“How much will I get?” or “What’s my claim worth?”. That and the flip side of the coin: “How much should I expect to pay?” These are the questions that have been asked for as long as there have been lawyers to answer them.
Rather than spending a lifetime trawling through law reports to find comparable cases, and then figuring out the likely amount of compensation (which will inevitably involve a degree of human error), how about getting to the right answer faster? Great – free up more personally rewarding leisure time. Or perhaps you prefer to do more work, though that’s not a topic for this column.
I remember when HK judgments were digitized and made available for online searching – how that seemed a big step forward. Yet that was in the last millennium. Artificial intelligence, technology and computer programming have moved on at pace. Why then does it still take so long to the answer the age-old, fundamental questions our clients ask?
Now, I am no IT expert. As with most of us of a certain “vintage”, I often ask my daughter or others from Gen Z to help me with the new functions on my smartphone or tablet.
So, a fair question indeed was asked of me by the learned editor of the HK Lawyer (he did not quite put it this way) as to what possessed me to devote countless hours of my free time over the last two years to co-lead the development of an exciting new IT creation called JURU? [https://www.thejuru.com/]
What is JURU?
JURU is the first of its kind in HK. It aids lawyers and insurers, dealing with claims for personal injury, fatality and employees’ compensation, to identify and sort relevant precedents and calculate the likely amount of compensation. More importantly, they can get this done faster, cheaper and with less room for human error. JURU’s built-in artificial intelligence and natural language programming result in far less lawyer time being needed. All to enable quicker advice, help insurers set suitable reserves and facilitate settlement.
Tell us about the main challenges and learnings
Bringing innovations of this sort to life and then to market is a labour of love. It took knowledge, practical experience and time from an amazing and diverse team formed of subject matter experts and testers drawn from various backgrounds and age groups.
For me, as a full-time lawyer, working on JURU means good time management. You can’t do everything. Prioritising is essential. It involves some hard choices about how to divide waking hours outside of the office. For me to work on JURU meant giving up penning my well liked and longstanding newspaper column, but not giving up charitable work with good causes like establishing our very own charity fund last year and organising various charity workshops for underprivileged kids. I guess things like that somehow give me energy rather than consume it.
Working with a diverse team assures plenty of useful yet different perspectives – whether with the logic behind the system or making sure it is intuitive and easy to use. For experts in different disciplines to understand each other seamlessly at first go is near impossible. Creating JURU involved explaining to non-lawyers on the team technical legal issues and helping them understand the nuances so that they could be properly addressed in the programming and search functions.
Similarly, the IT team’s feedback to me was interesting on a personal level. You hear of IT patches and “bug” fixes post software release all the time, and here was I insisting on something that was right (some would say perfect) before we launched. Well over a year had to be spent on thorough testing and fine tuning. Over 10,000 real cases were put through JURU before I was happy with the high standard JURU now achieves.
And the most memorable moment so far?
That would have to be the reaction from users when we first put JURU to the test – for real and, for the first time, outside of our own development and testing team. “Wow” and “Where have you been all of my life?” reactions really struck a chord and made the time and effort worthwhile.
So, what is next?
JURU 1.0 has been launched and is available, including a free trial by request. The team is demonstrating the features of JURU to more law firms and insurance companies, and the feedback has been great. Innovation never stops either. We are now gathering requests for extra functionality for JURU 2.0 with added features and of course thorough ongoing testing. Watch this space!
Dennis Ng, Kevin So & Nancy Leung