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AIJA Conference: Why technology is empowering the trusted advisor

20 September 2019 | Emily Foges

I recently attended the annual AIJA annual congress in Rome, which brought together 800 young lawyers from across the globe. It was totally exhausting and yet I came away feeling exhilarated and inspired by the vision, energy and great sense of purpose that unites the AIJA network. Clearly, when the International Association of Young Lawyers get together, they are serious about their partying, and serious about their responsibilities.

The theme of the conference was ‘Sustainability’, with opening talks from the United Nations and some heavy hitting economists, covering issues like collective responsibility, macro-efficiency and the circular economy.

This is all very well, but I wondered to what extent this group can contribute, and how are these issues relevant to their various work in M&A, litigation, Intellectual Property and so on? I asked this question throughout the week, and it turns out that whilst the world’s leaders seem to be ignoring these big questions, young lawyers from Rio to Prague believe they can make a real difference.

The human element

Dalmat Pira, a partner at the Swiss law firm pbm|attorneys-at-law is in no doubt: “Our clients (usually) listen to us. In that way, lawyers can influence the private sector, and instil changes towards more sustainable behaviour. It boils down to why most of us go into the profession: it isn’t about the mechanics of the job, it’s about the personal component of the attorney mandate, it is concluded intuitu personae.” The human element in legal services is clearly as important as it has ever been, perhaps more so in an increasingly interconnected global society. Pira explains, “I don’t believe for a split second that we can be replaced by machines.”

As such, there is a consensus amongst lawyers that technology must be used to enhance their control and insight into legal work, drawing them closer to the important issues rather than distancing them and commoditising their work. Stephanie Oneyser, a senior associate at Walder Wyss in Zurich, explained: “Working in spreadsheets would make me feel disconnected from the facts, I wouldn’t retain or use them in the same way. However, at the same time, I am creating vast piles of documents and carrying them around – it is hard to share my know-how with my colleagues this way.” The explosion in enterprise data means trainees and associates find themselves buried in paperwork, while the value of a lawyer’s work is still usually measured in time spent – a construct which is at odds with the interests of the lawyer and the client. Oneyser adds, “Now, with artificial intelligence, an associate or a trainee can surf precedents and know-how to find the most relevant contracts and cases and give their client the best chance of success”.

The power of Legal AI

With the right technology, lawyers don’t need to lose control of their thought process, or compromise on the quality of their advice, their relationship with clients, or the confidence that drives influential decision-making. Luminance’s platform allows lawyers to deliver more informed and effective advice, fulfilling the ambitions that lead so many bright young people to pursue a career in law in the first place. Mariella Bade- Landell from Castren and Snellman in Helsinki echoes this: “Across the firm we see a broad range of deals and documents. AI can help us to understand the trends much more effectively and advise our clients on the best possible negotiating position.”

At Luminance, our aim is to bring lawyers back to the purpose of their jobs, the reason they came into the profession and the reason their clients value their advice. This is not about the commoditisation of legal work, the outsourcing of document review to paralegals and the production of 500-page reports. Moritz Maurer of Niederer Kraft comments with a wry smile: “Which of course all our clients read from cover to cover, right down to the very last line.”

This technology is about getting back to the role of the trusted advisor, and the young lawyers of the world have never been more passionate about the responsibility this represents.