The LexTech Conference 2017 will be held in Cyberjaya on 4 & 5 November 2017. Visit the event website for more information. TheMalaysianLawyer.com is a media partner of #LexTech17, and our readers can use the promo code LEXTECHTML when purchasing the tickets to enjoy a 10% discount. You can read our other posts on the conference via the LexTech17 tag.
There are some exciting panels and speakers lined up for #LexTech17, and we managed to speak with two of these speakers, both from LexisNexis, to get a preview of some of their thoughts on legal innovations and technology.
Gaythri Raman is the Managing Director of LexisNexis Southeast Asia, and at the conference she will be sharing about “Legal Innovations We Should Look To Accelerate”.
Min Chen is the Vice President & Chief Technology Officer Asia Pacific of LexisNexis, and the title of her conference topic is “AI in Legal Research”.
What is your involvement in legal innovation and technology as part of your role with LexisNexis?
Gaythri: LexisNexis is a technology company and we serve lawyers — that is our core. In my role, I balance two priorities — #1, leveraging existing and new LexisNexis technology around the world to benefit my customers in ASEAN; and #2, innovating new technologies from my region and building our own solutions from these. For that to happen, I need to be intimately aware of how the practice of law is evolving in tandem with the developments in technology in this region, and use that knowledge to feed into my own product development roadmap for my customers here in ASEAN.
Min: My role is to lead technology teams to deliver innovative solutions in the Asia Pacific legal market so as to simplify our customers’ lives. My team has been building and delivering local online legal research products, practical guidance and workflow solutions, practice management applications, mobile solutions etc. to suit different types of legal practitioners’ needs. Simply put, one of our missions is to surface the most relevant data that matters to customers in a most efficient way by leveraging advanced technologies, such as big data solutions, data analytics and visualizations, machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and other artificial intelligence technologies. I have also been involved in seeking strategic partnerships with legal firms to build greater solutions together that address legal market demands.
Gaythri, could you give us an insight into what LexisNexis’ accelerator programme is about?
Gaythri: It is called Legal Tech Accelerator. An accelerator essentially “accelerates” or speeds up the growth of an existing company. As the legaltech industry expands, we felt the need to support this growth as industry leaders, and so it began. Ours is a formal 12-week program that helps early-stage start-ups develop and maintain a sustainable trajectory for growth, and targeted specifically at companies in the legal market. The first phase was hosted in our Lexis Machina Menlo Park office in California, and we lined up experts in agile development, commercialization, marketing, and throughout this program fuel our participants with knowledge to sustain and grow their businesses. We also get to engage with and be inspired by them.
Those who attend my session at LexTech will get to learn about some of the innovative solutions some of these companies have created. It is pretty exciting.
Min Chen, we understand that you are leading an innovation lab in Shanghai — could you briefly share what that lab intends to achieve?
Min: Yes, we have been running “Edison’s Lab Innovation Program” in Shanghai for more than four years now. The lab is comprised of three virtual teams, focusing on areas of “Next-generation of Search”, “Big & Smart Data”, and “User Experience”. Engineers and product managers gather together on a regular basis to discuss new ideas and solutions that address specific customer’s problems and build out proof of concepts for those ideas. Since this is not mandatory and it’s a side job, you can imagine that those who join these groups are truly passionate in building great customer experience via leading-edge technology.
Our “Next-generation of Search” team is focused on how we return the most satisfactory results in the first page, so the major activities for this group is search relevance tuning and semantic search.
The “Big & Smart Data” group is focused on surfacing the data that matters to customers, so big data processing in high performance clustering and semantic data relationship via machine learning are constantly investigated by this team.
Our “User experience” team works on how we help to drive simplicity for customers so usability improvement, easy access to the data, and work flow solutions are all their major focus.
We have lots of creative ideas coming out of the lab, and the majority of them have been proved workable and eventually launched in production, which is our utimate goal.
Gaythri, regarding “legal innovations we should look to accelerate” — what are a couple of the more obvious innovations which you think should be an immediate priority for Southeast Asian jurisdictions? It would be great if you could also pinpoint some innovations which you think should be the focus of the Malaysian legal industry.
Gaythri: The first one that comes to mind is “Voice” and this applies not just to Malaysia but throughout the Asian region. It is split into two components: #1, the dictation component where the machine needs to understand what you say and convert that into text. Just imagine multiple languages and accents and various terminology across the region; and #2, the machine needs to then understand what the text actually means — does it need to find something? Predict something? Then, it can execute so that you are happy with the result.
Many of us talk more than we type (think secretaries, paralegals, junior lawyers getting instructions from senior partners), and with all of us becoming more mobile, we do things on the go. Being able to speak a fairly sophisticated command into your device and have it actually execute it will be a gamechanger.
The next one is “Virtual” platforms — think virtual testimonies, virtual court proceedings or alternative dispute resolution platforms. Video will increasingly replace text and I can picture a host of ways we could be more effective in the administration of justice with the clarity we can bring with this.
Min Chen, from your experience, what has the response of the legal industry been to AI technologies? I understand that there is increasingly widespread adoption of AI in China, but how does this compare to other countries in Asia?
Min: I’ve seen two opposite responses so far. Senior law practitioners remain doubtful on how AI can truly help them, while junior legal professionals (such as paralegals and legal assitants) are beginning to show concern that AI might replace them. These two perspectives are actually not paradoxical. On the one hand, we’ve already seen some AI applications developed (either by LexisNexis or others) to massively save those time-consuming labour efforts, such as contract automation, semantic search etc. On the other hand, are those applications intelligent enough to completely equal human insights and predictions, particularly tuning into legal domain mindsets? I don’t think we are quite there yet. That’s where these two different views are coming from. In general, large law firms seem to embrace AI technology quicker and easier, as they see it as a tool to improve their efficiency as opposed to being an impediment.
Yes, China is adapting AI technologies aggressively. The main representatives are two tech giants, Alibaba and Tencent. For instance, their handy payment service one of the most advanced in the world. They spread AI throughout their core business operations, instead of just partially applying flashy AI-enabled products and services. They have been making tangible progress mainly because they can discover and catch up with customers’ hidden problems precisely, then they turn around to address customers’ painpoints quickly via advanced technologies, which similar to the model we (LexisNexis) are pursuing.
There has been some resistance from legal industry regulators to several innovative legaltech type initiatives in several countries worldwide. Do you see the regulators in Asian countries as being generally receptive to these innovations?
Gaythri: This comes back to Min’s point: We generally resist the unknown and there is a bit of that, combined with skepticism when we talk about innovative legal technology in some markets. While some regulators embrace it, others are cautiously aware of it. I believe that once we can demonstrate how technology can help the legal profession be more effective in their roles, we will see more and more regulators accept it. The world is evolving, and those who don’t evolve with it will be left behind.
Min: I don’t see the regulators in my country (China) resisting legaltech initiatives. If there is any resistance from other Asian countries, we will need to do a better job to show the regulators all the benefits that legaltech initiatives could bring to them, to all of us. By providing easier access to data, surfacing the most relevant data when the amount information could be overwhelming, providing data analytics to help on making highly informed decisions, it could massively reduce those repetitive and tedious manual efforts so that legal practitioners will be able to spend more time on practising the law. Such innovations can empower and enable the legal industry to operate in a more efficient way
Can you share some examples of law firms or lawyers in Asia who are currently leading the way when it comes to adopting and implementing legaltech?
Gaythri: Global law firms such as Baker McKenzie, Pinsent Masons, and Linklaters are increasingly using legaltech to run their firms more efficiently by managing data within their firms. We organised a dialogue with our customers last month when Min visited Singapore and Malaysia, and the response in Singapore was overwhelming. There was a huge amount of engagement and we fielded a lot of questions about contract automation and document management using Artificial Intelligence. We are going to see a lot of development in this space soon.
Min: Some law firms which have embraced legaltech at earlier stage have already moved ahead. For instance, Wusong, funded by the top commercial litigator in China partners with Alibaba in AI technologies to extract legal points from the description of certain questions. LegalMiner partners with King & Woods to provide legal analytics solutions. Both of these products are focus on big data processing and analtytics, as well as intelligent search. We have other simliar cases where some medium/big-sized law firms have started paying attention to building up their in-house IT team for their knowledge-based management systems, or they partner with tech companies to provide legaltech solutions. Though we haven’t heard breakthrough news of any products/solutions monopolising the market yet, these firms will be leaders in changing the future.
Finally, share a one-liner summary of what you’re most looking forward to at #LexTech17
Gaythri: I am on the hunt for new innovations and exciting new talent in this space. The more like-minded people and organisations I find, the better we can plan to grow and advance in this space.
Min: I look forward to connecting with all legal practitioners to exchange ideas and inspire each other to build aspirational legal solutions for the Malaysian market together.