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Member News: Law firm comparison study finds hope of finding the right lawyer

Previous AI Accelerator company, Legal Utopia, collaborated with The Data Lab and The University of Aberdeen to use artificial intelligence technology to make comparing law firms easier for first time users of legal services

The study found that, on existing data, the artificial intelligence results were unsatisfactory due to a severely imbalanced data landscape and, as a result, a prototype of the solution could not be released; however, the results from the Solicitors Regulation Authority produced data insights indicating a reduction in the total number of law firms operating between February 2021 and July 2021.

The reduction in law firms and user data from Legal Utopia’s mobile app is likely to make a comparison solution possible for user testing and market release soon.

The project was commissioned, on application, by Legal Utopia and generously funded by The Data Lab with academic collaboration from the School of Natural and Computing Sciences, The University of Aberdeen.

Project

The aim of the project was to calculate the weights of quality indicators (QIs) designated by Legal Utopia for scoring and evaluating all SRA-regulated legal services providers (LSPs) in the UK. Quality indicators included location, legal coverage, regulation history, and website availability as features that influence consumers into contacting a law firm.

This was swiftly followed by a 3-month artificial intelligence modelling exercise to test different ways of training algorithms to predict comparable law firms based on prior consumers searching for law firms. 

The project was commissioned, on application, by Legal Utopia and generously funded by The Data Lab with academic collaboration from the School of Natural and Computing Sciences, The University of Aberdeen.

Law Firm Comparison AI Technology

The study sought to employ classification machine learning algorithms to law firms regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The aim was to determine if one firm over, or in addition to, another could be “comparable” based on a consumer's search preferences and behaviour on Legal Utopia’s Find-A-Lawyer service.

The historical user data of searching behaviour from the existing Find-A-Lawyer service distinguished cases where users contacted a law firm via email, phone, or their website. The artificial intelligence algorithms considered a range of information features of these “Contacted Firms” and those of “Not-Contacted Firms”, as well as the users’ searching behaviours and service usage data.

It then sought to use a computer-generated mathematical model to compute the relative influential weight of different information features including a law firm’s website availability, number of practice areas covered, location, and number of regulatory authorisation years.

The mathematical model determined that the Authorisation Duration of a law firm ranked as the most influential feature, this was followed by the number of legal practice areas covered by a firm, then the firm’s website availability as third most influential with the office location of the firm ranking the lowest of the four features in influencing users to contact a law firm.

The ranking influence of this information was used to “score” law firms and then use an AI algorithm to predict which law firms to present to a user of the Find-A-Lawyer service. This algorithm uses the “score” following the user’s filtering and searching preferences to then identify a refined selection of law firms to choose from.

The outcome would remove the confusion and frustration of identifying relevant law firms by automating the searching process of the 9,900+ law firms across the United Kingdom to the needs of consumers.

 

“This study is both insightful and unique in its proposal to compute the importance of quality indicators. The study highlights what could be possible in future with greater cross-regulator collaboration and action on the present data landscape, as well as what industry is able to produce even with minimal data access. Our hope by open-sourcing our data, modelling, and programming materials produced by this study is to highlight and encourage the modern, ambitious methods to consumer and business shopping of legal services.”

Fraser MatchamChief Problem Solver, Legal Utopia