The legal technology and knowledge management thought leadership team at Janders Dean International have today (1 April) announced the release of their innovative new LegalListener product aimed at private practice law firms – claiming that this technology is one of the most revolutionary changes to the legal industry in the past century.
The LegalListener platform is a paradigm leap forward in the use of artificial intelligence in the law, and fundamentally increases lawyer and law firm productivity and profit, while decreasing risk and eliminating wasteful interactions between peers. The new solution has been in development and testing at Janders Dean’s Legal Innovation Labs in London for the past two years and has benefited from the leadership and input of twelve leading computer scientists and software developers – all of who joined Janders Dean from Apple, Amazon and Google in recent years after seeing the enormous potential of the vision.
The LegalListener is a command device with functions including question answering, conversation interruption, and legal expertise provision. The product combines innovative software development and hardware design with natural linguistic processing ability and voice recognition, and unique inbuilt algorithms and integrations into the firm’s existing knowledge and information platforms.
Designed to be placed in each lawyer’s office, the small and stylish LegalListener combines 9-inch (23 cm) tall speaker with a seven microphone sensor array. The product has two unique operational modes – Listening Mode and Question Mode – which can be configured by the firm to run simultaneously, and also a Random Positive Affirmations Engine (RPAE).
The device was primarily developed to monitor lawyer behaviours in their offices, and to proactively contribute suggestions or make corrections to a lawyer’s work product, while also being a source of advice for the lawyer seeking assistance while drafting.
The rapid linguistic processing capabilities built into the product allows LegalListener to analyse the context of the conversations in real time. The device then interrupts the lawyer to make corrections or suggestions based on contextual knowledge and information it has already processed from a variety of sources across other internal platforms such as the firm’s document management system, or from external case law sites.
Janders Dean has also worked closely with natural language scientists and specialist lawyers across the globe to ensure that legal terms and idiosyncrasies specific to the law are clearly understood by the software. “The LegalListener is a win-win for all parties” says Justin North, Director of Legal Innovations at Janders Dean. “The scenarios are simple” says North. “In Listening Mode, the LegalListener will monitor the lawyer’s voice during phone conversations and also during their interactions in the office with colleagues”.
When there is then an opportunity for the LegalListener to suggest a correction to the lawyer’s advice or commentary, provide relevant and up to date supporting case law information, to point the lawyer in the direction of an internal expert at the firm, or indeed to prompt the lawyer with the best firm precedent to utilise in a given circumstance, then an artificial voice will interject from the device with this information.
“The two most common interjections in the product trials so far have been around suggesting experts within the firm, and recommending more up to date precedents than that which the lawyer may currently be using” commented North.
The product also has the unique Question Mode. This feature allows the lawyer to ask the LegalListener for advice when required simply by stating the wake up phrase of “Hey Partner” followed by their query. This feature is designed to answer the verbalised queries of the lawyer, such as those “where do I find” and “do we have” type questions that currently create so much email noise at firms.
“Our junior lawyers have found this invaluable” says Steve Ullrich, Senior Partner at another major pilot firm in Chicago. “It means that our partners are disrupted less frequently by constant emails and phone calls from junior lawyers seeking guidance on banal issues that could be dealt with through utilising the knowledge that already exists on our systems” said Ullrich.
“Think of it as a proactive SatNav directing the lawyer across the complex map of the firm’s knowledge assets and information, combined with the power of reactive products such as Suri which allow the user to ask for help and advice” said North.
The product also has in built algorithms that can detect the mood and stress levels of the lawyer based on case load, time of the day, and the lawyer’s time recording. These algorithms allow the product’s responses to be verbalised in a humane and sensitive manner, to take account of the potential insecurities of the lawyers, and to reduce the potential for lawyers to take offence at the interjections when in Listening Mode. The purpose of this feature was to ensure that the levels of adoption amongst the lawyers was maximised.
One Senior Associate at an early adopter firm in London commented that the product was initially difficult to get used to, but that within two days it has become invaluable. “Having a somewhat robotic voice break the silence of your office while you’re in the middle of drafting was somewhat disturbing at first, not to mention the fact that the robotic voice was constantly correcting you after phone calls or while you were dictating” said Dirk D’Rozario.
“However in some ways it is better than getting the negative feedback from a Partner once you think you’ve finished the work and you believe it to be correct. The first unsolicited offer of assistance from the LegalListener that I had was the speaker telling me that I was using an incorrect firm precedent, and the second was telling me that there was a better way to word a clause I was working on” said D’Rozario
The product also has the capability to extend beyond providing legal knowledge and advice to lawyers. By integration the LegalListener into other technologies in place at the firm, the lawyer can also ask about administrative areas or concerns.
“We walked the floors of the pilot sites and also analysed the logs for common questions and found that a number of lawyers were asking quick questions such as “Hey Partner, how many leave days do I have remaining?”, “Hey Partner, are my timesheets up to date?” and “Hey Partner, what constitutes harassment based on our firm’s policy?”- this shows that the lawyers are truly adopting this product for a wide range of legal and non-legal uses, and that they are more willing to ask interact with intelligence to ask these questions” commented North.
When discussing the lessons learnt from the pilot implementations, North stated that the vocal tones of the artificial voice used was the area that required the most attention before finalising the product. The product was subsequently refined to include natural lifelike voices resulting from speech-unit selection technology. The high speech accuracy is achieved through sophisticated natural language processing algorithms built into the product’s text-to-speech (TTS) engine.
“We went even further” said North, “and rather than adopting the natural tones of a third person, we found that lawyers responded more positively to their own voice when they were at partner level, or to a partner’s voice if they were a junior associate – this is what lead us to develop the functionality allowing for the firm to adjust the default on a lawyer by lawyer basis”.
The product’s most recent release has seen the introduction of a final enhancement – the unique Random Positive Affirmations Engine (RPAE) feature. This was developed after three years of behavioural observation studies and psychological profiling of lawyers by Janders Dean and a leading MBA faculty.
“At our firm, we found that some partners reacted negatively at first to the interruptions of the LegalListener device in their offices” said Ullrich, “however once the product was also configured to give the users random positive affirmations throughout the day based on their work product or moods, these partners soon came on board”.
“The RPAE functionality helps with the change management and user adoption challenges” says North, “We developed this after realising that individual lawyers are in constant need of reassurance and despite the bravado and outward confidence displayed by many in the profession, they benefit tremendously from, and so often quietly crave, praise of others”.
“The LegalListener is like having your own personal assistant, professional support lawyer, librarian, partner, and mentor – a full SWAT team of personal helpers, observers and advisors all standing over your shoulder in your office, and all ready to help you when you ask and even when you don’t ask” says North.
COMMENT: Given today’s date, here at the Insider we were initially suspicious about this story however then we checked with leading legal IT consultant Batson D. Seeling (pictured) who confirmed he had worked on the beta version of the product and was now involved in a project to implement the LegalListener API into both the Apple Watch and a new Microsoft SharePoint-based document management system for law firms.