The ‘hook-up’ of LISA and Billy Bot, legal robots, was announced last week. Many in the corporate realm will view their linkage as a publicity stunt and more artificial intelligence hype, but the implications of this technological collaboration are profound. Not only is it the first pairing of two artificial intelligence (AI) solutions in the legal delivery eco-system, but it also signifies the next stage of harnessing technology to deliver legal services to millions presently unrepresented due to out-of-reach legal cost.
LISA and Billy will initially focus on the ‘retail’ market segment. Their collaboration will take a bite out of the access to justice crisis; refine the scope, enhance the efficiency, and reduce the overall cost of (human) lawyers as well as other professionals and paraprofessionals in legal delivery; and accelerate the process of collaboration between humans and machines. These outcomes are critically important not only to those in dire need of legal services but also to society at large. At a time when the rule of law is under siege across the globe, access to legal redress—machine/human/or hybrid—is critical. Lisa and Billy were designed to provide the public with access to legal services. Chrissie Lightfoot, LISA’s co-founder put it this way: “From day one we have been focused on making access to legal services cost effective, time saving and transparent for consumers and businesses to acquire their legal needs by using technology wherever possible in the first instance before moving on to garner human lawyer support, if at all necessary or desired. That’s why we developed Robot Lawyer LISA.”
LISA and Billy—and other AI tools—can positively influence the corporate market segment, too. Corporations could offer them as a benefit to employees and/or to customers/clients to deploy for their personal use. The LISA/Billy tandem could also be added to corporate counsel’s tool kit, enabling them to do ‘more with less’ and to provide ‘faster, better, cheaper’ solutions to certain functions in the legal delivery process. AI is already among the resources available to GC’s as they grapple with the challenge of how best to tackle expanding responsibilities and portfolios with shrinking budgets in an increasingly complex business climate.
LISA Robot and BillyBot: A Short Profile
Billy and LISA are digital assistants. Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s (PwC) recent global report provides a broad definition of AI and context for introducing Billy and LISA: “In our broad definition, AI is a collective term for computer systems that sense their environment, think, learn, and take action in response to what they’re sensing and their objectives.” This includes digital assistants, chatbots, and machine learning.
Billy Bot (‘Billy’) is a chatbot with rules-based automated and assisted intelligence. Billy is a virtual assistant who ‘chats’ with individuals and then, depending upon the needs, directs them to solicitors, barristers or tools like LISA that provide self-help assistance for non-reserved activities. The term ‘non-reserved’ is used in the UK to describe ‘legal’ tasks that no longer require licensed attorneys. The U.S. lacks such meaningful regulatory clarity and has a patchwork of vague State Bar rules that govern the ‘unauthorized practice of law.’
Billy is currently in training and working with other legal software suppliers to offer a broad range of services. LISA is his first ‘relationship,’ but it won’t be exclusive for long. This is significant because it reflects: (1) the potential for collaboration among AI solutions (and technology generally) to benefit clients; (2) a mentality of constant improvement that is new to the legal industry; (3) the potential to provide meaningful legal access to millions across the globe in dire need; (4) the digitization of the legal industry; (5) an ongoing reassessment of which tasks require a licensed lawyer; and (6) greater leverage and efficiency of legal expertise.
LISA is an AI tool whose name is an acronym for ‘Legal Intelligence Support Assistant.’ She is also named after Steve Jobs’s daughter. LISA is a hybrid human and machine system, knowledge engineered with legal reasoning, insight and commercial judgment built in. LISA’s AI tools are powered by Neota Logic’s AI platform technology, developed with decades of human legal knowledge and experience.
Billy and LISA are different but complementary technologies that demonstrate the power of technological collaboration—with other machines as well as with human resources. They are the machine equivalent of the legal supply chain– often referred to as ‘disaggregated legal services.’ The first phase of disaggregation involved labor arbitrage; the second was a combination of labor arbitrage and early tech tools; and in the incipient third phase, there is collaboration between and among humans and machines in the delivery of legal services. The change in legal delivery over the past two decades has been remarkable and mirrors other professions—notably medicine and accounting—that experienced it earlier.
LISA is unique in the legal world because she functions as a collaborative tool designed to enable two lay parties to work together to create legally binding documents while providing legal and commercial insight during the process. This promotes a quick, cost-effective middle ground and saves both sides the time and expense of engaging individual human counsel for routine matters. LISA is distinctive for her ability to function neutrally and bilaterally—in contrast to chatbots that function unilaterally. LISA allows lay counterparties to create binding legal agreements iteratively, providing each side legal guidance and advice that is transparent to the other. When additional assistance is required, LISA and Billy make it easy for consumers to connect to solicitors and/or barristers. This is another reason why the LISA/Billy hook-up is noteworthy.
Technology Is An Integral Element of Legal Delivery Whose Impact Will Expand
Many lawyers—especially those that did not grow up with computers—have a curious ambivalence about technology. Most readily adopt it for personal use but resist it professionally. Change is something that makes most people uncomfortable, and the legal profession, until the last decade, had experienced little change for generations. Technology has affected legal delivery in several material ways including: how lawyers work; by whom they are employed; provider market share; new delivery models; agile workplaces; the creation of a legal supply chain; an emerging distinction between legal ‘practice’ and ‘the delivery of legal services’ (the business of law and legal operations); and an evolving division of labor among lawyers, other professionals, paraprofessionals, and machines.
Lawyers have yet to feel the full economic impact of technology, and that is no doubt what many fear, especially with AI’s rapid adoption in the legal space. There’s a sense—especially among lawyers in mid-and late stage of their career—that technology poses an existential threat to the profession that will compromise their earnings, forever change what it means to be a lawyer, and make them redundant. And while these concerns are legitimate, they fail to consider the consumer perspective; the societal interest in more accessible, efficient, transparent, and cost-effective legal services; and the reality that there is nothing inherently unique about the legal profession.
The legal industry has some wicked problems to solve. First and foremost is the access to justice crisis. Tools like LISA and Billy and their collaboration with other technologies and lawyers—as well as other professionals and paraprofessionals—provide means for a solution and will bring tens of millions of new consumers into the legal marketplace. Next, the profession must solve its low customer satisfaction rating due to inefficiency, lack of on-time affordable access, and the persistent use of labor intensive-brute force instead of an efficient combination of technology and legal expertise to reduce needless repetition and replace it with automation. Many legal ‘services’ can be transformed into ‘products’ and multiple ‘legal’ functions can be competently and cost-effectively performed by humans and machines—some requiring lawyer participation and others not. Legal practice will not be lost, but it will be narrowed. Likewise, the business of delivering legal services will continue to expand. It will more closely resemble business and will be more consumer-centric.
The LISA and Billy hook-up will not be a one-night stand. It is emblematic of a burgeoning collaboration process that has three central components: (1) machines working with machines; and (2) machines working with legal service providers—lawyers, other professionals, and paraprofessionals; and (3) machines working directly with–and for– the consumer (individuals or businesses) to provide self-help, self-serve and collaboration in fulfillment of certain legal needs. When and how these collaborative pairings occur is increasingly decided by consumers, not lawyers.
The legal Academy would be wise to train law students for this new environment. Providers, likewise, would benefit from re-training those presently in the workforce to learn new skills and to collaborate with humans and machines. Businesses—large, mid-sized, and small– would do well to consider the growing list of collaborative tools and resources available in legal delivery. LISA and Billy are here to stay.