Robot Arms
13 September 2017

MinterEllisonRuddWatts invests $2m to automate law with AI

Published on 13 September 2017

The work of lawyers, while essential, is not always glamorous. Much legal work requires meticulous attention to detail – research and drafting done late into a long night, cross-referenced with case law and legislation, and double or triple checked for oversights. New Zealand law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts is looking to artificial intelligence (AI) to minimise the repetitive work undertaken by lawyers in a $2m joint venture (JV) with angel investor Goat Ventures. Insights spoke to Chief Executive Officer Mike Schubert about what attracted the firm to AI, how they see it helping their lawyers and what opportunities it offers for the legal profession.

“We believe AI could have a profound impact on the legal services industry, and we wanted a first-hand understanding of the possibilities and access to these opportunities,” said Schubert. “The JV with Goat Ventures provides this.

“No business is immune from disruption as technological advances are made. We’re looking into how we best harness AI to get ahead of this disruption, while also helping our clients efficiently meet their legal needs.”

Schubert believes AI may assist with automating manual, repetitive and time consuming legal analysis – currently tasks which increase the costs associated with legal advice.

“If we can unlock access to legal advice through more automation, law firms will be more efficient, offer faster responses to clients, and potentially offer more accurate advice,” said Schubert.

Indeed, AI has become a priority investment for the firm.

“We pride ourselves on thinking differently to traditional law firms,” said Schubert. “Our aim is to deliver excellent legal advice that allows our clients to achieve their business objectives. We want to identify the opportunities and test AI, and our JV allows us to understand the impacts first hand, without interfering with our current business activities.

“We also recognise that our expertise is law, not AI or codification. This is why the partnership with Goat Ventures makes sense – its team specialises in codification and its commercialisation.”

The firm’s initial goal is simply to learn and understand how AI could provide efficiencies to the work for the firm. “This understanding will guide how AI is applied to support existing and potentially new clients. From a hard benefit perspective, it is likely that AI will increase efficiencies and create new revenue opportunities for our firm. These benefits will also increase the value we can offer to clients.”

“It will also set us firmly apart from other top tier firms, reinforcing the market’s brand perception of our firm as innovative, tech-savvy and commercially astute,” said Schubert.

“Like other organisations looking at disruptive technologies, we have chosen to create an environment outside of our business to be free of our structure, thinking and current approaches. The JV allows those involved to focus on the initiative without the ‘business as usual’ demands.

“We have a team of lawyers working with AI coding experts – all of whom hold PhDs in the area. Together they are developing and testing AI applications for law.”

“Through the JV both parties bring complementary skills, and play to their strengths,” said Schubert. “We know the law and how to manage a market leading law firm. Goat Ventures brings deep AI expertise through four AI PhD researchers with commercial experience at the likes of Xero, Microsoft and Spark along with capital and commercialisation experience.

“Together, we have a huge amount of energy and passion to create something innovative with the potential to redefine the legal services industry.”