AXA Insurance has teamed up with alternative business structure rradar to launch what they call “a world first in legal and risk advice”, powered by IBM Watson technology.
‘Grace’ is described as “a machine learning-driven app which engages businesses directly with a virtual assistant to deliver the knowledge and experience of legal and risk management experts”.
In a statement, the pair said the “intuitive and interactive nature of the app will bring extensive legal and risk expertise direct to business customers, helping to educate and empower them in their risk management”.
The rradar app will initially be available exclusively to AXA customers registered for online support through their AXA Management Liability product.
They will have their legal questions answered either at the touch of a button or simply by asking ‘Grace’ a verbal question.
The first module will cover HR practice and employment law, to be followed by modules such as health and safety law, corporate manslaughter, property law, environmental law, waste management duties and contract law.
“The app will be continually developed to anticipate and react to changing customer needs and legal landscape,” the statement said.
“The machine-learning technology provided by IBM Watson ensures that the more AXA’s customers use the app, the more intelligent it becomes in delivering straightforward and relevant content.”
Gary Gallen, the founder and chief executive of rradar, told Legal Futures that ‘Grace’ “understands context… the sequence of words… With Watson we feed in all of that data and it understands the language of the customer, the needs that they have.
“Watson has learned how to take the database and all the information that is there and give answers to the questions that the customers ring up and ask it.
“So it’s interpreted the database in line with the question and now it’s able to provide the accurate and precise answer to those frequently asked questions.”
It had been trialled since late last year and would be launched officially in May, he said. In due course it would be available to between 1.5m and 1.75m people.
At the moment the app was giving answers to “a lot of the volume questions” such as questions about the statutory requirements of the national minimum wage and the living wage.
He said: “These are things that customers were ringing up and asking or going to websites and trying to interpret from lots of written documentation. Now they can have it on a mobile application on the go anytime they like.”
Rradar, a legal consultancy that became an ABS  in June 2014, will also be delivering video content, online training and documents via the app.
Dougie Barnett, head of customer risk management at AXA Insurance, said: “Traditionally, good legal advice is costly and for many small businesses, difficult to access but with the rradar ‘Grace’ app, we are demystifying and simplifying the process by helping and educating our customers through their smart phones to prevent issues happening in the first place whilst still being there should the worst happen.”
Mr Gallen added: “I believe that this has the potential to be the first truly disruptive application of technology in legal services. Almost every other profession or industry has adapted and benefited from the rapid development of technology but to date, the legal profession has remained largely removed.
“The introduction of ‘Grace’ will bring legal expertise direct to those small businesses that need it most and I believe that this is just the start of a broader revolution of how legal advice is accessed and administered.
“The rradar in-house design and technology team works alongside our various legal teams and gains a unique insight into real, everyday customer needs. When that is added to our teaching and education teams, it means that we will continue to blend, design and deliver the frontline services customers are asking us to provide.”