Focus on new AI opportunities not internal IT, Rohit Talwar tells ILTA

Law firms should focus more on helping clients to navigate the huge challenges presented by disruptive technologies, and less time obsessing over their internal systems and processes, futurist Rohit Talwar told ILTA INSIGHT London last week (17 November).
In a session called ‘Building the exponential law firm – unlocking the growth potential of AI and disruptive thinking’ Talwar argued that law firms should be working out how to capitalise on legal challenges thrown up by new technologies that will drive the dramatic growth of the global economy to $120 trillion over the next decade.
Talwar said: “Technology will rewrite every sector and the global economy will grow to $120m and some industries will no longer exist while new ones emerge. For those new ones, there will be a whole new set of contracts and legal concepts, which presents a massive growth opportunity. Just one in 50 firms I talk to see that, but most say they will deal with it later.
“We think there is a huge opportunity for firms to increase their revenue and then come back and deal with AI in the business they’ve won.”
To keep up with the scale of disruption, law firms need to give their staff permission to come up with innovative ideas. Referring to Skype’s disruption of the telecoms sector, Talwar said: “It’s a bit like people like me walking into a law firm and saying ‘handle my matter for me for free and work out how to make money out of the pleasure of having worked for me.’ How do we change our DNA when everything around us is being disrupted?”
It was a security guard who came up with the new baggage handling layout at Gatwick Airport and Talwar added: “When you give people permission to come up with brilliant exponential thinking, the results can be extraordinary.”
Rejecting the ‘fear of failure culture’ will be key to law firm success. Talwar said: “AirBnB has 90x more listing per employee than its competitors. It employs people and doesn’t worry if it breaks something by allowing them to think.
“If you let people think without worrying that they will be told off, what would the result be?”

The impact of artificial intelligence is already being felt in the motor industry, opening up new legal work and challenges. Talwar said: “One of the big 10 has partnered with Singularity University and jumped on this in a big way.”
Driverless cars inevitably present a minefield of legal issues, such as who is responsible if the car has an accident. Talwar said: “No one yet has a clue what the right answer is as we’re in unchartered territory, but it’s a wonderful place to be if you’re in the legal world.”
In five years’ time, between 20-50% of routine legal work could be automated and law firms that underestimate the pace are change are likely to be replaced.  
However, Talwar said: “All these new developments require us to reinterpret the law and create a new framework, new legal concepts.
“It is a phenomenal opportunity and some firms really get it. You should focus more on that than whether your internal IT is in order. It’s all up for grabs.”
Law firm initiatives already under way: