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- Prestigious law firm Baker McKenzie announced that it is partnering with SparkBeyond, an AI-powered problem-solving platform, to use data to better predict client needs.
- In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Ben Allgrove, the partner at the firm who’s spearheading the initiative, and Amir Haramaty, SparkBeyond’s chief commercial officer, shared how they plan to use tech to overcome biases inherent in data and redefine innovation in the legal industry.
- The machine learning used gives lawyers visibility into the decision-making process behind the data, enabling them to transparently justify their strategies to clients.
- “The real power for clients is going to be combining their data, Baker McKenzie’s brain, and SparkBeyond’s engine,” said Allgrove.
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Baker McKenzie is teaming up with SparkBeyond, a problem-solving platform that uses artificial intelligence, to better predict client needs and redefine innovation in the legal industry.
The partnership marks the launch of the law firm’s new global innovation arm, Reinvent Law, led by Ben Allgrove, technology partner at Baker McKenzie and global head of its research and development (R&D) department. Reinvent’s goal is to boost what tech is already being used in the legal industry: “We want to bolster what we have to become a proper SWAT team, with the proper tools and data to implement real change,” said Allgrove.
The firm’s new innovation arm is dedicated to several projects, including the one with SparkBeyond, as well as an internal fellowship program, where senior associates will be assigned specific projects and allow them to “practice evolution.”
“The word ‘innovation’ is overused, over-hyped, and increasingly becoming meaningless. People are becoming cynical with the term,” Allgrove told Business Insider in an exclusive interview. “Reinvent is the retelling of the story of something that was already happening.”
The legal industry, historically seen as a slow adopter relative to others, has recently seen a sea change in its adoption of technology. By collaborating with Baker McKenzie, SparkBeyond, which has also partnered with Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and consulting firms like McKinsey, hopes to expand its predictive technology to the legal industry, said Amir Haramaty, the platform’s chief commercial officer.
“The industry is ripe for disruption,” Haramaty said. “But it’s not just the rightness of the opportunity, but also the rightness of the partner. I don’t know how many law firms have a practicing partner that is also the head of R&D.”
The “glassbox” approach: using artificial intelligence to overcome bias and one-dimensionality in data
Through its AI technology, SparkBeyond seeks to address the issues inherent in the sheer amount of data that businesses have to sift through during their decision-making process.
“The amount of data is just growing,” explained Haramty. “The best tool in the legal industry is the human brain, but the brain comes with so many limitations, what we can call one-dimensionality — there’s only so much we can see and so much we can process.”
Technology can help overcome this one-dimensionality and the biases it can create. SparkBeyond uses a “glassbox” approach, where its machine learning will generate millions of hypotheses, assigning each scenario a score, and selecting the strongest ones through its algorithm.
“As lawyers, we have to be able to show our working,” said Allgrove. “We’re able to test the hypotheses at scale, and also justify our proposed strategies.”
These hypotheses center around questions that are at the crux of a law firm’s business: What drives client demand? Is there a signal in the data that suggests that a certain client is likely to run into a disruptive event, like an unforeseen regulatory investigation?
Machine learning ultimately enables businesses like Baker McKenzie to predict and better identify what clients need. “It allows us to make meaning out of the volatility,” said Allgrove.
Baker McKenzie plans to start feeding SparkBeyond’s glassbox its own data, before expanding to clients
Allgrove explained that the first step of Baker McKenzie’s partnership with SparkBeyond is to use the firm’s own data to build an “internal understanding” of its business. This is so as not to “guinea pig” the clients.
The internal Baker McKenzie data that will be used will include financial information, client feedback, attorney teams, and market intelligence. Allgrove said that it will not include client-owned documents or advice provided by its clients.
By combining this existing firm data with external data sets from sources like news feeds and licensed data sources, as well as the data that SparkBeyond has, and then feeding it into the “glassbox” machine for analysis, Baker McKenzie can determine the needs of its current clients.
After testing the technology internally, the firm then plans to build the platform out to a client-facing second step.
“We can go to our clients, tell them we have this approach that we’ve tested on ourselves, and ask them for their data,” said Allgrove. The additional data fed into SparkBeyond’s machine would boost the algorithm’s accuracy, and help the lawyers provide better strategic advice to their clients.
“The real power for clients is going to be combining their data, Baker McKenzie’s brain, and SparkBeyond’s engine,” he explained.
Bringing about a “real transformation” that can also have a social impact
To Allgrove, however, it’s not just about boosting business and making money. In addition to enhancing Baker McKenzie’s understanding of its own business and of its clients needs, Allgrove hopes to bring about real social impact through the partnership.
“When I flew to Israel in January for the first time to meet with SparkBeyond, we spent a lot of time talking about diversity and access to justice,” he said.
Baker McKenzie aims to leverage the capabilities of AI and apply it to other projects, Allgrove explained. He described how, within “30 seconds” of finishing his presentation at the annual partner meeting on Thursday, the firm’s pro bono director pinged him at 2 a.m. with a project idea for SparkBeyond.
This comes at a time when access to justice is more crucial than before, added Haramaty.
“We have big visions for this,” said Allgrove. “And we’re going to have some fun as well.”