GDPR. The finance and insurance sectors are said to have the highest awareness of the legislation.

And what about law firms? Research published three months ago revealed that at the time, three quarters of law firms were still unprepared for the GDPR, potentially opening them up to large penalties.

Let us now have a closer look at the GDPR itself and start with the scope. Question 1: what does it deal with? The regulation applies to ‘personal data’. The European Commission defined ‘personal data’ as ‘any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer’s IP address.’
Question 2: Who does it apply to? The regulation applies if any of the following conditions are met: if the data controller (an organization that collects data from EU residents) or the data processor (an organization that processes data on behalf of data controller e.g. cloud service providers) or the data subject (person) is based in the EU. In other words, the regulation also explicitly applies to organizations based outside the European Union if they collect or process personal data of EU residents. There are exceptions for personal data that are processed within the EU for national security and law enforcement purposes.

Data can only be processed if there is at least one lawful basis to do so. The lawful bases for processing data are:

  • the data subject has given consent to the processing of his or her personal data for one or more specific purposes. This consent must be explicit for data collected and the purposes data is used for.
  • processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract.
  • processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subject.
  • processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject or of another natural person.
  • processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller.
  • processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection of personal data, in particular where the data subject is a child.

Anybody processing personal data must keep records of the processing activities. These records must include the purpose of the processing, the categories involved, as well as the envisaged time limits, and must be made available to the Supervising Authority upon request.

The regulation also requires a ‘data protection by design and by default.’ This means that the development of the business processes for products and services must be explicitly designed to take the protection of one’s data into account, and that the default settings must be such to promote optimal protection of personal data. (There are other requirements, like pseudonymisation, etc., which are beyond the scope of this article).

To be continued: in part two of the article, we’ll have a closer look at the digital rights EU residents are granted under the GDPR.

 

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The Agile Law Firm – What and Why

You may have heard of ‘agile’ law firms, or that law firms are being urged to become more ‘agile.’ What does it mean? And why would it be important for a law firm to be ‘agile’?

What is Agility?

The concept of ‘agility’ finds its origins in IT project management. In 2001, leading experts from the IT industry published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. This Manifesto contained 12 core principles, and a methodology and terminology for software development that were built upon these principles.

The Wikipedia defines it as follows: Agile software development describes an approach to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing cross-functional teams and their customer/end users. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.

Agile Project Management uses its own terminology, which needs some getting used to, if one is not familiar with it. It uses terms, e.g., like sprint for a series of jobs, a user story for a group of tasks within a sprint, or a retrospective, which is an evaluation meeting with the purpose of diagnosing the achievements, failures, and missed opportunities of the sprint.

While these principles and methodology were originally conceived for software development, it immediately became clear that they could benefit project management in general. By now, about half of project managers are using the principles and methodology of agile project management.

Agile Law Firms

The Agile principles can easily be adapted and adopted for law firms and Legal Project Management. According to Ivan Rasic, “Agile refers to legal project management that encourages continuous improvement, collaboration, adaptation, team efforts and rapid delivery of valuable legal services.” Roya Behnia was one of the people who contributed to the Agile Manifesto for lawyers. She says an agile law firm focuses on:

  • continual collaboration with clients;
  • commitment to flexibility and rapidity;
  • direct communication rather than complex documentation;
  • continual focus on client goals;
  • realistically weighing risk; and
  • a strong bias toward simplicity.

Why is Agility important for lawyers?

Jim Hassett made the blunt observation that, like software developments, lawyers have clients who often change their mind. And you have to be prepared for that. Add to that that clients are also requiring their legal service vendors to prove they know how to manage projects, before they even decide to engage them. As ‘The Clever Project Manager’ points out, “Agility is the Way of the Present.” These days, customers expect instant gratification. And they expect that things will be on a path of constant improvement and zero issues, or they’ll look for alternatives. The only way to be successful in this world is to be responsive to your users’ needs and to be flexible enough to change your priorities when the market demands it.

In this context, agility means flexibility, “the freedom to make the right decisions at the right time, based on the right amount of information. (…) It means taking a ‘just-in-time’ approach to decision-making, based on data and reasoning.  Flexibility allows adaptation which allows success; unnecessary rigor causes stagnation and failure in the long run.”

As such, agility is merely a reflection of reality. Accepting uncertainty, re-evaluating, adapting and reprioritizing one’s efforts, based on changing conditions is essential, because that is how the world works: things change constantly. In essence, Agility asks us to take long-term changes in direction into account.

The purpose of agile legal project management is to add value for your clients by anticipating that your strategies will probably have to adapt to changing circumstances. By doing so, agile project management increases productivity, efficiency and profitability. It also improves communication in your team, and it improves delivery time, all of which result in happy clients.

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Legal Tech Trends Predictions for 2018

The beginning of a new calendar year traditionally is a time where the experts publish reviews of the year that has been, and make predictions for the year that is starting. Let us have a look at what 2017 brought to the field of legal technology, and at some predictions for 2018.

Review of 2017

Legal Tech News published a slide show on the three technologies that redefined legal technology in 2017. They are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

2017 saw an increase of AI in the legal workplace. It is being used already in contract management, eDiscovery, cybersecurity, and in legal research. And some major law firms started using AI legal assistants. Robot lawyers and legal chatbots, too, frequently made headlines. And when it comes to the legal aspects of using AI, a court ordered that there should be more transparency in to how AI systems reach their conclusions, and that the algorithms they use must be published.

Bitcoin often was in the news, too. Its underlying technology, Blockchain, however is not just important for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies but is already being used, e.g., for smart contracts that are made and executed automatically.

2017 also saw a growth of the Internet of Things, as more and more devices are being connected to the Internet. Not surprisingly, we also saw more lawyers embracing cloud technologies, with more than half of the US based lawyers making use of them.

When it comes to cybersecurity, the Internet has become a more dangerous place in 2017. There has been an increase in systems being hacked, in denial of services attacks, in malware and, notably, in occurrences of ransomware. What we’ve witnessed in 2017 was that IoT devices like webcams, printers, routers, etc. that are connected to the Internet, were being used in cyberattacks. As a rule, large law firms are targeted more often than smaller ones, and those law firms that operate in the cloud are typically the least affected by cybercrime.

In 2017, legal tech solution providers all focused on using technology to streamline law firm processes, be it eDiscovery or Law Firm Management, etc.

Finally, we also saw several courts going online.

Predictions for 2018

Virtually all authors agree that most of the trends of 2017 will continue in 2018.

One evolution we are already witnessing is in increase in the integration between the 3 technologies that dominated 2017. Cloud-based AI is being built into IoT devices, e.g. in the user interfaces, security, and data mining to make predictive suggestions. Smart and intelligent contracts are just one example of AI teaming up with Blockchain technology. We can expect to see a lot of progress on that front.

Many experts made predictions with regard to AI. They expect AI to become more practical and less visible. They also expect AI to become more ubiquitous. Better Natural Language Processing will lead to better and more intelligent user interfaces. We will also witness the integration of AI in web and mobile apps. The rise of machine learning and data mining solutions will continue. In 2018, we will also encounter far more legal and other chatbots. Overall, AI will have a pivotal role in communication and collaboration.

Experts also expect a shift in the way lawyers approach marketing. As they slowly become more familiar with cloud technologies and social media, lawyers are expected to start trying newer ways of marketing, to replace the more traditional approach. Client-centred communication becomes more important. And more lawyers will start using marketing automation software.

When it comes to software for law firms, authors predict a further automation of practice and workflow processes. The efficiencies in the delivery of legal services brought about by innovation and technology will only increase. In 2018, the implementation of “smart automation” will deliver the most immediate results to organizations.

As far as cybercrime and cybersecurity are concerned, the experts expect more of the same. We will see that the IoT will be used more often for criminal purposes, which will make the challenge to remain safe online tougher. The experts also predict that cybercriminals will start using more AI to be able to stage more sophisticated attacks. One alarming evolution is the increase in fake professional social media profiles that are being used by cybercriminals. Because of this increase in cyberthreats, more lawyers are expected to increase their cybersecurity budget in 2018. They are looking into securing their physical network, as well as their information. More lawyers will start using encryption in 2018.

Many experts also predict that more lawyers will start using more cloud-based solutions in 2018.

And we can expect more courts to go online.

 

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Lawyers in the Cloud

The American Bar Association recently published the results of its 2017 Legal Technology Survey. One of the key findings that really stand out, is that in 2017 more than half of the lawyers are using cloud computing. Where in 2015 only 30%, and in 2016 38% of lawyers were active in the cloud, that number has jumped to 52% in 2017.

The enthusiasm for cloud-based solutions is not shared equally by all lawyers. As was the case in previous years, cloud services are most embraced by solo and small law firm (2 to 9 lawyers), with 56% in both groups relying on cloud computing. For medium sized law firms, the number stands at 52% who are using web-based computing. Large law firms trail behind, with only 42%. As the graph below shows, for each group, there has been a steady growth in cloud adoption over the last few years.

Lawyers in the cloud
Percentage of Lawyers using Cloud Services in 2017

Overall, 31% of lawyers make online backups of their data. Again, the solo lawyers lead the way with 48% of solo lawyers making cloud back-ups.

The predictions for 2018 are that the popularity of cloud-based solutions will continue to grow. In a recent panel discussion, the panel members were asked to make legal technology and management predictions for 2018. Four out of nine members mentioned an accelerated adoption of legal cloud services. Overall, resistance to adoption is decreasing among lawyers as most providers of cloud-based services for lawyers have been on the market for a long time, and have plenty of experience. Because most lawyers are using Office 365, they have also become more familiar with using cloud services. One panel member observed that cloud services have become more all-encompassing and a lot less trouble and expensive than on-premise solutions.

The American Bar Association also asked why lawyers were using the cloud. The most important reasons are:

  • Easy browser access (73%). Everybody can use a browser and there’s at least one installed on every device with online access.
  • 24/7 availability (64%). You can have access at any time, from anywhere.
  • Low and predictable cost (48%). The entry fees for cloud-based legal solutions are fairly low, and they are typically billed either monthly or annually, making the cost predictable. Add to that, that you need to invest far less in hardware infrastructure.
  • Robust data backup and recovery (45%). If you use cloud-based solutions, the service provider typically takes care of data backups, and they have the in-house expertise to quickly get everything back up and running if needed. They typically also have disaster recovery plans (and the necessary infrastructure) that can be implemented instantly, or on very short notice.
  • Ability to quickly get it up and running (38%). Typically, all you need is a device with access to the Internet, and your subscription to the cloud service to get started. No need to buy, install or configure new hardware or software on premises.
  • Elimination of IT & software management requirements (30%). This is an important consideration for mainly solo lawyers and small law firms, as they don’t have to invest in managing an entire IT and software infrastructure. The cloud service provider makes sure the software works and is up to date.
  • Better security than can be provided in-house (25%). When you host your own servers, and provide Internet access to them, security is a constant concern. It’s not obvious to always have the latest patches, a perfectly configured firewall, etc. Because it’s part of their core business, external cloud service providers are experts in secure provision. More likely than not, your data will be safer in the cloud.

It is also worth noting that when using cloud-based services, you’re staying ahead of the curve, without having to worry whether the technology will cause any problems. This can be used as a business advantage. Cloud services also can give your law firm extra flexibility, which, again, can be used as a business advantage.

 

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Robots, Liability and Personhood

There were some interesting stories in the news lately about Artificial Intelligence and robots. There was the story, e.g., of Sophia, the first robot to officially become a citizen of Saudi Arabia. There also was a bar exam in the States that included the question whether we are dealing with murder or product liability, if a robot kills somebody. Several articles were published on companies that build driverless cars and how they have to contemplate ethical and legal issues when deciding what to do when an accident is unavoidable. If a mother with a child on her arm, e.g., unexpectedly steps in front of the car, what does the car do? Does it hit the mother and child? Does it avoid the mother to hit the motorcycle in the middle lane that is waiting to turn? Or does it go into the lane of oncoming traffic, with the risk of killing the people in the driverless car? All these stories raise some thought-provoking legal issues. In this article we’ll have a cursory glance at personhood and liability with regard to Artificial Intelligence systems.

Let’s start with Sophia. She is a robot designed by Hong Kong-based AI robotics company Hanson Robotics. Sophia is programmed to learn and mimic human behaviour and emotions, and functions autonomously. When she has a conversation with someone, her answers are not pre-programmed. She made world headlines when in October 2017, she attended a UN meeting on artificial intelligence and sustainable development and had a brief conversation with UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed.

Shortly after, when attending a similar event in Saudi Arabia, she was granted citizenship in the country.  This was rightfully labelled as a historical event, as it was the first time ever a robot or AI system was granted such a distinction. This instantly raises many legal questions, e.g., regarding the legal rights and obligations artificial intelligence systems can have. Or what should the criteria be for personhood for robots and artificial intelligence systems? And what about liability?

Speaking of liability: a bar exam recently included the question: “if a robot kills somebody, is it murder or product liability?” The question was inspired by an article in Slate Magazine, by Ryan Calo, which discussed Paolo Bacigalupi’s novel The Windup Girl. The novel is about an artificial girl, the Mika Model, which strives to copy human behaviour and emotions, and is designed to create its own individuality. In this particular case, the model seems to develop a mind of her own, and she ends up killing somebody who was torturing her. So Bacigalupi’s protagonist, Detective Rivera, finds himself asking a canonical legal question: when a robot kills, is it murder or product liability?

At present, the rule would still be that the manufacturer is liable. But that can change soon. AI systems can make their own decisions, and are becoming more and more autonomous What if intent can be proven? What if, as in Bacigalupi’s novel, the actions of the robot are acts of self-preservation? Can we say that the Mika Model acted in self-defence? Or, coming back to Sophia: what if she, as a Saudi Arabian citizen, causes damage? Or commits blasphemy? Who is liable, the system or its manufacturer?

At a panel discussion in the UK, a third option was suggested with regard to the liability issue. One expert compared robots and AI systems to pets, and the manufacturers to breeders. In his view, if a robot causes damage, the owner is liable, unless he can prove it was faulty, in which case the manufacturer could be held liable.

The discussion is not an academic one, as we can expect such cases to be handled by courts in the near future.  In January 2017, the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee approved a wide-ranging report that outlines a possible framework under which humans would interact with AI and robots. These items stand out in the report:

  • The report states there is a need to create a specific legal status for robots, one that designates them as “electronic persons,” which effectively gives robots certain rights, and obligations. (This effectively would create a third type of personhood, apart from natural and legal persons).
  • Fearing a robot revolution, the report also wants to create an obligation for designers of AI systems to incorporate a “kill switch” into their designs.
  • As another safety mechanism the authors of the report suggest that Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics should be programmed into AI systems, as well. (1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.)
  • Finally, the report also calls for the creation of a European agency for robotics and AI that would be capable of responding to new opportunities and challenges arising from technological advancements in robotics.

It won’t be too long before Robot Law becomes part of the regular legal curriculum.

Sources:

 

Our Most Read Articles December 2017

Overall, this is the top 5 of our most read articles:

  1.  AI and contracts: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/ai-and-contracts/
  2. Legal Chatbots: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/legal-chatbots/
  3. The Law Practice of the Future: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/the-law-practice-of-the-future-part-1/
  4. Blockchain and the Law: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/blockchain-and-the-law/
  5. Considerations when moving your Law Firm to the Cloud: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/considerations-moving-law-firm-cloud/

In the last month, these were the 10 most read articles on our blog:

  1. Legal Chatbots: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/legal-chatbots/
  2. Online Courts: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/online-courts/
  3. Introduction to content marketing for lawyers: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/introduction-content-marketing-lawyers/
  4. Legal Technology and productivity: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/legal-technology-and-productivity/
  5. AI and contracts: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/ai-and-contracts/
  6. The New legal career: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/the-new-legal-career/
  7. Blockchain and the law: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/blockchain-and-the-law/
  8. Legal AI and Bias: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/legal-ai-and-bias/
  9. The Law Practice of the future: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/the-law-practice-of-the-future-part-1/
  10. Digital Marketing for Lawyers: http://www.lamiroy.com/blog/digital-marketing-for-lawyers/