One of Australia’s largest law firms, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, has struck a deal to take a 50 per cent stake in the Asia Pacific operations of Canadian artificial intelligence start-up Beagle, which automates contract analysis.
The joint venture follows Corrs making a six-figure investment in the Melbourne accelerator program last month and is a clear example of a law firm trying to get on board the automation trend, which threatens to significantly disrupt the profession.
Beagle’s technology assisted narrative review technology allows for automatic contract analysis, digesting and identifying important elements within the contract at a rate of one page per second.
It then augments the decision-making process and works in accordance with a company’s internal policies and procedures, as well as country-specific regulations and norms.
Beagle founder Cian O’Sullivan said while the technology was designed to make contract reading simpler, the technology was being adapted to suit other purposes.
”We have Volkswagon in Germany as a client and they were one of the first to come to us and say they wanted to use the technology in a slightly different way,” he said. “We went in, looked at the way the business was operating and found a way to use the technology to let decision-makers make better decisions. So as of July next year the technology will be deployed throughout the business to enable all its 3500 buyers to make better decisions relevant to their corporate policies.”
The deal with Corrs came about after the law firm’s head of innovation, Graeme Grovum, discovered Beagle online while scouting the market for innovative legal services.
Mr O’Sullivan then came to Sydney six weeks ago and the law firm undertook a pilot program with a few of its clients. After a successful pilot, the firms made the partnership official through the joint venture.
Corrs partner James Whittaker told The Australian Financial Review that the pilot program showed the AI experience resonated strongly across a range of functions and applications, and that it was clear that the market was crying out for the service.
”As a law firm we’ve recognised for some time now that technology and the disaggregation of legal services will be a critical part of the way we can function effectively in the market,” Mr Whittaker said.
”Up until this point, many companies have had to rule out using AI for contract analysis because they haven’t had the scale or the budget. Beagle addresses this market gap.”
Beagle Asia Pacific’s platform will be available to all businesses, not just Corrs clients, and will be led by Mr O’Sullivan and a small team of Corrs partners and staff initially, before full-time staff are brought on board.