News that Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence has beaten the world’s best human player of Go will make even the hardest sceptic wonder what task is now safe from the march of the machines. Obiter would once have bet on the barristers’ clerk. While AI is capable of taking over many back-office legal tasks, surely the legendary people skills and business acumen of the old-school clerk are impossible to reduce to binary digits? Maybe not – because Billy Bot, a ‘junior clerk robot’, is ready for lift-off.
Billy is the brainchild of barristers chambers Clerksroom and its managing director Stephen Ward. A fixture at Clerksroom for some time, he can now be connected to chambers management software MLC to ‘assist clerks around the country’.
The link up means Billy, a ‘cheeky chappie who loves to chat’ according to his website, can assist in administrative processes such as barrister availability, conflict checking, and creating and booking cases. Chambers across the UK can integrate with Billy to ‘make better use of clerks’ time’.
Ward says: ‘The traditional chamber management process is needlessly cumbersome. A clerk has to take the enquiry details, query the diary, carry out a conflict check, create the booking and send confirmation. They also need to allocate the case to the most suited barrister and agree the fee or budget with the solicitor. Over 50% of these actions can be automated.’
We shall see. In the meantime, Obiter wonders how good Billy is on the trolleys.