The word “chatbot” has definitely been the buzz word for 2017. Everywhere and everyone was talking about chatbots in the high Tech ecosystem.
As chatbots and AI are evolving rapidly, they are gradually penetrating into our daily lives. Chatbots were already adopted by many different industries, especially into marketing and client servicing. Brands are now embracing the power of chatbots to shift the way their consumers interact with them.
While it guides the user on some basic problems, it simultaneously raises a unique and unprecedented opportunity for lawyers and law firms to interact and engage with their potential clientele who will later require much more complex advice.
Lawyers can see a great value in offering an online interface through their websites to ask questions on certain issues and allow immediate, tailored answers. Such answers output can wear sophisticated forms such as: a report, a document, a form or a simple contract.
Realizing the potential, many service-oriented non-legal companies have already set foot on this arena (See, for example, Do Not Pay).
However, there is now a huge opportunity for law firms who can leverage their expertise and offer a simple chat-bot-like an interface for various legal issues to the prospective clientele while forging trust-worthy relations in an effective and efficient manner.
Norton Fulbright Rose, a leading law firm in Australia, claims to have increased efficiency multifold by being able to reach at least 1,000 users per day. The firm’s chatbot was developed to give basic answers to questions about changes in data protection and privacy regulations (https://www.ft.com/content/0eabcf44-4c83-11e8-97e4-13afc22d86d4).
There are however grey areas in the RPC that leave the firms with considerable vagueness in the use of online marketing tools. The commentaries on both the RPCs of New York and California postulate that Instant Messaging (IM) services are not to be used.
This restriction is premised on the presumption that lawyers who are trained in the art of persuasion might pressure the client into hiring them without allowing the client adequate time and options for consideration.
Using online chatbot-like-interfaces provides the firm’s target audience the ability to get basic advice, tailored to their circumstances, by inputting information to the interface. For more detailed service, or for more complex issues they will reach out to the assistance of an experienced lawyer. When used in this manner, the premise on which IMs are barred loses relevance as the chatbots are designed to give basic answers to the queries of clients without the intervention of a lawyer.
There are extremely high chances that they will contact the firm with which they have already started their engagement online and received great value. That’s how the firm can focus on further advisory works that require their expertise and judgment.
In order to stay true to the clients, it is ethical to disclose that the interface is a bot and not a human. Similarly, the data that is received during this initial interaction should be handled securely while being transparent to the users.
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