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Keoghs gears up to build AI-backed ‘virtual assistant’

Rowe: What we’ve managed to do is Nirvana really

An artificial intelligence-backed (AI) “virtual assistant” to augment the work of lawyers in large-loss cases is being developed by defendant law firm Keoghs.

The firm is also to launch a medical reports reader later this year as part of its platform aimed at low-value claims.

Also in the future, the firm’s Lauri digital automation platform will be extended in a suite of new products to include one addressing credit hire.

Lauri was first launched [1] in 2017, aiming to cut legal costs for insurer clients by enabling them to handle low-value work previously done by lawyers, by automating the negotiation of standard cases pre-litigation.

The potential of Lauri to assess the contents of medical reports was highlighted at the launch but the next step would be an advance on what can currently be gleaned from case documents.

Dene Rowe, Keoghs’ innovation director, told Legal Futures that the medical report product would use machine learning and make “AI decisions from different documents, pushing that onto a process management platform to be able to automate valuations and send that valuation back as a first response on those low-value personal injury cases”.

He added: “It will be particularly useful with the [whiplash] reforms around the corner – the ability to automate low-value claims without human touch.”

He expected to be going live later this year with the product.

On the horizon, the team that developed Lauri in the first place was working on two products, the first dealing with credit hire, which is again a similar type of high-volume, low-value dispute.

The second would address large loss, which are more paper-heavy disputes where Keoghs would be looking to augment the work of lawyers “in terms of making them more efficient”, rather than replacing entire processes end-to-end with an automated tool.

Mr Rowe described this second product as “almost like a virtual assistant for the lawyer”.

He said Lauri had easily recouped the cost of developing the technology in terms of improving the firm’s efficiency and increasing the overall volume of instructions by some 35%.

Some 10% of cases prove unsuitable for the automated platform but, where it does handle claims, human input is taken out of the equation entirely. Insurer clients pay the firm a small fee – a fraction of what it was previously.

He said: “What we’ve managed to do is Nirvana really… because it’s been an attractive product for clients, reducing their costs… [and] we’ve been able to reduce our own costs of processing.

“So it’s a true win all round because it’s actually increased the profitability of the firm rather than decreased it.”

He predicted that, in future, new work for defendant firms would flow from an increased use of insurance products to cover liabilities arising from a greater adoption of AI products by professional services businesses.

“Where humans make individual mistakes, AI can make systematic mistakes. So you can see how in future there would be more of a focus on the people and the technologies who are programming and automating professional services.

“Insurance is currently based on individual negligence, where you’re looking at the professional providing the advice which is covered by that policy.

“My view is that with the advent of AI and automation, a lot of that risk suddenly turns to the creators. I anticipate there will be something like product liability insurance for automation products being the norm rather than those professional indemnity policies.”

Meanwhile, fellow defendant firm Kennedys has launched ‘Portal Manager’, its latest product in its stated aim of “helping clients use lawyers less”. It forms part of Kennedys’ own ‘virtual lawyer’, KLAiM.

It generates real-time information on the number of claims an insurer has in the Ministry of Justice claims portal at any one time, including insights on how long each stage is taking, which claims are falling out – or are close to falling out – and leakage points.

Kennedys said it was the first law firm to integrate with the portal in this way and a “major” global insurer that piloted it has achieved “substantial savings” in both indemnity spend and operational efficiencies as a result.

Leading the implementation of Portal Manager is Alan Collins, who has joined Kennedys from the Motor Insurers Bureau, where he was responsible for the design and build of the new whiplash claims portal due to be implemented in April.