LawBot, the legal advice chatbot created last year by four Cambridge University law students, is to relaunch next month with the aim of becoming a commercial operation funded by issuing its own cryptocurrency.
The new version analyses the quality of users’ claims, moving from decision-tree reasoning to data-driven intelligence.
Ludwig Bull, managing director and software writer, said he was working with a German legal tech company to develop the currency, which he hoped would have a better name than ‘LawBot bitcoin’.
Mr Bull, who was born in Germany, said LawBot was not interested in conventional investment, and instead aimed to make an “initial coin offering” to lawyers in September, powered by blockchain.
LawBot provides initial advice and until now it has not referred customers to lawyers if they want to take the matter further. This will change next month, but Mr Bull said he would not reveal the names or number of law firms involved until the relaunch.
He said firms would be able to buy the new currency, which would act as tokens to enable access to the LawBot network.
“We’re in touch with a lot of law firms in the UK and abroad,” Mr Bull said. “Issuing our own currency is a smart way to eliminate the problem of middlemen investors.”
LawBot was created by Mr Bull, Rebecca Agliolo, the marketing director, Jozef Maruscak, operations director, and Nadia Abdul, legal research director.
Initially it concentrated on criminal offences, though a divorce LawBot appeared briefly in March before the whole project was put on hold so the students could get on with their studies.
The new version, LawBot X, is designed to deal with criminal and civil claims, particularly contract, tort, and some family law. It will remain free to users.
Mr Bull said he expected LawBot X, which will be launched via Facebook in seven countries, to deal with tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of enquiries. The countries involved are the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong.
LawBot-X analyses information provided by users, using data science techniques to calculate their chances of winning a claim with what the creators claim is 71% accuracy.
Mr Bull, who has just finished the second year of his law degree, said LawBot’s team of four “love our work” and did not mind working in the summer holidays.
If the relaunch was a success, he said he would take a year off from his degree to concentrate on the business.
He said the chatbot’s unique selling point was its “general intelligence” and ability to process “anything that a user tells it”.
Mr Bull said there had not been much “basic research” in the legal tech world on general knowledge, and most of it had concentrated on “slivers of information”, such as part of a contract.
“Automation in legal services is inevitable. The more sophisticated it gets, the more people will use it. The services people have been offered so far are just not good enough.”
Meanwhile, a survey of 1,200 consumers commissioned by global IT services firm CenturyLink, has shown limited public appetite for replacing lawyers with an automated, robotic service such as a chatbot.
The survey, carried out by Censuswide, found that only 19% would trust a robot to manage and speed up the process of their case – for example, by scheduling meetings and reminding them of key dates.
The research found that although 15% would trust an automated service to send and manage documents and 14% to help find a law firm, only 6% would take “actionable advice” from a robot, rather than a human lawyer.
Steve Harrison, regional sales director of legal services at CenturyLink EMEA, said: “While there is room for the use of AI and chatbot-led practices, human input should still lead the way.
“However, the legal sector still has much work to do to improve the overall customer experience, shaking up traditional paper-reliant working models and helping ease workloads.
“With most consumers saying that they would trust a robotic service in the early stages of a case, this is where legal firms can stand to gain.
“By looking at how automation can speed up and improve certain elements of the legal process, they will not only appeal to a wider audience, but increase time that can be dedicated towards more bespoke and intricate cases.”