60 seconds with Stephen Ward - Managing Director of Clerksroom

Sep 15th, 2017 by Hewetson & Co

Q: Are you the champion of AI at the Bar?

A: I’m still not convinced about the use of the term “AI” as most innovation is in the area of chat bots and automation. I think the Bar is a long way off from proper AI. I hope we can become the champion of Chat Bots for chambers but our real focus is on what is called swivel chair technology. Our aim is to reduce the workload of the clerks by automating repetitive processes that lend themselves to automation. Chat bots are fun and if you get it right, they can save a huge amount of clerks time. One project we are working through with Advanced Legal is the taking of bookings and putting them into the diary. A saving of 167 clicks!

Q: What is the elevator pitch for ‘Billy Bot’?

A: If you need a lawyer for advocacy, advice or mediation, Billy Bot can help. We offer our services to lawyers and non-lawyers. So that’s everyone on the planet then!

Q: And Billy now has a girlfriend called Lisa?

A: Robot LISA is now connected to Billy with an API. They talk to each other without human interaction. What they get up to in the server room overnight is private. Don’t ask!

Q: What does this partnership offer the Bar?

A: Inspiration! The point about this relationship is that it’s an example of a chat bot helping our clients and saving clerks time. It’s an example, just the starting point but it proves that API’s work and now our only barrier is coming up with innovative ways of using the bot to further automate chambers’ processes. Just to be clear, we have no intention of providing legal services, just admin automation.

Q: You are a former clerk. Should other clerks see Billy as a threat?

A: No. The immediate concern when a clerk sees how Billy works is to panic. Every clerk I’ve ever met starts with telling me how busy they are. I ask the question, what would you do if you had more time and they rattle off a list of tasks they would love to focus on if they had more time. If we get Billy right (and now he’s looking to save our clerking team of 20 clerks, 250,000 clicks a month), we will save a lot of clerks time which can be used for marketing, practice development and building relationships with our clients. Surely that is what highly skilled clerks should be doing, not taking booking details down on paper, adding into a case management system and then checking 50-100 diaries to see who can do it. Automation allows clerks to focus on the bits that need their skills, like allocation, fees and members development. Is just my view, I appreciate I may be alone on this!

Q: What’s next for Clerksroom?

A: We have a lot happening right now with 15 new insurance contracts due to go live over the coming months and many new barristers joining us. Our next big project is to look at developing the business on an international basis, capitalising on the use of barristers in England & Wales for advice and advocacy in the areas around the globe where English Law is the go-to law for contact. We are working on a project in the UAE at the moment with Dubai and Singapore showing interest. It is very early days on the new Clerksroom International project with research and development planned for January 18 to June 18. If all goes well, we should launch the new service middle of next year. Then we might take a break as we cross sell between Clerksroom Barristers, Clerksroom Mediation, Clerksroom Direct, Clerksroom International and Billy Bot connects them all together.


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