Global firm deploys robots to slash time spent on legal processes

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9 February 2017


Poor: goal not to replace people

A global law firm is deploying robotic process automation (RPA) software in its high-volume legal practices, in some cases reducing the time taken to complete tasks from 35 minutes to just four minutes.

But it told Legal Futures that its aim was to improve efficiency, not replace people.

US-based Seyfarth Shaw, which has more than 900 lawyers in nine offices across the US, plus one office each in London and Shanghai and two in Australia, has brought in RPA software already in use in other industries to its immigration and other practices.

The software, developed by the company Blue Prism, which provides artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies to blue chip clients including IBM, Nokia, Siemens, Westpac and Zurich, promises to operate as a “digital workforce” that automates “high-risk, manual, rules-based and repetitive tasks and radically improves agility, efficiency, accuracy and compliance”.

The RPA software has been deployed by Seyfarth in connection with its client service subsidiary, SeyfarthLean Consulting, with the aim of freeing “our lawyers from some of the more mundane legal tasks so they can focus on helping our clients solve their most complex business issues”, the firm announced.

Seyfarth’s chair emeritus, Stephen Poor, said: “For starters, the Blue Prism RPA will help streamline the manual processes and data behind Seyfarth’s client onboarding systems and other due diligence efforts in high volume practices, like our immigration practice. We’ve already seen this reduce some processes from 35 minutes to four minutes.”

He added: “As a growing firm that added more than 70 lawyers last year, the goal of RPA is not to replace people. We are busier than ever, and RPA allows us to automate and improve processes in both our core operations and client service delivery.”

Seyfarth has not previously used any AI or RPA software, but a spokesman confirmed that the firm “had explored others, such as IBM’s Watson”.

In the UK RPA was adopted more than a year ago by City firm Berwin Leighton Paisner to search commercial contracts. In October 2016 PwC predicted as part of its vision of the law firm of the future that digital robots would take over “routine and standard human transactions”.

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