On November 22nd, 2018, a landmark European Start-Up Conference took place in Berlin organized by the International Bar Association (IBA). The conference brought together law firms, in-house lawyers, academics, and other stakeholders related to startup advisory from all across Europe.
Hedman Partners was thrilled to organize one of the panel discussions at the conference. The conversation focused on the future of artificial intelligence (AI) within the legal domain. The panel was conducted by Yrjö Ojasaar, an investment partner at the Change Ventures VC fund and a highly regarded thought leader in the Estonian business community. Other panelists included Ingo Glaser, a distinguished academic at the Munich University of Technology who researches the use of AI to develop smarter legal analysis and prediction tools, and Marie Wennergren, an investor at Fly Ventures, an investment firm located in Berlin that has invested a significant amount into various AI-based startups in Europe.
The discussion that happened over the course of the panel ventured into quite interesting places, including specifics relating to the technology in question as well as flaws or shortcomings that can reassure lawyers that their positions are still of value. For example, it was discussed that the state-of-the-art tools which help to predict court outcomes are based on quantitative methods. This means that they don’t have the ability to semantically analyse laws or court cases, but rather they make predictions based on correlations between certain metadata of cases. Predictive tools such as these still require quite some work before they can semantically analyse the text and make decisions or predictions based on actual law. Put simply, it will be some time before these programs can perform the same tasks as an actual lawyer. Despite this setback, these tools are still of valuable assistance to lawyers because they provide strategically valuable data during legal processes.
The panelists agreed that over the next decade, most legal professionals can still sleep calmly without fearing that a robot will supplant them entirely. For the time being, the role of artificial intelligence will largely be limited to enhancing the supplementary and repetitive elements of a lawyer’s work. For example, there are interesting developments regarding more effective methods of tracking billing information as well as automatically identifying and categorising legally relevant data. If these tasks are taken care of by various programs, the lawyer earns more time to focus on interpersonal communication and building mutual understanding with a client.
While lawyers are notoriously conservative when it comes to technological development, the attention devoted to the panel and the excitement over the discussion that unfolded spoke volumes about the willingness of law firms to adapt to the technology-intensive future of legal services. This was further illustrated by the fact that the next annual IBA conference held in Seoul in 2019 will have a strong focus on the development of new legal technology.
We are very thankful for our three wonderful panel participants as well as to IBA for organising this event and providing us with the forum to raise interesting and important considerations regarding the future of legal services.