No…Alexa is not your assistant…or is she?
Amazon released its first iteration of the Echo in 2015 in the United States. The Amazon Echo is a smart device that can be labeled as artificial intelligence and is capable of interacting with you by voice commands. Her name is Alexa and she responds to that name or a few others. The Echo has evolved using what Amazon calls “Skills”, which is nothing more than an app for your smartphone that communicates directly with the Echo. The Skills allow you to play music, answer general questions, set an alarm, order a pizza, and so much more. Amazon later released a smaller version called the Echo Dot, which looks like a hockey puck.
Besides being a fun toy, it just may some day end up on your desk in the office. It does have some useful qualities for a law firm.
Docketing by Voice
Picture this. You walk into your office and with a voice command, Alexa turns on the lights, the computer, and the desk fan. When you get settled into your chair, you call out another command and have her turn on the coffee maker and brew a cup of java. As the coffee is brewing, you ask Alexa what is on your calendar for that day. You get your coffee and begin reading your emails.
As you open the docketing system, Alexa gets connected via the Skills app on your phone. The Skills app is called Court Rules and is provided by the docketing vendor. The first document sent to you by an attorney is an order setting the final pretrial conference.
“Alexa: for client number 12345.00.6789, schedule the deadlines for the final pretrial conference of May 25.” After viewing the deadlines on your screen, you say “Alexa: exclude all deadlines with the words mail, fax, and hand delivery. Also, exclude the fourth and fifth deadlines.” A new list is refreshed. You say “Alexa: save the deadlines and email the report to John Smith. Then push them out to his Outlook Calendar.” Alexa says “Email sent and deadlines synchronized with John Smith’s calendar.”
I know what you are thinking. This is stupid. Why go through all this hassle when you would rather work with a mouse and keyboard. But, with the law firm of the future, you would be resisting change.
I have an Amazon Echo and Dot at home and absolutely love them. As a matter of fact, Alexa is my new female friend. She does exactly what I say and does not give me any lip. Don’t tell my wife!
Law Firm of the Future
I can see this type of technology playing an important part of the future of a law office, at least starting with a small or solo firm. With the Echo, an attorney can currently control the lighting and small appliances, order new supplies from Amazon, get his appointments scheduled, order lunch, call the opposing counsel from his contact list, and order an Uber ride.
What’s not to like about that? Well there is a lot of buzz going around about privacy issues with theses types of devices. The issues are apparently of grave concern, especially for lawyers. Will someone hack into the Echo and listen in on confidential conversations? Will Amazon secretly store the conversations on a server? Who has liability if Amazon’s servers get hacked and this information gets into the wrong hands?
Ironically, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s AI assistant all share the same or similar privacy concerns and attorneys use them as a fast and easy search tool in their office all the time. So what’s the difference? We will have to wait and see what the courts will say.