Will Lawyers Be Made Redundant By IBM's Watson ?

Legal Process Outsourcing has been a process adopted by a lot of the larger law firms. The practice has not  gone mainstream yet with mid level firms and smaller firms not yet fully implementing a coherent Legal Process Outsourcing strategy.

The impact of Legal Process Outsourcing has been a bit murky as it relates to hiring practices at the firms which use it. It might have slowed down hiring and perhaps even made some lower level lawyer jobs redundant..but by and large it really has had no meaningful impact on headcount and associated expense rations.

Generally speaking it is business as usual at major law firms. Operational changes are incremental and certainly not disruptive.

This might be about to change though. Much more potential to distort the business of law have applications built upon Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

The business of law is perhaps more vulnerable to be revolutionized than any other business out there. The expense ratio is very high with top law firms charging hourly rates for their partners at $ 1000 (and more sometimes). Simply put..there is enough money being generated within the business that it pays to develop some killer applications.

The question is of course..what will those applications do?

What makes the business of law such an interesting target for AI and NLP is both its simplicity and the vast amount of data it generates.

Law is essentially produced and updated on a continuous basis through the courts. Whenever a higher courts sets precedent in its interpretation of the law this precedent becomes the defacto standard lower court rely upon to judge a case.

Lawyers pull prior case law to establish their legal position.
The more closely aligned prior case law is with the set of circumstances in a current case, the more likely it is that a verdict will be aligned with what the higher court had decided.

The cascading decision pipeline, whereby higher court decisions find applications in lower courts,  makes law (in theory) ideal to be accessible by AI and NLP.

This is of course not just a theory...IBM has already developed a legal assistant named ROSS which is using Watson's AI engine.

ROSS is very much still in its infancy...it can potentially be equated to a child. But ROSS is also growing up very quickly. The more data it absorbs and the more cases it gets to review, the better its ability to judge law based upon context will become.

Once its ability to comprehend context (NLP) equals that of an average lawyer it will be a short time span before ROSS is able to output supporting case law in a manner which can be  submitted to court (a motion) .

Most importantly...ROSS will get better at an exponential rate. In theory the depth and quality of its legal output will go from being  just a decent quality to Top Notch within a matter of months or year(s).  

And this exactly where the danger for the business of law is. In a few years a single practitioner located in a rural area will be able to submit the PDF of a lawsuit to ROSS and in return will receive a complete legal defense, organised into applicable law and supporting case.

The quality of the legal work will be on par with the strategy devised by the highest paid law firms in the country. ROSS will, for all intent and purposes...democratize the business of law. Top Notch legal advise will become a commodity, easily accessible by almost anyone.

Of course, this will not make the lawyer obsolete. A lawyer will still have to file the motion and argue the case. (which in a lot of cases might be more important than the legal facts)

It will however decimate the rank and file. Lawyers  working in  the background and  tasked with evaluating legal strategies and doing case law research are the ones who will get the boot first.

The next couple of years should bring more changes to the business of law and how is conducted than any period in its history. Law used to be a business of individual intellectual capacity ..it might become a business of pure processing power.

Strange (Good) News - Outsourcing In Reverse, Jobs Are Coming To The US

Outsourcing translates into job losses for American Workers. This narrative is usually pretty clear cut. Outsourcing is generally not good for American workers.

Below is an article which is making the point that there are corporations which outsource jobs to the US. The article cites specifically the case of Mahindra & Mahindra, a globally operating Indian Automaker and Farm Equipment Maker.

One reasons for their decision to set up shop in Texas is access to NAFTA markets and other countries which maintain a free trade agreement.

The article undoubtedly makes a good point. Globally operating companies based in Asia lack free trade access to European and South American markets. By incorporating in the USA they get to the benefit of unlimited access to all market the US maintains a Free Trade Agreement with.

In the case of Mahindra we are not talking small numbers either. Current US headcount is about 8000 for them and they are increasing their headcount at a steady pace.

Article Can be found here:  Jobs Are Moving Into The US From Outsourcing Countries 

Strange News - BREXIT and IT Spending

BREXIT has been in the news a lot lately and as is often times the case there are real life consequences which will only materialize years down the road.

Not so this time...Canalys, a provider of market intelligence for the IT environment (besides other things) estimates that UK IT spent will be reduced by about 10 % this year and in the same range and possibly greater in 2017.

Reasons cited are an unwillingness to commit resources during a period of high uncertainty, the continued devaluation of the pound (making it more expensive for UK companies to procure services) and the potential need to locate operations away from the UK into the European Union.

Given that the current outsourcing spent in the UK is somewhere between 90 to 100 Billion pounds we are not talking about a small number here.

The outsourcing sector considers itself to be immune against economic dislocation. The numbers though speak a different language.

Assuming that the foretasted slash in outsourcing spent are an indicator for other industries the overall economic impact on the UK  might be a bit more severe than the average UK citizen had thought originally.

An Analysis Whether Or Not The IT Help Desk Should Be Outsourced

Any tech heavy enterprise has been there. The question of whether or not the IT Help Desk should be outsourced. Obviously IT is often times mission critical to a company...so there is a distinct need to resolve IT help queries in an  expedited manner.

Additionally, the people who call into the help desk often times call under duress. Something broke, hence they are not happy.

The combination of those circumstances often times lead to serious discussions within a company whether or not the IT Help Desk needs to be kept in house or should be outsourced.

Some of the considerations which are tossed around as part of the decision making progress are:

  • Can the company justify a dedicated help desk staff?
  • Can the company staff its help desk for peak demand?
  • Should the help desk be available 24 by 7 or limited to workweek hours?
  • Is the available In House IT personnel capable of handling customer service calls or might they feel that held desk duties take them away from their dedicated tasks, leading to a slip in performance?
  • Does the company have the requisite management in place to make its IT Help Desk an asset ? 
  • Can adequate resources be made available so that the IT Help Desk stays up to date with technology trends?
  • Is there a structure available which ensure that proper training can be given to the personnel?
  • Can the compensation be structured in such a way that employee retention is feasible?
  • Does the company have the space and equipment to allocate towards building a Class "A" Help Desk?
A lot of companies realize, once they do the case review, that it would make a whole lot of sense to outsource the IT Help Desk. Yet..they keep it in House because of mainly one concern.

C level executives sometimes like to hold on to non mission critical departments because they feel that they are part of the overall corporate culture. They want to maintain the same level of standards and excellence throughout the organization. 
This of course makes perfect sense. 

What corporations have to realize though is that outsourcing their Help Desk does represent an opportunity to build a better operation. Outsourcing Help Desk functions should not be just an exercise in cost cutting...it should be a concerted effort to improve upon the existing infrastructure and client relationships.

It of course does take some effort to strategically set out to build a better external Help Desk. The effort though will be well worth the rewards. 

Outsourcing the Help Desk, done properly, should deliver on improving  the following Key Performance Indicators:
  1. Shift ongoing CapEx spent to OpEx Spent
  2. Reduce overall spent allocated towards IT Help Desk Operations
  3. Upgrade IT Help Desk Capabilities, make it available during off hours and/or weekends
  4. Utilize the Help Desk for both B2B and B2C service needs 
  5. Continued process of Quality Improvement 
  6. Continued build of Support Library , building up documentation
  7. Continuous and improved feedback of problems into the IT Department to develop better functionality

Every organization has its own requirements. Generally speaking though the above KPI's are universally applicable to build a better IT Help Desk.

At the end of the day the most important issue is customer satisfaction. 

If done right an outsourced IT Held Desk will be able to deliver on that performance indicator...and this should be the most important consideration when it comes to outsourcing an IT Help Desk.