A chatbot is a computer programme that simulates human conversations. A person inputs data in the form of a question or demand and the chatbot, in almost no time, responds. The first successful chatbot, ELIZA, was coded by Joseph Weisenbaum back in 1966. Since then, chatbots have taken the world by storm. In fact, leading research company, Gartner, predicts that 85 per cent of customer service will be powered by chatbots within the next few years.
Naturally, many law firms have turned their attention to chatbots as a way of streamlining their customer service experience. However, there are two types of chatbots with different levels of sophistication that a firm could go for:
1. Rule-based chatbots
These chatbots rely on scripted questions and answers. They are relatively easy and cheap to set up. They do not incorporate any high-level technology and only answer questions that already exist in their programmes. These questions and answers are also known as rules (hence the name). You probably used these chatbots to track a parcel or find information on a website.
2. AI-powered chatbots
These chatbots use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand what a user is saying and respond accordingly. NLP essentially enables chatbots to process all the information compiled from previous conversations, create links and provide better answers. This makes these chatbots realistic, which explains why they have increasingly been refered to as virtual assistants. Well known examples of these chatbots include Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant.
In the legal realm, chatbots are being equipped with additional technological capabilities to complete numerous tasks. For instance, some chatbots can automatically produce tailored legal documents based on client demands. An example of this is Robot Lawyer LISA, a chatbot that produces non-disclosure agreements and leases for free. Others could be instructed to assist in due-diligence and document review, such as ROSS.
Advantages of Legal Chatbots
Chatbots are useful for solicitors, law firms and clients albeit for different reasons.
- For solicitors, chatbots save an incredible amount of money and time, allowing them to focus on pressing issues and other tasks. Advanced chatbots can also help lawyers review and analyse many documents quickly.
- For law firms, chatbots increase accessibility which expands the firm’s exposure and possibly increases revenue. Firms can also use chatbots to reduce overheads as well as promote their own content.
- For clients, chatbots can offer faster and cheaper legal information at any time of the day. This, coupled with the fact that some advanced chatbots also generate tailored legal documents, helps increase access to justice.
Examples of Legal Chatbots
DoNotPay is a prominent legal chatbot founded by Stanford University student Joshua Browder. Over the past few years, it has helped overturn over 200,000 parking tickets and processed over 3,000 emergency housing applications. DoNotPay has expanded recently and is assisting refugees apply for asylum in the UK and US.
Ross is a legal chatbot that helps solicitors conduct legal research and due-diligence. Powered by IBM’s Watson technology, Ross can go through over a billion documents a second and learn from the feedback it receives. Ross is used by many law firms around the world, such as US-based BakerHostetler.
Norton Rose Fulbright’s Parker is a chatbot that answers queries on specific areas of law. Parker currently has 3 versions covering insurance, intellectual property and data protection. Parker operates in Australia, Canada, Europe and the UK.
An interesting phenomenon is the merger of different legal chatbots together to provide a broader range of services. An example of this is the ‘hook-up’ of LISA and BillyBot. LISA uses AI to produce legal documents for free while BillyBot helps clients find barristers and mediators for their legal problems. The potential of such technological collaboration is profound and could prove to be a vital step towards enhancing access to justice.
Chatbots, like everything in our digital world, are prone to cybersecurity threats. The more personal data chatbots handle, the more important it is to have strong cybersecurity measures in place to protect users. In the absence of such measures, user data is vulnerable and firms could face fines for data breaches. A prominent example of this is when Ticketmaster UK was fined £1.25 million for a data breach that resulted from a software vulnerability in a third-party chatbot they used.
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