SPOILER ALERT: AI has got lost along the way

Why AI is very good at some things, and not so good at others

AI is going to change the world. Of course it is. It just has to.

Won’t it? 🤷

In this blog post, I want to look at some of the myths around AI, and how we’ve navigated them at Avail. As a risk averse group, lawyers have a difficult relationship with AI, and to be honest, it’s pretty clear why!

A recent book from a prominent practitioner of AI, Erik J Larson, claims that AI cannot become what we (really really) want it to be, because of the way it is designed. It’s inherently flawed. Hmm 😟, that’s a worrying starting point.

The problem with AI ‘changing the world’

The key problem is that AI is simply a narrow definition of ‘intelligence’. It’s a product of super computers applying logic, deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning to large datasets, but crucially missing out abductive reasoning. Let’s break these down:

  • Deductive Reasoning – 2️⃣ ➕ 2️⃣ 🟰 4️⃣
  • Inductive Reasoning – Yesterday I was fed (🥓 🥞) at 9am, so tomorrow should be the same
  • Abductive Reasoning – This could also be called intuition: you don’t objectively know why the student didn’t do their homework, but you are pretty sure the dog didn’t eat it

AI was not meant to be this way when you think about it! This is why grand predictions about AI regularly fall short. For example, Elon Musk has promised self-driving cars ‘next year’ every year since 2014. He says they’re coming next year, which they feasibly could 🔮 But what does your gut tell you…? 

We may be waiting awhile. But, you know who isn’t waiting about…? The police, who get better at giving speeding tickets every single year. No wonder really, because there can only ever be one Jeremy Clarkson, driving an orange supercar with a personalised ‘POWER’ numberplate and power ballads on the radio.

So, this is our starting point – AI is not magic, AI cannot replicate the human brain, and no matter how hard someone tries to persuade you otherwise, it needs to be used with caution! AI works when there is a narrow objective, or a limited number of variables.

The reality of AI

On every training session for Avail we give, we make a point of saying that “AI is very good at some things, and not so good at others”. Working with a defined, consistent dataset you can build a product that is incredibly accurate and best-in-class. At Avail, we are 9️⃣7️⃣-9️⃣9️⃣% accurate because we apply our AI to ask an objective question only, like “Is there a charge registered against this title? If so, what does it say?”.

Avail does not go beyond this brief, and by doing so avoids the problem in asking AI to use abductive reasoning. To go deeper and opine on commercial risk as well as legal risk would mean trying to replicate the intuition of an experienced real estate fee earner. There’s a reason why clients pay lawyers – commercial risk analysis involves a vortex of variables and ill-defined information.

At the end of the day, in law in particular, commercial issues are not always purely technical points. They often involve judgement based on personal risk matrices and appetite. You are dealing with people: their vested interests, emotional ties and, sometimes, irrationality.

This could be best expressed by the famous Mike Tyson quote “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. 👊⁉️

So, where does this leave us?

In a standard real estate transaction, there is quite simply no substitute for practical experience when it comes to understanding what a client is willing to accept, or what risks they consider to be red flag commercial risks. No machine or programming can replicate that experience. AI should be used to help on transactions, but in its current form, should never be expected to replace.

And that’s what we do! Avail is an efficiency tool that uses AI to help real estate fee earners surface risk faster, identify red flags on day 1️⃣ rather than day 5️⃣0️⃣, and ultimately supercharge their final report on title 🚀. It remains objective in identifying possible legal risk and never pre-supposes commercial risk.

Nothing more, nothing less. 😌


Needs of the many, not the few – why “per user” licensing in legaltech sucks

Why Avail offers access to EVERY fee earner in your real estate team

Information is often touted as power, and for software-as-a-service (SAAS) products, access is also power. Adoption is key, it’s what makes the difference between success or failure.

So it’s a bit weird that it’s common for legaltech products to offer law firms a pricing model based on how many users have access to it. This is known as “per user” licensing – the more fee earners want to use the tech, the more you pay.

We think this is a HUGE mistake 👎, so that’s why Avail’s subscription model is not based on this 👍. We only ever open up Avail to everyone in a firm’s real estate team through one dedicated link they can share around, so that everyone wins, not just a select few. For Avail, we save save fee earners 10/20 minutes per title register analysed (at a minimum), so why would we restrict this to only those who the firm “wanted” to have access?!

But really, what are the benefits of doing it this way versus a “per user” route? 🤷

Faster and simpler onboarding

Gone is the magical merry-go-round of forgetting passwords, trying to reset them, getting locked out and having to call your PSL for help. Avail is an efficiency tool, so spending 2️⃣ or even 3️⃣ minutes ‘just signing onto the b****y thing’ is no good for anyone! 

We give every law firm a dedicated SSO link that fee earners can click on to login automatically to Avail. One click, and everyone in the team can access our platform.

“Can’t you use SSO with just a few people?” some of you might cry! Well yes, but this also involves adding and removing people from the relevant SSO group (⚠️ techy chat ⚠️), which in itself is an administrative burden that someone has to shoulder.

Maintain YOUR working practices

You never quite know who’s going to use a legaltech product in a transaction – is it the fee earner? Do they ask their secretaries to use these types of products? Do they like to use document support teams? Maybe a team partner asks his juniors to do certain things for them?

If we used a “per user” model, suddenly you have a product which is asking fee earners to change the way they normally work to suit licence restrictions… 🐌

If we remove this barrier to entry, adoption increases. Fee earners can work the way they normally work. With access for entire teams, we see adoption rates of above 60% at some law firm clients, clients who just happen have the largest real estate legal teams in the UK.

A stronger business case

The more fee earners that use a piece of tech, the stronger the business case or return is for a law firm. It’s that simple really. By increasing the number of the team who can use a product, you increase the number of people who will use a product . Easy maths.

Avoid the 2022 brain drain

If COVID and recent market movements have taught us anything, it’s that lateral movement between real estate teams is on the cards for many, many associates. Limited roll outs of products means that if one of your “key users” leaves the firm, you then have to onboard and train someone new to take their place. You waste time, your firm wastes time, and your business case for that legaltech platform is affected… 😟

So what does this mean…

To create real change when it comes to using legaltech products, law firms have to hit material adoption within a team. But when software providers create a licensing model where only certain users have access, this makes a difficult task almost impossible.

Remember that with most tech, little and often is the way to go. If a fee earner saves ten minutes per title, across a team of a hundred real estate lawyers, that equals BIG savings. 🚀 This is why Avail is one of the fastest growing B2B legaltech companies in the UK 🚀