Some weeks ago I read an article by Peter Diamandis about quantum computing. Peter is a co-founder of Human Longevity and a lecturer at the Singularity University and his article reminded me of several things Dr. Mateo Valero, of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center and the Spanish National Computing Centre, told us at an Inkietos meeting. After reading Peter and listening to Mateo, there is no room for doubt that, within a reasonably short time, we will have computers with almost unimaginable data processing capacity.
Peter’s article details some of the practical applications of the superprocessing capacity provided by quantum computing. One of them concerns exponentially strengthening machine learning, one of the artificial intelligence applications already used by various pieces of technological software in the legal sector, such as KIM (integrated into its case and process management system) or Kira Systems (usable independently or as a complement to other legal firm technology systems), including Ravn, Watson, Neota Logic, etc.
Why use artificial intelligence in legal firms?
The sterile debate over the replacement of lawyers by robots or advanced technology systems doing their jobs masks the true value provided be these solutions. The fact is that, however much we might repeat that our work consists of studying and recommending solutions to clients, in reality this study process is not normally carried out ad hoc for all of them. In many cases, services are created from the study and initial consultation on a matter. This is known as business development and its main objective is to maximise the performance of this initial consultation.
Getting the very most from a consultation means repeatedly selling this legal service, taking the minimum time necessary to provide it and ensuring that with experience – as the learning curve is reduced – the time for performing the service also falls until the point of maximum efficiency is reached. This means the profit margin is increased with each new sale until it becomes fixed at a particular level, where maximum efficiency is reached. These are what marketing jargon calls “cash cow products”. There comes a time when this product is copied by the competition and its price falls due to the increase in supply, which means it is no longer so profitable. Then it is time to look for another one. If the firm has its R+D machinery well greased, it will have several products of this kind and will constantly be seeking new ones to replace those that either lose a great deal of profitability or have a predetermined lifespan.
This is how most firms make money. Others – the very specialised or boutique firms – are characterised by dealing with very complex matters requiring painstaking strategic analysis with little chance of being replicated. There are few of these – very few.
The big firms, either those that can devote a large number of lawyers and professionals to a particular case or those with great capacity for attracting talent, can carry out both types of operation. The second type will bring them prestige and visibility in the market and the first type will finance most of the cost of their structure.
For this kind of recurring operation, it is important to expand the profit margin, and there are various techniques to do this. The most traditional one is the continuous improvement of processes, and now there is also the use of advanced technological systems, such as artificial intelligence, which reduce service provision time without compromising quality. This is the main reason why various law firms and consultants (Deloitte, KMPG, Dentons, Slaughter & May, Clifford Chance, DLA and Freshfields, among many others) are using this kind of technology.
Firms that are determined to uphold an ancestral but outdated model for providing legal services are probably losing ground to more open-minded competitors that devote part of their time to improving the internal management of their businesses and studying the way modern technology, in its many forms, can help them expand their profits. Its name may not help very much, but technology based on artificial intelligence algorithms is simply an advance helping lawyers, in this case, to achieve this.
At the moment, this technology is artificial intelligence, but in a few years we will be talking about quantum computing.