Legal Design Engineer on the AI event scene

Annabel Wilson, Legal Design Engineer at Wavelength Law has been attending events and sharing the insights drawn as key points broadcast from each event.

AI Creep – the rise of AI in Legal Services by Annabel Wilson

On 4 June 2019 I attended the Artificial Intelligence in Legal Services Summit in London hosted by the Law Society of England and Wales and City and Financial Global. A combination of keynotes, lively panel discussions and TED-style talks, the event sparked debate on the use of legal technology and AI across the legal spectrum. I share some thoughts below:

AI + Criminal Justice

The Artificial Intelligence in Legal Services Summit was the official launch of the report from the Technology and Law Policy Commission into the use of AI in the criminal justice system. The Commission’s Report was the culmination of a years' effort looking into how to best deploy algorithms into the space. The final product shines a spotlight on the key issues and considerations that should be taken into account in any redesign.

What is striking is the extent to which algorithms are already in use within the criminal justice system in the UK (e.g. facial recognition systems, DNA profiling and predictive crime mapping).

The Report recognises that a proliferation of AI tools carries risk and calls for improvements to the oversight of the many algorithms in play, e.g. by developing a national register of algorithms for transparency and monitoring purposes.


AI + the Judiciary

Despite its inherently conservative nature, the UK judiciary is clearly determined to front-foot change and harness technology wherever possible. Take, for example, the current reforms around online courts in the UK – the first generation of which is already seeing an area of cases conducted online, leading to costs-savings and efficiencies. Taking this further, the future may see us in a world where low value disputes with similar fact patterns are actually decided by algorithms, or where a robot mediator takes parties through a series of steps toward resolution. AI could even assist with writing the more menial parts of a judgment – factual background, procedural steps and parties’ arguments – leaving the Judge to draw from their experience to apply reasoning and reach a conclusion.

The number one concern around AI teaming up with the judiciary is around bias – whether due to the initial inputs or a lack of precedent data. It’s feared that any bias could become reinforced in the flow of decisions and cause a perpetuation of poor judicial decisions.

AI + Education

In the field of education, the importance of upskilling future generations on AI is becoming increasingly acknowledged. Schools are teaching coding alongside English and Universities are being called to equip law graduates with at least a basic understanding of both statistics and computer science. Whilst several institutions around the country are already offering legal technology courses, educators are encouraged to shift away from words such as ‘novel’ and ‘innovative’ toward language such as ‘compulsory’ and ‘inevitable’.

In a society where free resources, open source data and DIY tools abound, education fulfils an important function alongside regulation to ensure quality control.


AI + Civil Society

It is clear that a balance needs to be struck between regulation and innovation in civil society. Not only should government be properly advised on the societal impacts of AI, it needs to be considering the variety of people involved and affected when making AI policy – whether they be programmers, lawyers, regulators, or people subject to AI decision-making.

Many big picture questions can be asked when considering the impact of AI on society – what do we even mean by bias? How do we determine what is objective and neutral? Who is responsible for the harm or good created by AI? Who owns the data? How do we ensure that we don’t become overly focused on the technology and lose sight of the people AI tools are intended to help? Perhaps legal philosophers should be working together with legal technologists on the issue; a public debate held on the moral limits of using AI.

AI + the Legal Profession

Whilst robot lawyers are not yet a reality, there is no doubt that AI is set to become more intertwined in the legal professional’s life. We are seeing increased reliance on machine learning, natural language processing and document automation tools in the legal world in order to remain competitive.

Business models and recruitment goals are also starting to evolve, shifting away from billable hours and candidates from top-scoring institutions toward flexible fee structures and the more technologically savvy.

The benefits of a multi-disciplinary team is also being recognised with roles such as computer scientists, technologists and designers coexisting alongside traditional fee earners within the legal ecosystem. Diversity of expertise can greatly benefit innovation and efficiency - something we at Wavelength can certainly attest to!


AI for Good - Key takeaways from the Access to Justice space by Annabel Wilson

On 17 June 2019, DLA Piper and PILNet hosted the Access to Justice and Technology Summit in London. The event attracted a star-studded line-up in the A2J space to share knowledge and host interactive sessions on topics of accessibility, open source and the potential for technology to improve access to justice. I share some of the key event takeaways with wider application below:

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constantly look to increase your network

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create strategically and consciously

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coordinate to avoid duplication

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look to build from the work of others and concentrate on the final value-add

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focus on how to scale

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keep sight of the overall outcomes, not just the individual project

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collect and organise data to understand users and measure performance

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evidence is a more powerful tool in the legal space than arguments

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don't design for the average user, design for the two extremes of users and you will capture everyone in the middle

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use technology to transform, not just streamline


About the author

Annabel Wilson is part of Wavelength’s market leading legal design team who expertly apply creative and design thinking to the law. This includes using design thinking approaches to focus on the user experience in the legal processes and solutions Wavelength develop.

Annabel Wilson