Like seeing the dentist, booking an appointment with a doctor, or finding time to get your computer fixed, hiring a lawyer is often pushed into the Too Hard Basket.
Complicated legalese, the looming bills, and the simple fact of time often intimidate many into simply moving on with life despite there being a good chance that a lawyer could help.
Australian law firm IRIQ has tapped Brisbane-based technology group Blackbook.ai to develop an artificially intelligent chat bot that promises to take the pain out of contacting a lawyer.
The chatbot Riqi has been designed specifically to assist employees who are having difficulties with employment problems like unfair dismissal, unlawful termination, workplace bullying, workplace discrimination, underpayments and general protections.
Developed over the last 12 months, Riqi has been built with convenience in mind: it is online 24/7 responding to questions, seeking information, and advising potential clients whether they likely have a strong case.
Blackbook.ai CEO Thuy Lam (pictured right) explains how a chatbot of this kind in the legal industry is a revolutionary moment for the sector.
"A lot of people that get unfairly dismissed are generally people that work in hospitality, over the weekend. What we wanted was to give them access to an automated system which allowed them to essentially get an immediate response but also to capture the kind of question and answer that generally a user would spend almost half a day in front of a lawyer to do," says Lam.
"It encourages them to act a bit more responsible as opposed to being annoyed about it; some people won't even go and see a lawyer because it's inconvenient to see a lawyer. We felt like a lot of employees needed this kind of immediate access at a reasonable cost on their platform so that they can actually work out what their rights."
Over the last decade chatbots have proliferated around the internet, but you've likely rarely seen them outside of the context of online shopping where they have been taken up on a large scale.
The legal sector in Australia has been fast to embrace technology but given its complexities firms have been reluctant to introduce the AI chatbot as part of the general process of seeing a lawyer.
With the launch of Riqi Lam believes that AI technology will embed itself into the legal sector, just not in the way one might expect.
"Generally, with chatbots they're pretty quick to develop, especially for retail, but once you start getting into legal and IR law there's a lot of rigorous testing and also the questions and answers need to be in human speak as opposed to legal speak," says Lam.
"We had to untangle that so anybody could access it and talk to the machine in almost common language as opposed to legal language. That's why it took a lot of time to build."
"I think there's always going to be lawyers that go in to argue cases in front of a judge, there's no replacing them, but I think what AI will do in the industry will open it up to access to other people out there that have ignored the idea of going to see a lawyer."
"What this does is make the legal language a bit more generic, a bit more common, a bit more useful to the way that you and I converse in the real world which is great."
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