The future is not machines, but machine enabled humans.

Dec 5, 2017 7:26:41 PM

Last week, I attended the Alternative AI for Professional Services conference in London. It was an interesting event, hosting in-house lawyers, software vendors, and professional services firms from all industries to discuss current applications of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. Conferences like these help us to understand where we are on the innovation curve, where others are, and where we need to be. It is also fascinating to hear software vendors peddling AI as if it is the cure to all legal ailments. My belief is that it is not. AI is a useful piece of the puzzle, but it is by no means the complete solution. We are all aware of the continuous man versus machine debate but is either approach, taken alone, optimal?

Recently, we released the In-House Legal Maturity Scale which is a methodology for measuring the advancement of legal departments from a state of constant firefighting to one of consistent winning. One of the critical takeaways from creating this maturity scale is that the implementation alone of complex software will not create the optimal legal department. Rather, strategic use of the right technology with expert users following expert processes is the key to success. I wonder how many General Counsels can truly say that they are winning today?

Per Lex Connect, our online legal technology directory, there are almost one thousand technology solutions available specifically built for the legal space. It is incredibly difficult for in-house teams to 1. find the right solution, at the right price; and 2. optimize once the solution is in place. From our experience, there are very few departments fully satisfied with software solutions that they have implemented. There are many reasons for this, but a consistent reason seems to be that few legal departments have adequate resources in place to optimize said software. Automation alone cannot accomplish most goals, particularly if a system is left to optimize already insufficient processes.

Recently, we saw the case of CaseCrunch, the legal decision prediction system, and their Man vs. Machine challenge. The competition involved over 100 commercial London lawyers who made over 750 predictions over the course of a week in an unsupervised environment. They were presented with factual scenarios of payment protection insurance (PPI) claims and were asked what the outcome of the claim would be. The same scenarios were fed through CaseCrunch’s bot. CaseCrunch scored an accuracy of 86.6% whilst the lawyers scored an accuracy of 62.3%. Game over, right? Not so fast. There are limitations to this competition (aka marketing exercise) when examined closely. This was not necessarily the area of expertise for the lawyers taking part in the study, and thus, the lawyers did not have all the data that the system had. This is a case of victory for the machine, however, had the lawyers had access to the same database of information as the machine, who wins then?

If we cast our minds back to Deep Blue vs. Garry Kasparov – and one of the first major victories of machine over man, we see an example of this. Following the chess defeat, Kasparov suggested that had he had the same data readily available to him, the outcome would have been different. Thus, Advanced Chess was created. Advanced Chess allows humans to compete with machines as they play with computer chess programs. This combination of human and AI in chess is called a “Centaur”. We were reminded of this specific story during this week’s conference, and the outcome of such competition: victory for the Centaur.

How does this relate to legal technologies? Well, like Kasparov, we at Yerra believe the “human plus machine combination” (merging the brute force of calculation, machines, and algorithms with human experience and strategic overview) is far more powerful than the use of either one alone. It is this belief that forms the core of Yerra Solutions. Our managed service offerings are focused on helping clients reaching the “winning” stage of the aforementioned In-House Legal Operational Maturity Scale with strategic use of technology and expert-services/outsourcing that keeps the legal team focused on strategy. (For more information on our most recent offering, click here).

In summary, we should all be excited by the prospect of technologies like AI, blockchain, and others. However, for legal departments to truly achieve their strategic goals and to maximize value and output from their chosen technologies, a perfect combination of subject matter expertise, with a keen understanding of the nuances of law, and smart technologies, processing data at speeds unfathomable to man, creates the legal “Centaur”. This is the basis from which our technology-driven managed services stem. The future is not machines, but machine enabled humans. Case Crunch – let the games begin!

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