Peter Wallqvist, CEO and co-founder of RAVN Systems, started his career in the information retrieval industry as a research engineer at BT Research. He went on o being part of delivering some of the largest and most high-profile search and unstructured data processing systems in the world, both at organisations like Autonomy (now HP) and as an independent consultant. He co-founded RAVN Systems in 2010 with equally experienced scientists and engineers to build and deliver the next generations of advanced search-based cognitive computing systems. In the past few years he has overseen a tectonic shift in perceptions regarding cognitive computing systems and the level of trust clients and other stakeholders are starting to put into the technology. This shift is likely to have dramatic consequences within the legal space and seldom has the word “disruptive” been more apt to use when speculating the implications for the industry.
What projects or ideas have you been focusing on recently?
Our artificial intelligence (AI) technology has already proven to be a success for a number of law firms and in-house legal departments across Europe. The technology, known as RAVN ACE, automatically organizes, discovers and summarizes information from thousands of documents, just like a human would do but much faster, and eradicating human error. We are now focusing our attention on building our presence in the US and implementing these AI solutions in US-based law firms.
With the number of changing regulations that will affect businesses across the globe, we have also been focusing on how our AI technology can assist with some of the implications this may have for global corporations. For example, the new GDPR regulation will come into force on May 25, 2018, and will catch all organisations that control and process the data of EU subjects, even if that organisation is outside of the EU. The regulation introduces onerous obligations on data controllers and processors, and significantly higher penalties for data breaches. We are developing a specific AI solution that can automatically identify personal data, and assist with data audits as well as exporting sensitive data and generating reports. We are also developing a similar solution to overcome some of the potential implications Brexit may cause.
Another project we are working on is a self-service version of our AI technology, RAVN Extract Direct. This will be launched in October and will allow clients to be firmly in control of automatically summarizing, analyzing and extracting key information from documents. The self-service portal will be easy to configure by the client to handle a range of document sets and clients can chose the information they need to locate and extract depending on the project.
What could lawyers look at in a new way that would benefit their clients and society?
For forward-thinking law firms, AI can provide the opportunity to rethink the legal services that they offer that were previously impossible. By taking a routine, cognitive process that might have taken a team of junior lawyers a long time and transform it into an automated process. Taking something that would be incredibly difficult for a human to do that a robot finds very easy could be offered as a valuable new legal service.
For example, a law firm that has a client with tens of thousands of employment contracts across the world could offer an ‘employment contract analysis’ in relation to risk and compliance issues. RAVN can configure a robot that will tell the client what their exposure is in a matter of seconds, minutes or hours, depending on the volume on contracts, rather than the months it would take a traditional manual review.
What one thing about the practice of law would you change if you could?
Lawyers need to be more open-minded about technological advances to aid them, particularly artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is not here to replace the lawyer, but to lend a helping hand in the more repetitive, uninteresting tasks they currently perform. The technology has already been proven to increase efficiencies, reduce costs as well as eradicating human error in the review process.
Pressure is growing from clients who are demanding more efficient and productive services form law firms, and AI technology is a great way to address these demands.
What is the most exciting development you have seen recently in the practice of law?
The most exciting development recently is the emergence of AI in the practice of law. As law firms have vast and growing volumes of data held within their corporate walls, it is now possible for lawyers to be able to mine the content using AI to extract and interpret relevant information. This gives the firm a huge competitive advantage by dramatically increasing efficiencies.
Not only do these AI solutions exist as standalone solutions, but we have began to see the interoperability of these technologies so firms no longer have to select one option to partially meet their requirements. For example, machine learning, natural language processing and speech recognition can enhance one another.
What technologies, business models, and trends do you think will have the biggest impact on the practice of law over the next two years?
We have reached the point where artificial intelligence has become more than just a buzzword in the legal sector. We are seeing new use cases appear for this technology every week. Firms are seeing great results, and firms that fail to adopt this technology run the risk of losing clients as they can’t compete with their competitors in terms of price and speed.
In the next two years, I predict the majority of law firms will have implemented AI in some form.
What’s the best new law practice idea you have heard recently?
As mentioned earlier, law firms using artificial intelligence to offer new services that were previously impossible to their clients.
We are also very grateful for the regulatory changes that have occurred in the UK (ABS, etc.) that has put the spotlight firmly on efficiency in delivering legal services. Alternative fee arrangements have made it possible to charge for a service or software component, such as ours, rather than focussing on the billable hour exclusively. This focus on efficiency has come from a different direction in other territories. In the US, for instance, the clients of the law firms are waking up to the fact that they can demand a more efficient and cost-effective service than simply paying a lot of money for routine reviews that can be done a lot better with software.
About the Author
Nicholas Gaffney is a veteran public relations practitioner in San Francisco and is a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board.