Artificial intelligence could herald a significant change in legal practice, but only if firms embrace its potential, says Qamar Anwar of First4Lawyers
So, the longest month of the year, January, has finally come to an end, and alongside it, I expect, many people’s New Year resolutions. For many, the start of a new year is often an opportunity to stop and take stock, and at First4Lawyers, we are no different.
We are very proud of the fact that the business celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, and it is tempting to spend much time reflecting on the last 10 years, how the industry has changed or how, in some cases, it hasn’t.
However, with only a few weeks of 2018 under our belts and insurers already irking the industry, such as with the recent news that policies cost drivers on average an extra £70, or 9%, in 2017 than they did in 2016, I prefer to look ahead and see where the industry is heading.
It seems to me that technological advances are going to be a significant disruptor to the industry over the next few years, specifically artificial intelligence (AI).
AI is already entering daily life through technology such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and its potential in business is just as great.
Although the thought of being replaced by robots makes people, understandably, nervous, I think that when it comes to legal services rather than replace staff, AI will more likely help by streamlining processes and workflows, allowing solicitors to focus on lawyering and improving client service. Solicitors’ time will be freed up to deal with more complex issues in a case, such as interpretation of the law or providing clients with tailored advice on more complex cases.
As AI learns ‘on the job’, it will have the potential to discover how some types of cases are handled, and be able to make decisions on cases based on historical case handling information in the future.
AI also has the potential to help improve customer service, particularly with onboarding new clients. Many firms already use chatbots in voice calls to help navigate customers to the right department and some use them in chat services, available on their websites. The next advances will likely see chatbots updating clients on transactions and advising them step-by-step.
However, all of this will rely on law firms being open and adopting the technology. Is this likely? Well, as a sector, it’s unlikely to happen overnight. However, our research last year into law firm marketing showed that the personal injury sector was showing itself to be an early adopter of new technologies, embracing the benefits that it can bring to modernising and streamlining the customer experience.
For those firms, the fact that AI can readily help in some aspects of running the business will be appealing. For most, using the technology to analyse initial conversations about potential cases will be extremely helpful. However, there will be real benefits to reap for those firms that embrace the technology and use it to assess the likely success of cases and then help them run cases in future.
Qamar Anwar is managing director at First4Lawyers