We keep hearing “artificial intelligence (AI) won’t take the jobs of lawyers.” But the growing field of AI is bound to affect the legal industry in other ways. The tech-enabled legal service company Axiom recently announced their own AI and, according to Paul Carr, president of global strategic projects, this technology and AI in general could be transformative for the legal industry. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Bob Ambrogi talks to Paul Carr about how Axiom uses technology, including AI, to modernize legal services and streamline processes which enables them to better serve their clients. They also discusses how to broach the topic of using AI and other newer technology with their corporate clients.
Paul Carr is the president of global strategic projects at Axiom. Axiom is the leading alternative legal services provider.
Law Technology Now
How Axiom is Using AI to Modernize Legal Services
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome to Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. This is your host Bob Ambrogi. Well, within the realm of legal technology it seems that everybody has been talking this year about artificial intelligence and any number of companies and law firms have been jumping on the AI bandwagon.
It was therefore not surprising that the Alternative Legal Services Provider Axiom recently rolled out an AI offering. But maybe what was a little bit unusual about it was the deliberative approach the company went through before the roll out, taking some time to study the space before deploying AI to its clients.
Today we are going to speak to the Senior Executive at Axiom who oversaw and continues to oversee Axiom’s AI efforts, Paul Carr. We are going to talk to him about Axiom’s AI offering and about AI more generally in the legal space.
So Paul Carr, welcome to Law Technology Now.
Paul Carr: Thanks very much Bob.
Bob Ambrogi: It’s good to talk to you again. I wonder if we can start by, let me just ask you to tell us a little bit about your own background.
Paul Carr: Sure. So I joined Axiom back in 2008, so have been overseeing the firm over that time period when we have grown pretty substantially from a few hundred employees to a north of 2,000.
And just prior to Axiom, I had been leading one of the international divisions at American Express. I was their Global Head of Strategy before that, and then started my career at Accenture and the Boston Consulting Group. So really being focused on building out and scaling — building out the capabilities and scaling Axiom’s business over the last eight years.
Most recently being focused on our approach to technology as well as specifically to all things artificial intelligence.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, I want to talk a lot more about all of that, but let me ask you to familiarize our listeners with what Axiom is, because I am not sure all of them will know. So give us the big picture on what Axiom is.
Paul Carr: Sure. Axiom is an Alternate Legal Service Provider, as you mentioned before. We are a tech-enabled legal services company, one of the largest we believe in the space. Our clients are Global 1000 legal departments. We sell exclusively into corporations as distinct from law firms and other providers.
We have two broad categories of offerings. One is our talent platform in which we are providing really talented lawyers or teams of lawyers to supplement and augment legal departments and teams.
Then our Contracts Platform, where we are providing end-to-end solutions to execute contracting work with the drafting negotiation and execution, storage analysis of commercial agreements, and in service of that part of our business we combine obviously a talented bunch of people, as well as technology and process methodology to execute that work.
Bob Ambrogi: So are you a law firm? Do you have lawyers working for you?
Paul Carr: That’s a great question. We are technically not a law firm. We do have lawyers working for us. We have about 1,500 lawyers who are doing work for our clients, but we are not a law firm. So we are very disciplined and diligent about operating appropriately in the regulatory framework of the practice floor and so on.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, I know that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Axiom is that it describes itself as a tech-enabled legal services company. Describe that for us. What does that mean?
Paul Carr: So most everything we do is enabled by technology and fundamentally, I mean, we are operating in a half a trillion dollar information-based industry, which logically finding, modernizing — finding better ways of doing work, delivering legal services and modernizing the way that legal work is done is necessarily going to involve technology. So in everything we do for our clients, we are employing technology to streamline the interface, to manage workflow, to structure and provide analytics around data. So it’s a fundamental and central part of what we are providing our clients.
Bob Ambrogi: So you are also a services company, you are a technology company, how do you kind of straddle those two areas? How do you define exactly what that is or how do your clients understand — what do they understand that to be?
Paul Carr: Yeah, yeah, so we — straddle is the right term. I mean, we refer to ourselves as a tech-enabled services company and partly — we are not unique in that regard. There are other industries with providers who provide heavily technology-enabled services.
Specifically, we think it’s important in the legal industry, particularly for where we are in the evolution, because in order to realize the benefits that technology can provide, we have just seen that you need to do a lot of work in and around the technology. You need to standardize processes. You need to structure information. You need to reengineer workflows.
And so we have just found our ability to add value and provide benefits to clients is far greater by providing, not just the tool or a piece of technology, but a more integrated solution that certainly includes technology, but also includes a lot of the process and standardization that needs to go on around it.
Bob Ambrogi: The legal industry has a reputation for being slow to adopt new technology, to be perhaps even resistant to some areas of new technology. So how do you ease the transition I guess for your clients? How do you make them understand the value of, or get them to accept the use of technology in delivering legal services?
Paul Carr: Yeah. I mean we spend an unhealthy number of hours talking about just the topic of adoption. And it’s true, technology — legal tech as it were, probably holds more promise than has demonstrated progress, notwithstanding the fact that there is a lot of investment capital flowing into the legal tech segment.
We think fundamentally the reason that adoption is a challenge is because of this dynamic that I mentioned before, and the need to embrace a completely different what we call production system in order to actually leverage and use that technology.
And so we think about an analogy of providing a conveyor belt to a blacksmith and expecting the industrial revolution to take hold. Well, of course it can’t because you need to build a factory around a conveyor belt in order to deliver speed, efficiency and better outcomes.
And so what we are in the business of is providing and building the factory or the production system around technology in order to deliver better outcomes to clients. So when we engage with clients what we are really talking about with them is how we can deliver better performance. However you choose to measure performance could be better risk management, it could be efficiency, it could be speed, particularly in the area of contracting. It could be adherence to policy. But where we try to encourage clients to get on board is really talking about a set of performance outcomes as opposed to talking about a bunch of tools that clients are then having to try and work out what to do with themselves.
Bob Ambrogi: Let’s start to talk about Axiom AI. You recently announced that you are going to be — that you have introduced Axiom AI as something that you have been thinking about for a while and rolled it out more recently. So let’s begin by just asking — let me ask you, what Axiom AI is, tell us about it?
Paul Carr: Yeah, so Axiom AI is — I would say it’s a formalization of a pathway we have been on for the last three or four years. And as you mentioned, we have been testing different AI tools over the last three or four years in the lab, as it were, to just understand how they perform.
The area in particular that we have been focused on, which is in relation to the Contracts Platform part of our business is really around the extraction of the tools that extract information from commercial agreements, from contracts. And we feel that in general artificial intelligence technology has tremendous applicability to certainly contracting work, but legal more broadly, and we think it can be truly transformative.
And the development of the technology, the advancement and evolution of the technology has changed a lot in the last three or four years and we just felt that the technology was getting to a point where it was sufficiently accurate that we could move it from the lab, as it were, into production and into client engagement. And so we felt that we wanted to sort of formalize Axiom AI as the program where we are testing, trialing, and then moving into BAU production processes, client engagement, the AI tools and techniques and technology.
Bob Ambrogi: So as I understand it, Axiom AI is really kind of two components. There is the R&D side of it, the research into products and applications and use cases, and then there’s the production side of it, sending it out to your clients. Do I have that right?
Paul Carr: Yeah, that is exactly right. I mean, we feel that we are at the beginning as an industry I think. Well, generally, Corporate America, but the legal industry is at the very, very beginning of the AI journey, and so we feel it’s important to have an R&D component to the program where we are basically testing and partnering with experts to understand what the art of the possible is and what’s out there. And so that’s the R&D component as you mentioned.
And then the production component is where we are feeling that the technology is sufficiently robust and accurate and consistent to justify moving into client engagement. That’s where we are moving it into our client work and obviously integrating the workflow and building it into our value proposition. So that’s exactly right, we think about the program or we sort of compartmentalize the Axiom AI program into those two pieces.
Bob Ambrogi: Paul, stay with us, we are going to take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors and we are going to be right back to continue this discussion.
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Bob Ambrogi: Welcome back to Law Technology Now. We are talking with Paul Carr, Senior Executive, overseeing Axiom’s AI efforts about Axiom’s new Axiom AI offering, integrating artificial intelligence into the services it delivers its clients.
I thought it was really fascinating. I mean, you have talked about this already, but I thought it was really fascinating that you took such a deliberative approach to rolling out AI. You and I have talked about this before, and you have talked about the fact that you, if I have it right, took a couple of years to really kind of look at the market and the industry and think about some of the tools that were out there.
From where I sit I get emails everyday from companies telling me they have just rolled out this or that AI product, few of which actually are AI products. Why did you think it was important to kind of go through that process of sort of taking the temperature of the space before delivering some of these products to your clients?
Paul Carr: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot about what’s going on now with artificial intelligence which is reminiscent of the Internet in the late 90s, and there is a lot of noise and gibberish and testing going on, but what we are really driven by, motivated by is how do you apply these tools? How do you apply artificial intelligence to deliver more value for clients? And that requires a pretty pragmatic approach to how in reality if technology is going to be used in practice, in client engagement where we are on the hook to deliver a bunch of outcomes.
And so we felt that that’s something that you want to take a thoughtful approach to and be sure that the technology can actually perform in a robust way at industrial strength.
And so that’s why we felt — we did a lot of testing and a lot of piloting to simulate how this would operate at scale and even in the last three or four years we saw a tremendous improvement in the performance of the various tools, and that’s not going to stop, that’s going to continue to improve. I mean, the technology has been somewhat of a revolution.
Artificial intelligence is kind of an unhelpful name. It’s such a broad umbrella, but there has been somewhat of a revolution in the last three or four years, particularly around text analysis, and the technology that has really made progress is machine learning, and that has revolutionized outside of legal the ability to interpret and translate actually text from one language to another. And the application of that to the legal space has meant that these tools have dramatically improved.
And so that’s something we have been monitoring and watching, and as I said, I mean we felt in the last period of time the technology has been robust enough and accurate enough to be able to move into kind of production strength.
Bob Ambrogi: And you started out through a partnership with Kira and I think you have kind of taken the approach of looking at partnerships with other experts or companies that are already working in the artificial intelligence space, but your first kind of production offering here I guess focuses on M&A due diligence using Kira. Tell us about that. How does this work? What are you offering?
Paul Carr: We have an offering, M&A Diligence & Integration where basically we come in and support clients who are going through a major acquisition or a major spin-off and we have a very just efficient mechanism for conducting either the diligence or the post-integration work where the company is needing to work through risk analysis and change of control and assignability type implication.
So we go through and extract that information. We structure it in a very specific way and convert that into a set of recommendations for the client. And so this is the offering where we have started to apply artificial intelligence. Kira, in particular, where they are helping us identify and extract text-based information, for the most part, to remove that burden from our lawyers so that they can focus on the more interpretive work and the structuring of recommendations. And so that’s where we are starting it.
It’s a very specific use case, very relevant to our M&A Diligence & Integration offering. But we are looking actively at where tools can be applied to other use cases, which we think there are a number in the contracts realm.
Bob Ambrogi: But those other use cases will be within the contracts realm, as you just said, you are not looking — is that where your focus is primarily right now?
Paul Carr: Yeah, that’s where our focus is. I mean we have a number of offerings that focus very specifically in contracts. These are the offerings on our Contracts Platform. And so we are applying that lens in looking at where artificial intelligence tools can supercharge those offerings. Obviously there are tools that are focused on, whether it be litigation or other areas, but that’s not an area that — we are not focused on those areas right now.
Bob Ambrogi: Can you talk about any of the other applications relating to contracts that you are looking at at this point?
Paul Carr: Well, there are two areas where we see the tools operating. Principally, one area is the identification and extraction of information from agreements and we are doing that on our M&A offering. But some of the tools they specialize in contract type, so Kira is really helpful for the information you need as part of the M&A process.
There are other tools that focus on, for instance, financial documentation, so user agreements and other derivative contracts. And then there are other tools that focus on a broader range of agreements.
So use cases specifically around the very efficient finding and extracting information from different agreement sets is certainly one kind of area of use cases we are looking at.
The other area which is I think a little further behind, but it’s more focused on the creation of and the negotiation of contracts, so there are tools that are aiming to leverage artificial intelligence to streamline the approval process, for instance, as an agreement gets created. And so to very quickly identify where an agreement is off standard or how it needs to go through the approval process, to sort of streamline that whole process. I would say that scenario we are watching, but it’s a little further behind the data extraction use case.
Bob Ambrogi: What’s the roll out process like with your clients, when you are working with corporate legal departments exclusively, as I understood what you said earlier, how receptive are they to artificial intelligence tools? How understanding are they of the technology?
Paul Carr: I would say they are very interested and intrigued by the application of artificial intelligence tools. Our experience is and I think it’s probably true outside of legal as well. I would say Global 1000 companies, Fortune 500 companies all have initiatives underway to identify areas where artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics can be applied to the business, and legal is no exception.
So most legal departments are actively looking for ways in which artificial intelligence tools can be applied. So there is a high degree of interest and motivation. On the other hand, there is a lack of understanding of specifically what tools are out there, what they can do, what the pros and cons are, what are the critical capabilities that need to be developed in order to reach those tools.
So a lot of the conversations we get into with corporate legal functions is frankly an educational conversation, which is really painting a picture of the landscape, giving them a window a little bit into the technology and how it works, where it can be used, where it makes sense, as well as where it doesn’t make sense.
And so I think that the industry generally is on a bit of an education pathway. I mean it’s complex. Machine learning technology is complex and it’s rapidly evolving. So I think it’s almost like the analogy of, there is a new shiny toy out there and everyone is kind of grappling with how to use to it, how to apply it.
Bob Ambrogi: Is the use case primarily efficiency, is it that AI can drive down the cost of delivering legal services, or are there other reasons that you see AI as important for the legal industry?
Paul Carr: Yeah, I think that’s a great question, and actually what we feel is that the benefits, the performance benefits of applying these tools is going to vary, evolve over time. I mean, in contracting right now artificial intelligence tools tend to deliver efficiency. They automate or streamline the way in which information can be extracted from a contract.
And so that is arguably an efficiency mechanism, but we think that the benefits will go way beyond efficiency and sort of automation, and specifically, we think the ability to understand the risks in or the opportunities or synergies hidden and buried in hundreds of thousands of agreement will open up all sorts of possibilities in terms of better decision making, providing insights to corporations that they simply don’t have today.
It will deliver speed, which is something in the contracting world as very important and leads to acceleration of sales or acceleration of revenue recognition. And so we think that efficiency is a sort of a starting point we see in contracts, but what we think is — what could be truly transformative is a whole set of benefits which are hard to imagine for where we are in the journey right now.
Bob Ambrogi: We all hear a lot about the hype around artificial intelligence in law and a lot of the hype makes the point of, you see headlines on robots replacing lawyers and that sort of thing. But I mean, it seems that the state of artificial intelligence today is not that machine learning tools or artificial intelligence tools are replacing lawyers, but are making the delivery of legal services more efficient and in conjunction with lawyers. Where do you see this heading? What do you see is the future of AI in the legal industry?
Paul Carr: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard to predict. I mean it’s sort of like reflecting on, I mean this analogy of it feels a little bit like the Internet in the late 90s and sitting around in the late 90s thinking where the Internet is going to evolve to. I mean, it would have been hard to predict exactly all of the ways that the Internet transformed the way we buy goods and services, the way we communicate with each other, with respect to social media and all of these things.
So I think sitting where we are right now, it’s pretty difficult to predict where this all ends up, where this all shakes out. I mean, our view, we do believe a couple of things though. One is that it is one of those things, it is one of those technologies, one of those movements that we believe has the potential to be as definitive or transformative as the Internet was, firstly.
Secondly, we also think that it is very seductive to paint a doomsday scenario where artificial intelligence replaces lawyers and all of that. We tend not to think in those terms. We think it’s going to be far more complimentary. It’s going to automate a bunch of work that lawyers actually don’t like doing because it’s repetitive and mind-numbing. But it allows lawyers to do the work, the interpretative and judgment-based work that they much prefer and really enjoy.
And so we are seeing that in our M&A and Diligence offering in a very, very small way, but our lawyers are spending less time leafing through a 25-page contract to find a particular clause and they are spending more time reading, interpreting and developing recommendations for clients, and I think that that’s how this is going to shake out.
I think actually that it’s going to make — it holds the promise of making legal work more interesting where lawyers are focused on the work that truly they are skilled at and that they are trained to do, which, as I said it, it’s advising, it’s applying judgment and a bunch of different things like that.
I mean most lawyers, I am sure you have seen the surveys of what lawyers, in particular in in-house departments do, and there’s an awful lot of the work that they do which is rather repetitive and administrative.
So we think that artificial intelligence holds the potential of taking away and automating a lot of that work and allowing lawyers to focus on more value-added tasks.
Bob Ambrogi: And not only do lawyers not want to do that repetitive work, but clients don’t want to pay for it, if they don’t have to.
Paul Carr: Clients don’t want to pay for it, lawyers don’t want to do it, and it adds no value to the corporation in which the legal department sits. I mean, most lawyers will lament the fact that they are doing a bunch of repetitive work instead of out in front of their business partners in those corporations advising them and having a seat at the table and advising them on how to conduct business. And so, we think that there’s a possibility here of allowing lawyers to play more central and powerful and impactful roles in their corporations.
Bob Ambrogi: Paul, we are just about out of time, but I did want to give you an opportunity to share any final thoughts you had on this topic before we wrap up. So is there anything else that you wanted to say before we close?
Paul Carr: Well, final thought would be, look, I mean, let’s recognize that we are at the very beginning of this movement and we are all learning. But look, artificial intelligence, it’s something that we need to be, and this is true of ourselves, it’s true of in-house functions, it’s something we should be playing with and learning and we need to keep our heads focus on the sort of exciting vision that AI tools and technology affords.
But at the same time, keep our feet sort of planted squarely on the ground and take a pragmatic lens in terms of where and how it can apply. And so we are excited about that. We are excited about what it could mean for Axiom and we are excited about what it could mean for our clients.
Bob Ambrogi: Paul Carr, thanks so much for taking the time to be with us today. I really appreciated your speaking with me and talking about Axiom AI.
Paul Carr: My pleasure. Thanks so much Bob.
Bob Ambrogi: Well, that does it for this episode of Law Technology Now. Thanks to all of you for listening. Thanks to Paul Carr for taking the time to be with us today. If you like this show, if you like this podcast, please go to Apple Podcast and give us a nice review there.
Until next time, this is Bob Ambrogi. Thanks for listening.
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