A few weeks ago in my column at Above the Law, I wrote about the growing number of law-related chatbots. “Suddenly, it seems, new law-related chatbots are springing up regularly,” I wrote. “It is premature to say they are taking off in the legal industry, but they are certainly making a splash and drawing attention.”
When I wrote that, one place I had not seen a law-related chatbot was on LinkedIn. Well, now there is one, with his very own LinkedIn profile, where he is available to help residents of the UK connect with a barrister.
He goes by the name Billy Bot, and he is the brainchild of Stephen Ward, a clerk and cofounder of Clerksroom, a “virtual” chambers known for its innovations in providing services and setting fees. Described as a junior clerk in training, Billy Bot is a project by Clerksroom to test artificial intelligence and how it can be used to link lawyers together to find the right barrister.
As I explained in the ATL column, a chatbot is a computer program that interacts with the user by simulating a conversation or dialog. In Billy Bot’s case, that interaction occurs via LinkedIn messaging.
Ask me a question via LinkedIn messaging and I’ll do my very best to answer. I have 27,000 contacts in my database, I can search LinkedIn, I can instantly contact up to 200 Barristers Chambers, their clerks and 12,000 Barristers. 6,000 of them have undertaken training to work directly with business and members of the public. I can even arrange a mediation in England & Wales from £500 + VAT per party on any date, at any venue.
According to an article in Legal Futures, the eventual goal is for Billy Bot to point users to free online legal resources and help them decide whether they need legal help. If they do, it would then help them find either a solicitor or barrister and make all the necessary arrangements.
If Clerksroom cannot provide a barrister for the particular need, Billy will interface with LinkedIn to identify matches for the user. If he cannot answer a question, Mr Ward said he would do what any junior clerk would do and refer it to a senior clerk – a human clerk within the Clerksroom team.
In an interview with Law.com, Ward emphasized that Billy Bot is still very much a pilot project in early stages of development. He distinguished Billy Bot from legal-information chatbots such as Do Not Pay in that it does not provide legal answers, but rather connects users with appropriate information or services.
As for Billy, his LinkedIn profile describes him as a “bit of a cheeky chappie” and says that, when he graduates, “I will be able to help real people find the right expert Barrister, check availability and quote fees based on the information provided.”