Recently I had the good fortune of moderating three different Thomson Reuters-sponsored panel discussions on emerging technology in Boston, Long Island, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn. The events filled rooms to capacity and focus of the discussion was around how emerging technology is transforming the legal industry.
At each event, the panelists and attendees engaged around the impact of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, data analytics, Virtual Reality, and ‘bots on the practice of law. Before diving into each topic, I set the stage for this conversation by teeing up the sweeping technological changes mankind is grappling with and attempting to balance today.
Boston: Using VR in Court
Among all of the hot topics discussed at the Strega Waterfront location, Virtual Reality was an area of specific interest to the audience. One attendee discussed how one law firm is using VR to help at trials. He described a jury donning their headsets and then being fully immersed in a crime scene. With each head turn they could see a hypothetical victim on the ground and discarded weapon nearby.
The panelists for this event — Marc Lauritsen, Legal Knowledge Systems Architect at Capstone Systems; Oliver Silva, CEDS and Litigation Support Manager at Nutter McClennen & Fish; and Brian Ulicny, Senior Director of Thomson Reuters Labs — also dug into the growing importance of data analytics in the legal industry. A consensus by both the panel and Managing Partners and COOs in attendance: Analytics is becoming vastly more important to law firms. One panelist remarked that while the longing for these tools is real, the reality is that there is currently a dearth of robust options available.
Long Island, NY: the Growing Impact of Blockchain
This event brought together a wide cross-section of industries and included corporate, government and law firm professionals. Held at Seasons 52 in Garden City, one area of particular interest to this group was the legal impact of Blockchain. The panelists here — Carol Challed, Vice President of Business Operations at Henry Schein; Dr. Theodoros Zanos, Professor and Lab Head for the Neural Decoding and Data Analytics Laboratory at the Feinstein Institute; Valerie M. Cartright, a Long Island Councilwoman; A. Jonathan Trafimow, Partner at Moritt Hock & Hamroff; and Nick Jarema, Head of Strategy at Thomson Reuters Labs — dove into how this technology will impact their respective industries.
Challad stated that from the corporate world, there is no question Blockchain will create efficiencies in supply chain management and order fulfillment. Councilwoman Cartright warned that her constituents and town government are holding off on this technology for now. She surmised that blockchain is in its early days and they do not have a bent on being early adopters. Trafimow spoke about how this technology could make things more secure with respect to cybersecurity down the road, which could help law firms. Lastly, Jarema mentioned that at the heart of Blockchain is security and transparency, which could serve all industries as it evolves.
Hartford, Conn: How Fast will AI Come?
Held at Max Downtown, this discussion centered on Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as Blockchain. After level-setting on the definition around AI, panelists Zac Kriegman, Senior Data Scientist at Thomson Reuters Labs; Gail Gottehrer, Partner at Akerman; Edward Chang, 2VP for Cyber Risk Management at Travelers; and Judge Ron Hedges, Senior Counsel at Dentons, bantered about their perspectives on the topic.
Judge Hedges was skeptical. He likened AI to the early days of TAR (Technology Assisted Review, for eDiscovery) and said we have to keep an eye on how the courts will view it. Gottehrer was equally as skeptical about the immediate timeline of AI, but prudent in her assessment that this will be impactful to the legal industry, but probably further out than we expect.
Kriegman, talking about how TR Labs said they are testing many Proof of Concepts in this space to better understand how algorithms can be leveraged in many facets of legal and beyond. Chang touched on how AI will hopefully better secure our data within a law firm or corporation. Lastly, with respect to Blockchain, we delved into the ICO (Initial Coin Offerings) — think IPO, which have been making a major splash during the last year. It is the new way for companies to raise money leveraging the Blockchain, without the cost of investment bankers.
Moderating these three panel discussions on emerging technology in the legal industry with so many experts from distinguished backgrounds was an incredible honor and experience in each city. Certainly, these topics are front of mind for many within the legal industry.
My personal take-aways from these discussions were that the antennae are up for everyone on AI. There is fear, skepticism and then the questions of how, when, and what can we do to leverage it? On the Blockchain front, mouths tend to be agape. Many more industry players are aware of this technology now compared to when I spoke about it 12 months ago, but people are still coming to grips with how it can be used. When it comes to data analytics, clearly the technology is there, it just has not been especially well built out in legal… yet.