Laura Bygrave, Deloitte Legal’s new innovation lead talks to The Lawyer about the impact of AI on the legal industry and having more realistic conversations of AI capabilities, ahead of her session at the Business Leadership Summit on 25th September.

Laura Bygrave
Laura Bygrave

Do you think the introduction of AI solutions will eventually decrease the number of employees required in the firm?

I don’t believe there will be mass job losses as very few occupations consist of activities that could be fully automated. Technical feasibility is not the only factor influencing the extent and speed of automation. Our research shows that technology creates just as many, if not more, jobs than it destroys.

Lawyers’ skills are diverse; in addition to application of the law, human empathy is critical to understanding and servicing clients’ continually evolving needs. In the short to mid-term, AI solutions will enable the automation of discreet tasks to make lawyers more efficient, the requirement remains for lawyers to validate the outputs and therefore tasks cannot be completed in isolation without human oversight.

Is the legal industry guilty of falling in love with technological solutions?

Absolutely – it’s common to see a shiny piece of new technology and jump straight to where and how it could be utilised, without genuinely isolating the problem you are aiming to solve.

Investing in technology is pointless unless a) people will use it and b) you can realise tangible benefits from the usage. It is critical that any investment decision is assessed in terms of understanding the quick wins versus longer term return on investment, both in time and monetary terms.

My advice would be to make educated choices rather than gravitating to the newest or shiniest product on the market – think about the flexibility in the product’s ability to adapt for multiple uses and how it will integrate with your broader technology infrastructure.

 Would having more realistic conversations of AI capabilities result in loss of business with clients?

From my experience clients would appreciate more honesty about the limitations of current product functionality. Whilst there are products that automate discreet tasks effectively, there is a vast gap until we reach the point of comprehensive platforms that coherently solve problems end-to-end.

Although not commonplace yet, some such platforms do already exist, such as Deloitte’s dTrax platform which is an AI-enabled Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution that delivers improved contracting efficiency, visibility and compliance through advanced analytics.

Clients are increasingly time poor and therefore are looking for a provider that can bring together, in a single offering, capabilities and technology that exist in the market to address the unmet demands for comprehensive legal solutions. This is the gap in the market in which Deloitte Legal delivers.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Speaking on a panel earlier this year alongside Sir Geoffrey Vos – it was fascinating hearing his perspective on the digitalisation of the UK court system and debating the significance (if any) blockchain will have on the legal market.

Laura Bygrave is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s Business Leadership Summit on 25 September. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to inquire about attending, please contact Felicia Drakos on +44(0) 20 7970 4279.