I was recently speaking at an industry conference where two of the big topics were: (1) how are legal and commercial functions transforming; and (2) what role will automation and robotics play in this transformation? Well, within a week of getting home there were two key articles published on this topic about law firms using automation and a legal robot.
If you haven’t had a chance to read these, here are the quick headlines:
1. In the UK, there are two law firms using artificial intelligence to sort through large amounts of information around regulations and client data at much greater speed and veracity than a junior lawyer, and without the cost of training; and
2. A large global law firm is using IBM’s Watson (yes, the Watson who dominated Jeopardy!) to be a researcher for legal precedent. If you’ve never researched legal precedent in a common law country (lucky you), this is a process where you often have to use search engines to review laws, regulations and case law to show what a “material breach” really is.
So what does all this mean for us mere humans?
· Target Operating Models Need a Refresh
If you haven’t done this, you should. Organizations that are still using the same staff for every task will soon discover that this model is about to look really old very quickly. Like VHS old. We already have proven processes across sectors, regions and expertise which show how the total cost of ownership can be lowered by using different resources for different tasks. Add the robots to the mix for a proper target operating model (TOM) that is suited for the 21st century.
· Drive towards Standardization
If you noticed from reading these articles, the power of automation and robots (for now) is limited to what extent the problem is based on standards and rules. Rather than being protectionist, we should embrace this approach because the fact is that more standardization in templates, rulebooks, etc., allows the robots to do their job in an orderly and efficient manner.
· Train Your Staff
Although we should all welcome this, it can be scary for many in the industry when they see the statistics about jobs replaced, eliminated or owned by the robots. But the robots need guidance, information, customization and an aligned approach. And there are still jobs that robots can’t or won’t have.
So my advice is to follow Johnny Cash and walk the line – make sure there is adoption so you don’t lose out. And don’t forget the importance of change management when introducing robots to your legal processes.