Two robot lawyers have ‘hooked up’ in legal software ‘relationship’ first

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By Alex Aldridge on

Tech bubble alert as ‘LISA’ gets together with ‘Billy Bot’

The hype around legal artificial intelligence (AI) has reached new levels with the announcement that two ‘lawyer robot’ tools named after people are now in “a relationship”.

LISA (‘Legal intelligence support assistant’), which was co-created by consultant Chrissie Lightfoot and corporate lawyer Adam Duthie, is apparently going out with Billy Bot, a chatbot designed by online chambers Clerksroom.

In a sign of how surreal the bubbly legal technology news narrative has become, the two parties are badging the “hook up” as a first and predicting a “wedding in a few years’ time”.

What the combination boils down to is an attempt to bypass human lawyers for certain matters all the way through to the instruction of a barrister. LISA offers help with non-disclosure agreements via AI-linked technology (although critics on Geek Law Blog have labelled it “just another document assembly tool with a single mediocre form”), while Billy Bot seeks to replicate the services of a junior barristers’ clerk.

The news follows an announcement by a group of Cambridge law students that they are planning to launch their own cryptocurrency, among other extremely ambitious legal technology ventures. Meanwhile, an English computer science student at Stanford University has been talking grandly about his plan to “take down” lawyers.

These extreme, albeit successful, attempts to hit the headlines, come amid a wave of consolidation in the lawtech sector, led by iManage’s acquisition of UK legal AI company RAVN in May and LexisNexis’ takeover of analytics and research company Ravel Law in June.

This new stage in the cycle is taking place after a period of rapid growth among such companies. According to recent figures produced by Thomson Reuters Legal, there has been an astonishing increase of nearly 500% in the number of lawtech patents filed since 2012. The rate of growth slowed last year to a more modest 33%, rising from 436 to 579.

While some winners seem to be emerging, legal AI largely remains in an experimental phase. Some of the most interesting work in the sector over the next few years could take place in ‘innovation hubs’ set up by the likes of Allen & Overy and Reed Smith, where the considerable challenge of successfully embedding the powerful technology into practice is being trialled.

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