Top London solicitor slams ‘arrogant’ Cambridge law students bidding to displace lawyers with AI ‘nonsense’

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By Katie King on

He didn’t hold back

Cambridge students Ludwig Bull and Jozef Maruscak

An Edwin Coe lawyer has described a Cambridge law student-led ‘lawyer v machine’ challenge as “arrogant nonsense”, before stressing to Legal Cheek that law is “a people to people business”.

The ambitious challenge is the brainchild of Oxbridge lawyers Ludwig Bull, Rebecca Agliolo, Jozef Maruscak and Nadial Abdul, who have been plodding away with designing a lawyer robot for some months now.

First launched as crime-identifying LawBot in October 2016, their service then dabbled in divorce law advice before undergoing a rebrand (LawBot X) and moving onto Facebook messenger. If that wasn’t enough, Bull and friends then announced they were launching a cryptocurrency for the legal market.

Now, the latest update is that the students have renamed LawBot X (it’s now called Elexirr) and are putting on a competition called #ElexirrLawyerChallenge to celebrate.

In a promo video set to some funky music that we’ve embedded below, operations guy Maruscak explained: “we realise that there are many sceptics. That’s why we have decided to put our tech to the ultimate test.”

This test will take the form of a “man v machine” competition in London. A panel will supply factual and legal descriptions of legal problems with a known outcome to a robot team and a team of “England’s brightest legal minds.” Whichever side makes the most correct predictions will win.

Elexirr seems pretty hyped about the whole thing, but one person who doesn’t is David Greene, partner and head of litigation and dispute resolution at London law firm Edwin Coe.

Greene — who readers may remember is representing London School of Economics students in proceedings against the university’s student halls — tweeted:

Speaking to Legal Cheek about the rise in AI/tech in law, he said:

That arrogant toad ‘I told you so!’ Susskind has for long been banging on about technology and its effect on legal services. But his is generally about digital technology and the place it has in making the processing and provision of legal advice and assistance more efficient. That does not counter the fundament of the business being a people to people business.

While Greene does believe the Elexirr challenge is “interesting” and in some ways a decent “pointer” to a future of case-predicting computers, for now machines are still lacking in certain human elements.

Despite Greene’s criticisms, Elexirr is sticking by its tech. Bull told us:

As Greene rightly points out, the impact of AI on law is generally hyped. Talk of doomsday scenarios where machines completely replace lawyers show only a superficial understanding of the problem. Still, the human mind and machines have different qualities and attributes. Elexirr is dedicated to leveraging machine intelligence to do things that humans have difficulties with: e. g. case prediction. We hope to learn more about the law in this way and contribute to the legal profession’s transition into the digital age.

However, Greene still doesn’t seem convinced, particularly with Elexirr’s assertion that: “we don’t believe AI/robots will displace lawyers”. He said: “Of course they will displace lawyers; it may give rise to different work, tech always does but much work will be displaced by AI in time.” The debate continues.

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