Hey Google! What’s your Legal Endgame?
Early April Google snapped its finger and unleashed their A.I. on corporate contracts. What’s the Endgame?
While watching the cool voice services being unveiled at Google IO, I couldn’t shake the one they did a couple of weeks earlier at Google Next on documents understanding A.I. It slowly dawned on me why they entered the legal industry specifically through contracts. This move can be viewed from a couple of angles but here’s the one I see really moving the needle.
Let’s address some concerns many echoed when the news first hit about Google doing contracts. Can the Legal Industry trust Google with corporate data? Wouldn’t they just sell it to the highest bidder and post ads alongside your contract like in Gmail? In the short term, that would backfire right away. The legal industry can not relinquish data in that fashion, lawyers are bound by ethics.
However, here’s the paradox: 2 of the top 4 most expensive keywords globally in Google AdWords are the ones lawyers buy. If you run a traffic check on any of the popular LegalTech companies sites that recently raised large sums, you’ll notice that a significant chunk of their traffic isn’t organic. Like many other businesses, they heavily rely on AdWords, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. So even when professionals have ethical standards, the unit economic reality remains harsh. The Legal industry needs Google to prop up volume and drum up demand may be more than others.
So as creepy as it may sound, showing ads on your corporate data is as crazy as renting your couch to a stranger. In the future, an algorithm can anonymously pick the name of the most suitable professional or firm to handle a certain legal matter. Of course, you’ll have to opt-in and adjust the permissions on your corporate data like any other privacy setting. From the perspective of a consumer of legal services and the eventual file owner, this will be different. They may not mind an objective mathematical suggestion of the best legal provider. Especially if the suggested provider is cheaper than your current one.
At the other end of the spectrum sits Data Security. One of the most famous data leaks in human history ( Panama Papers) originated from a Law Firm. Attorneys may be adept at securing legal risk but IT ones aren’t their forte. The medical industry has elaborate laws like HIPAA to handle health data, while the legal industry operates on a pinky swear. Data breaches can happen to anyone but many rely on Google, Apple, Microsoft & Amazon (GAMA) to secure documents. They possess enough engineering expertise and financial firepower to protect our files against breaches or ransomware. Professionally, we’ll be reluctant but remember, personally we already entrust GAMA to secure our most intimate photos.
Another argument states that Google may not have the expertise to handle the legal heavy lifting. Google’s goal is to have everyone play and apply their A.I. on any data. And if they want their machine to take the lead in legal they need to feed it as much legal data as it can. Specifically of the ‘dark matter’ variety meaning data behind corporate firewalls.
That is why Google partnered with corporate data custodians that could provide it with access to dark matter.
Combined with Google ($890B), they represent about $1.3 trillion of consumer trust in them handling any type of data. Now, why would they pick contracts and agreements?
One reason Google and others choose contracts is their immediate impact on a company’s bottom line. All companies need to track income or manage their spend and most of those numbers are buried in contracts. The Legal Industry tends to get wrapped up in the minutiae of legal problems. However, companies have more pressing practical issues like is this a profitable deal or am I being defrauded.
As we hinted in our previous post ‘ Breach’, the new players aren’t so much interested in legal hazards but rather the financial analytics. We provided some samples of Sales and Enterprise startups managing customers contracts. In the last months, some curious new services latched on this trend of managing subscriptions. G2Crowd recently launched a service called Track to manage software spend, usage, contracts, and compliance. Similarly, Product Hunt offers Founders Club: a single membership with access to a group of tools and services. In short: a single contract to manage others.
Bottom line, more players are getting into the ‘contract management’ game to support better financial decisions. This ever-expanding group understands that the facts and figures matter just as much as the legal clauses. Better financial management starts with good contract insights. Yet, getting into corporate contract management may not be the most lucrative space.
We live in a subscription economy where both our professional and personal well-being are tied to periodical payments. Instead of purchasing stuff, we are moving to a licensing model for our everyday needs. We all feel the soft squeeze of fees impose by these subscriptions. And that is because recurring revenue became an I.V. drip for most companies.
So the bigger market for contracts isn’t corporate, it is consumers. They may not have the means to acquire elaborate vendor management expertise but the same principle applies. That is why credit services, insurance companies, and personal finance apps will bypass banks and go straight for the contracts. Yet understanding these particular documents still mostly resides with a human legal professional, not a machine. And due to the massive scale for this need of understanding, makes this endeavor economically unsustainable.
Let’s forget about the technology or the industry for a second. Picture yourself in your living room when you suddenly get a spark: can I lower my insurance costs today? Where can I stream Avengers: Endgame for the lowest price? Or how about all my vendor contracts that have 90-day payment terms?
Your smart speaker wakes up…
Originally published at https://www.legalcomplex.com on May 14, 2019.