Chats with Legal Chatbots ~ Episode 3: Parker

You might not want Parker to be driving your legal needs
You might not want Parker to be steering you through your legal needs

Parker is a chatbot from “global law firm” Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF).

I thought Lawdroid and Billy Bot were bad but it couldn’t get more basic than Parker if you tried really hard to produce a bad legal chatbot.

There are a few versions of Parker but I decided to test the GDPR one.

Here is how my chat with Parker went:-

Parker: Hi I’m Parker, part of Norton Rose Fulbright’s privacy team. The GDPR (EU’s new privacy law) may apply to your non-EU business. Would you like to find out if it does?

Me: What is the EU’s new privacy law?

Parker: I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that yet – I have only learned how to tell you whether or not the GDPR applies to your business. But my team will be able to help you. Would you like to speak to them?

Me: No.

Parker: That’s ok. Feel free to chat again if you want to know more.

Me: Does GDPR apply to my business?

Parker: The GDPR applies to organisations within the EU and to certain organisations outside of the EU. Am I correct that your business is located entirely outside the EU?

Me: Not until at least 12 April.

Parker: Does your business have a stable presence in the EU (e.g. does it have a branch, a group company or an office in the EU)?

Me: Maybe not stable given Brexit!

Parker: In which country/countries does your business have any operations (e.g. branches, subsidiaries or other ongoing presence)?

Me: Do you know what Brexit is?

Parker: It looks like your operations are not in the EU. But even if you haven’t got a presence in the EU, the GDPR may still apply to your business. Would you like to find out if it does?

Me: They are!

Parker: Norton Rose Fulbright’s privacy team is made up of data protection and privacy lawyers around the world. Some of them are listed at the bottom of this page. Would you like to speak to them?

Me: No thanks. I want you to answer my GDPR queries. Are you not up to it?

Parker: That’s ok. Feel free to chat again if you want to know more.

Me: I do want to chat with you, Parker.

Parker: I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that yet – I have only learned how to tell you whether or not the GDPR applies to your business. But my team will be able to help you. Would you like to speak to them?

Me: Can we start again?

Parker: Hello! I’m Parker. Do you want to find out if the GDPR applies to your business?

Me: Yes [N.B. thought I better keep it really simple this time!]

Parker: Ok, let’s determine whether the GDPR applies to your business. I’ll need to ask you some questions. Does your business have a stable presence in the EU (e.g. does it have a branch, a group company or an office in the EU)?

Me: Yes [N.B. Again keeping it simple and avoiding the Brexit word – but in so doing telling a little lie about being stable!]

Parker: Because your business appears to have what is referred to as an “establishment” in the EU, the GDPR will apply to your handling of personal data in the context of that European establishment. If that is the case, you must comply with the GDPR by 25 May 2018. Would you like to speak to my team members about what you need to do?

Me: What do I need to do to comply with GDPR?

Parker: I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that yet – I have only learned how to tell you whether or not the GDPR applies to your business. But my team will be able to help you. Would you like to speak to them?

Unlike coffee making Billy Bot Clerk, Parker can't make a cup of tea
Unlike coffee making Billy Bot Clerk, Parker can’t make a cup of tea

Oh dear. So Parker is a chatbot that asks you if you are based in the EU and if you are tells you to contact the NRF team to find out what you need to do to comply with GDPR. It can’t give you any actual help or details about that. It can’t cope with Brexit (but then who can?!). It is as basic as it comes.

If you are based outside the EU but actively offer free or paid-for goods or services to individuals based in the EU (including individuals who represent EU companies which ultimately use the goods or services) then Parker tells you that you need to comply with the GDPR and tells you to contact the NRF team to find out what you need to do.

Who needs a chatbot to tell you this? Surely a simple page would suffice on the NRF website that said:-

“If your business has a stable presence in the EU (e.g. it has a branch, a group company or an office in the EU) or if you are based outside the EU but actively offer free or paid-for goods or services to individuals based in the EU (including individuals who represent EU companies which ultimately use the goods or services) then the GDPR will apply to your handling of personal data in the context of that European establishment or the  handling of the personal data of those individuals. You must therefore comply with the GDPR by 25 May 2018. To speak to our team members about what you need to do please contact…”?

This is using a chatbot for the sake of using a chatbot.

It takes longer to get to the answer than should be the case. You can’t actually chat – just say “Yes” or “No” to get to the very simple answer.

As usual a Google search would give you so much more information than Parker possibly can.

Parker's strings might be showing
Parker’s strings might be showing

Apparently Parker is “powered by artificial intelligence, Parker has the unique ability to understand natural language questions, making it possible for you to converse as if you were speaking to a human lawyer.” No. It can just about cope with “Yes” or “No” answers to specific pre-programmed questions and nothing beyond that. It is nothing at all like speaking to a human lawyer – who, unless they have been locked up in the Big Brother house for three years or more, will at least know what Brexit is.

As usual with chatbots the ‘magic’ of IBM Watson is apparently involved! Where is beyond me. If there is any AI involved at all in Parker I’ll eat my top hat.

As pointed out astutely on Twitter, this past week, chatbots “are basically rubbish flowcharts … everyone tries to say differently“.

What is particularly alarming (but some may say not surprising) is that Legal Futurists/Industrialists are citing Parker as a “great example” of innovation in law firms. Apparently “all firms should be using legal bots“. Oh no they shouldn’t! Please don’t do it. At least not now with the very basic technology that exists. It will just drive your clients around the bend and off to another more human lawyer.

Perhaps even more alarming is UK Government ministers/officers (who clearly have never chatted with Parker) citing it as AI innovation in the legal sector: The Lord Chancellor, David Gauke, and HM Advocate General for Scotland and MoJ spokesperson for the Lords, Lord Richard Keen, to name but two.

Parker is even up for an AI innovation award! The judges have clearly been taken in by the PR fluff on the entry form and not actually tried chatting with the Bot.

AI washing at its best:-

A marketing effort designed to imply that a company’s brands and products involve artificial intelligence technologies, even though the connection may be tenuous or non-existent.

NRF in their promotion of Parker have committed at least two of the seven deadly sins of Legal Tech predictions: Imagining Magic and Performance versus Competence.

I’ll be exploring all seven of these deadly sins in my talk at Lexpo19 on Tuesday afternoon. Parker just might get a mention but it won’t be in the same terms as David Gauke or Lord Richard Keen would use.

Update – 15 June 2019

Some information came to light today via LinkedIn on the creation of Parker that I thought it might be useful to share with readers of this blog.

Nick Abrahams of NRF was speaking recently at an AI & Chatbots conference in Berlin. He referenced his talk on LinkedIn as a career highlight with a slide of David Hasselhoff forming part of it. Anyway in the LinkedIn comments Alexia Hetzel said:-

I was there and really really enjoyed your talk. You mentioned a 30’ tutorial about making a baby Parker and I have been looking but nothing… could you please share a link? Again great talk. Thank you.

Nick Abrahams replied:

Hello. Thanks for the kind words. Apologies I may not have been clear. I did a webinar for people in my law firm explaining how to build a Chatbot (& they then created 5 chatbots  – with none of the IT Team involved). Unfortunately the webinar is not available to the public.

Just google “How to build a Chatbot” or “How to build a Chatbot on Watson” if you know you want to use Watson.

Thanks for being so frank Nick. This might go someway to explain why Parker is as badly built as it is!

Reactions on Social Media

There have been reactions to this post on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

On LinkedIn the following comments have been made:-

Yvonne Nath (Legal Business Strategy Consultant):

Chatbots may still be in their infancy, but I have enjoyed some of the witty answers and search assistance chatbots from Thomas G. Martin at LawDroid have provided

Brian Inkster:

Thanks Yvonne. LawDroid inspired the series of Chats with Legal Chatbots featuring in Episode 1 : http://thetimeblawg.com/2018/07/28/chats-with-legal-chatbots-episode-1-the-global-legal-hackathon-and-lawdroid/ – unfortunately there were no witty answers or search assistance then.

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Arlene McDaid (Lawyer| Mediator| LegalTech):

Interesting to see a BigLaw firm experimenting with 4 separate chatbots focussing on insurance and privacy law. As conversational chatbots go, Parker is undoubtedly one of the more simplistic – in essence, the GDPR chatbot is a series of 5 yes/ no questions (if you include the introductory message).

Whilst Parker arguably under-delivers on the claimed human lawyer-like interaction, from a business perspective Parker may have delivered –according to an FT article, Parker (Australian Data Privacy chatbot) generated 15,000 AUD of fees in the 24 hours following its launch. Any fee-earner (or “fee-burner” for that matter) able to follow simple step-by-step instructions can build their own chatbot using IBM’s toolkit, with the first 10,000 API calls per month handled for free. No programming skills (or company credit card) are required! Even allowing for a 1 day build (generous given IBM’s 6-minute video tutorial), it could be said this is a decent return on investment.

Given this appears to be more marketing than moonshot, does it really merit being shortlisted for a LegalWeek 2019 “AI Innovation” award? If so, are we settling for 50 shades of mediocrity? Shouldn’t we be aiming for the summit rather than base-camp?

In legal services, isn’t the purpose of innovation to add value for clients? If it doesn’t improve upon the status quo, where is the client benefit? In this case, the status quo would be a simple web page with a flow chart, as Brian Inkster highlighted. Less complex, fewer moving parts, and a quicker answer to a relatively straightforward question. What’s the point in having a chatbot that risks diminishing rather than enhancing the client experience?

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Alistair Wye (Leading legal innovation and technology strategy):

Great read Brian Inkster. Made me chuckle! Seems like an overlooked opportunity to build something more useful to the client vs a lead magnet.

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Previous episodes of Chats with Legal Chatbots:-

Episode 1 – The Global Legal Hackathon and LawDroid

Episode 2 – Billy Bot


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Image Credits: Parker from Thunderbirds © AP Films

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