In March this year, leading law firm MinterEllisonRuddWatts announced a market first for New Zealand – a joint venture to explore and capitalise on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for legal services.
Law Fuel sat down with the firm’s Chief Executive Officer, Mike Schubert to learn more about the joint venture and how it is likely to impact the country’s legal service industry.
We’re keen to know what Minters is doing both in terms of service delivery, staff management and the like, as well as attitudes towards developments in artificial intelligence as it affects the law business generally.
“MinterEllisonRuddWatts’ focus is on service delivery that improves our client’s experience.
“By automating tasks, our staff are freed-up to add more value to clients, and become trusted advisors who understand the client’s business objectives and market pressures.
“Our clients get more value and our staff enjoy the work more so it’s a ‘win win’.
“We believe artificial intelligence (AI) could have a profound impact on the legal services industry, and we wanted a first-hand understanding of the possibilities and access to these opportunities. The JV with Goat Ventures provides this by combining our legal expertise with Goats AI expertise.
“We’re looking at how we best harness AI, to understand how it will impact law while also helping our clients meet their legal needs more efficiently.
“We also recognise our expertise is law, not AI or codification. This is why the partnership with Goat Ventures makes sense – its team specialises in codification and its commercialisation.
“Through the JV both parties bring complementary skills, and play to their strengths. We know the law and how to manage a market leading law firm. Goat brings deep AI expertise through their four AI PhD researchers with commercial experience at the likes of Xero, Microsoft and Spark along with capital and commercialisation experience.
“Where do you see AI making an impact in the legal services industry? Specifically, what tasks or areas of work do you see AI benefiting lawyers?
“AI benefits consumers by making law more accessible. It also helps corporate clients as the legal advice they seek can be delivered more efficiently.”
The Lawyer’s Perspective
“From a lawyer’s perspective, AI is a tool to allow faster responses to clients, and potentially offer more accurate advice, creating more time to add real value.”
Why has AI become a priority investment for a traditional law firm like MinterEllisonRuddWatts?
“As a firm, we are investing heavily in technology and innovation – AI is just one part of our investment.
“Regarding AI, we believe it will have a profound effect on legal services and we want to be at the forefront of any development. We want to identify the opportunities and test AI, and our JV allows us to understand the impacts first hand, without interfering with our current business activities.
How does the JV arrangement work?
“We have chosen to create an environment outside of our business to be free of our structure, thinking and current approaches. The JV allows those involved to focus on the initiative without ‘business as usual’ demands.
“The JV is a 50/50 partnership with both parties contributing NZ$1 million in funding and expertise to explore the application of AI in law.
“We have a team of lawyers working with AI coding experts – all of who hold PhDs in the area. Together they are developing and testing AI applications for law.”
What opportunities do you see for MinterEllisonRuddWatts emerging from this AI investment?
“Our initial goal is to learn about AI, looking at how access to law and efficiency can be improved through its use.
“It is likely that AI will make legal advice more obtainable to those people currently unable to access it.
“AI could also assist in researching, analysing and advising on the law, providing an efficient tool for both clients and lawyers.