Interview: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Law with Chris Garrod, Director of Insurance and Technology at Conyers Dill & Pearman

In this episode of On Record PR, Jennifer Simpson Carr goes on record with Chris Garrod, Director of Insurance and Technology and head of the FinTech group at Conyers Dill & Pearman, to discuss the impact of artificial intelligence on the practice of law.

More About Chris Garrod

Chris Garrod is a Director in the Corporate department of Conyers Dill & Pearman. He is a member of the firm’s insurance practice in Bermuda.

Chris specializes in advising on reinsurance and ILS structures, including large commercial insurers, life reinsurers, special purpose insurers, cat bonds, sidecars and segregated account vehicles. In addition to his insurance practice, he also advises on all aspects of Bermuda corporate law, including mergers and acquisitions, takeovers, reorganizations and re-domestications. He has also formed cryptocurrency vehicles using blockchain-based technology, forming Bermuda’s first digital token issuer in late 2017. Chris is also a member of the Government of Bermuda’s Blockchain legal and working group and the Bermuda Business Development Agency’s Blockchain working group.

With over 15 years of experience working in Bermuda’s reinsurance market, Chris acts for a number of large commercial insurers/reinsurers including Assured Guaranty, Chubb, Essent Re, Everest Re, Markel Corporation, Sirius International Insurance Group, Tokio Millennium Re, White Mountains Insurance Group, XL Group, and Zurich Insurance Group.

He has also been involved in the formation of a number of segregated account “alternative” reinsurance and ILS platforms, acting for reinsurers, investment hedge funds, investment managers, pension plans, investment banks and listed companies. Additionally, he acts for numerous Lloyd’s syndicates which have Bermuda platforms. Finally, Chris sits on various reinsurance and captive boards in a non-executive capacity advising on Bermuda insurance regulatory and general corporate legal updates to those boards.

Internationally recognized as a leading lawyer, Chris has been recommended in a number of legal directories including Chambers Global and Legal 500, where clients note that his “main strengths are his responsiveness and depth of knowledge” and that he is “very knowledgeable about Bermuda regulations and has a good working relationship with the Bermuda Monetary Authority”.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Welcome to the show, Chris. I often speak about using the power of social media to grow professional networks, and our meeting is certainly a testament to that. I had read an article that you wrote regarding AI and the transformation of law, and we had the opportunity to connect on Twitter and then by email. And, here we are together on the show today.

Chris Garrod: That was probably one of my very first articles. I had started my blog a while back and as a hobby. I think the first one I did was how we’re all going to rely on robots at some point in the future.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: I’m glad to be talking about that to you today because the impact of technology in the legal profession comes up often in our conversations with clients and with referral sources. Before we dive into the discussion:

Could you tell our listeners more about Conyers and your role at the firm?

I’m a director at Conyers Dill & Pearman Limited. We’re the oldest and the biggest law firm on the island. I’ve been practicing there for just over 25 years now in that corporate department. We have offices in Bermuda, BVI and Cayman. We also practice Bermuda, BVI and Cayman law. We have offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and London, and they practice all three laws as well in those offices. I do a mixture of reinsurance and corporate, and I’m the head of the firm’s FinTech group.

Being a FinTech attorney, I must admit that I’m a bit of a geek, and that’s actually kind of how I got interested in things like artificial intelligence, just meeting people on social media and Twitter in particular and through FinTech. That was how I fell into AI and robotics and the Internet of things and machine learning.

Could you talk a little bit about the difference between automation and artificial intelligence?

Automation and artificial intelligence – sometimes you hear them sort of mixed up in the same sentence and they are very different things. We use automation at Conyers now with automated tasks for legal opinions. In the past when I had to do a legal opinion, it was a question of printing out a document that was manual, marking it up with a pen and paper, and giving it to my assistant. Then, she would have to produce something for me, and I’d have to then mark it up again and give it back to her and so on and so forth. It was a long-winded task.

Now, we have a system where lawyers are a lot more computer savvy. You’re entering information into the computer directly, and it’s very easy to do. You’re just popping in information and then all of a sudden, a document is produced and that’s it, everything is completely automated. It requires a lot less reliance on an assistant; it’s far quicker. It applies to things like simple contracts, simple legal opinions, things in corporations and so on, things which used to require a lot more time now can be done in a more effortless way. It’s a time-saving process.

Artificial intelligence, however, is really a layer upon our automation. It’s a lot different. It is something which is far deeper. It’s machine learning, deep learning. It’s actually trying to mimic human intelligence. It is not just me putting information into a computer and it’s spitting out something. It’s actually something along the lines of, “Well, I need to get something to replicate what is going in my head.” It’s the actual knowledge that’s kind of going through my mind, but it’s replicating that in some way, shape or form, in the legal sense, I suppose.

That’s something which we’re not currently doing right now, very few firms I would say are doing that right now. There is a firm Luminance. It’s something that firms can outsource to. They are an AI-powered firm that collect tons of data, and firms will use them to produce contracts and so on. It is an extremely intensive process where loads of information enters their system. But that is an extreme process, which is not just an automated process.

You’re going to see robots one day, but it’s one level beyond automation. Machine learning is certainly something which I don’t think many firms themselves would do internally. Maybe some of the big firms are already doing it, but certainly very few firms are doing it.

What are some examples of data input and output in the legal industry, and how do you see those evolving?

It’s the input of data and then the output of data related to incorporations or simple contracts or drafting wills. You can go online and work out how to draft a will. That’s the thing, it’s actually just inputting data and then all of a sudden pressing enter and you will get a certain piece of information. That’s a document that comes out of it. There’s some concern that this will result in the loss of jobs.

Because we’re suddenly incorporating companies and producing all these legal opinions and we’re doing contract reviews and all this sort of stuff. As a result, are we cutting out jobs from people who are currently doing this for us? I believe we’re not going to be doing that.

People used to say, “Look, when we have the interaction of robots in factories, for instance, all of the workers who worked in the factories would all of a sudden be made redundant and they’d lose their jobs.” But no, in a lot of these industries the actual factory workers themselves ended up keeping their jobs, but they just were retaught and reskilled. They wanted to keep their jobs, and the employers wanted to keep working with these people.

What’s going to probably happen with the legal industry as well is that with artificial intelligence being ramped up more over time and with automation already being introduced, I think we’re going to see a lot more people being retaught and reskilled.

We don’t want to lose employees. I’m sure a lot of our employees don’t want to leave us either, hopefully. But we can use those people and we want them to stay with us. It’s just going to be a matter of reskilling. I think that’s going to be the way forward with this industry.

What are some examples of legal knowledge and analysis in the legal industry, and how do you see those evolving in the practice of law?

In China they’ve been using AI-powered apps for the purposes of courts, judgments, and all sorts of things. In the U.S., they’ve been experimenting with artificial intelligence in courtrooms.

I think we shouldn’t move too quickly in this space, particularly in artificial intelligence and the legal tech space. I think there are a lot of dangers if we move too quickly.

There are examples regarding things like facial recognition that we need to be mindful of. Because there have been studies where defendants who are minorities or who are non-whites are more likely to be found guilty than white defendants when facial recognition technology is involved.

That’s simply functional because the people who have programmed the actual artificial intelligence are predominantly white males. Whatever you put into this programming is whatever you get out of it. Data is only as unbiased as the heads and hands of its creators. We need to ensure that we are mindful of where we’re moving, especially in the courtroom.

In my field working as a corporate lawyer, it would be great if I one day have an AI robot to get me a cup of coffee or something along those lines. I would love that to happen in five years’ time. That is not going to happen anytime soon, but I also don’t believe we’re going to have evil robots either. I don’t think there will be evil, legal robots, unless we make evil, legal robots. I would hate to see an evil, legal robot or judge for that matter. That’s actually scary, unless you need an evil litigator. That would be a pretty fun day in the courtroom if that ever happened.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: The seats would be filled.

Chris Garrod: I’ll be at the back of the room, that’s for sure.

What are some limitations to these technologies, and can they be overcome?

The limitations are, in my view, somewhat obvious. No matter what we think AI can do to help attorneys, the ultimate thing which AI really can’t do is replicate empathy, where a human touch is going to be really required. People talk about AI like we’re going to have killer robots. But whatever you put in is going to be whatever comes out. Whoever is behind the technology is going to be what you get out of it.

As much as I would like to have a robot sitting next to me holding my hand saying, “There, there, Chris. It’s okay, it’s okay,” it’s not going to happen for a number of years. But even if it was, it could very well grab my leg and say, “This is not going to happen, Chris.” Because the person behind it has basically programmed it to grab my leg and say, “This is not going to happen, Chris.”

You need that level of empathy. A robot’s not going to be able to replicate that because it has to be programmed. And it’s not a programmable technology now.

That’s the major limitation we have. I like to think that we always seem to have the human touch to whatever we do right now as lawyers in particular. Because I think it’s really important.

How do you think technology will change the way that you handle clients and their expectations regarding how matters are handled for them?

With the use of automation, we’re going to do things far more efficiently. I’m going to be able to produce a legal opinion or any form of contract in a different format than the way I’m doing now. It’s just going to be inputting. I’m still going to have to review the documents, which I’m going to append upon, but the actual production of the contract itself is going to take up far less time. at some point in time.

When we hit a point when AI becomes sophisticated enough that we are producing stuff and clients are getting it, the time spent model will be unsustainable. We’re going to have to ask clients, “How do you want to be charged for this matter and how can we help you?”

The whole point of artificial intelligence is not just to make our own lives easier as lawyers, but also for our clients. How do we make their lives easier from a service perspective? And if we’re not doing it correctly, then what’s the point of even doing it?

I think from a lawyer standpoint, things could change as well. Every new trainee wants to work for one huge law firm. That could change in years to come. You may want to look at working for a more boutique small law firm, which just focuses on one particular aspect of law, because it’s far more nimble. It can move quickly, it can adapt. And you could also end up with a certain kind of a gig economy. You could have lawyers who basically end up being gig-type attorneys who work when they want and where they want.

There are going to be so many different models in the future, because automation and artificial intelligence opens up all sorts of doors. I’m pretty excited about that, whether it’s in five years’ time or 10 years’ time or 50 years’ time.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: We already see that the generations of young lawyers coming up have grown up with technology. In order for law firms to remain competitive in attracting and retaining top talent, they really do need to evolve their stance on technology. For those of us that didn’t get a cell phone until college

Chris Garrod: Or later in life…

Jennifer Simpson Carr: Yes, and not a smartphone. It was a simple touch pad of numbers, right? These generations of lawyers coming up grew up with smartphones and grew up with this technology. Law firms will need to evolve and adapt technology in order to remain competitive, not only with their clients compared to what their competitors are doing, but also to retain the talent coming up. Because I do think we’ve seen the last couple of years that the work model has already changed. I agree with you that it will continue to do so just as these technologies evolve.

In light of all of these advancements, what guidance would you offer these younger attorneys who are early in their career about approaching their practice of law?

I trained two years at what was Denton Hall back then, and now is Dentons, I think it’s the biggest firm in the world now. The trainees were working as the cogs in a machine. They were paginating, sharing offices with mounds of paper around them. That was one of the reasons I actually came back to Bermuda, because I felt, “Well, at least I can get my foot in the door and get started.”

But I would say to people who are starting up in this process, keep an open mind. I feel like you’re really lucky because this is a brand-new world. You’re entering into the brand-new legal world where you won’t be just a cog in a machine. You’re going to have the ability to learn a lot more.

There was a good quote I actually came across on the Luminance website. It was by a partner, Gavin Williams of Holland & Knight. What he said was that AI basically allowed him to spend more time being a lawyer as opposed to being a detective. I thought that’s great. I spend a lot of time looking for precedents, looking up things I’ve done in the past, looking up all sorts of stuff until I find something.

Ten years from now, you’ll be able to just be a lawyer and you won’t be a cog in this machine, you’ll be able to actually function as a lawyer. I would say, “Look, you won’t just be working in a firm which will be a dinosaur. You should hopefully be able to use your training and skills. And you won’t just be that detective trying to look for information.”

You’ll be able to use those skills right away. I’m so excited for future generations coming up right now, because they’re very lucky.

What are your thoughts on how these advancements and technology can support the underprivileged?

I’d like to think that we’ll get to a point where lawyers with free time, whether it’s because they’re not working in huge law firms, whether they’re gig attorneys, or whether they’re working in smaller boutique firms, will be able to help those who are underprivileged – those who can’t afford or don’t have access to legal services and the ability to obtain legal advice.

They will now be able to get access to legal advice because there will be more gig attorneys who will have that flexibility to provide that kind of legal advice, or they will just be attorneys who are working for firms and will simply have more time to provide pro bono legal advice.

I will sometimes give pro bono legal advice on the side, but I don’t have loads of time to do that. But as time frees up for more attorneys, they hopefully have more time to provide more pro bono advice to others. That’s something which is just a function of the way we can work. That’s something which we can hopefully encourage in junior attorneys as well as they come up in the system. That’s going to be another a benefit to society as a whole.

Jennifer Simpson Carr: There are so many great opportunities you’ve touched on, not only for junior attorneys who may be new to the profession, but also service to communities in need. I will drop a link to an interview that we conducted with an attorney who leads the efforts at a law firm for their pro bono support. And I think it’s a wonderful interview because it talks about not only the benefits to the pro bono clients, but the benefits to the attorneys internally who get the chance to work together, who otherwise aren’t on the same matters, and how that helps internal collaboration. Chris, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been a lot of fun. I’m so glad we got to talk about the potential of robotic litigators in a courtroom. If that happens, we’re definitely going to have another interview together.

Chris Garrod: Thanks, Jennifer.

Listen to Episode 83: Cultivating Meaningful DE&I: The Positive Impact of Pro Bono with Thomas McHugh of Bressler Amery & Ross

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Chris Garrod

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Twitter: @ChrisGGarrod