Leading Canadian Law School, Osgoode Hall Law School, partners with Josef

Get ready for a shake-up in the legal world! Adjunct Professor Al Hounsell of Osgoode Hall Law School is leading the charge toward innovation.

With the belief that today’s law students are tomorrow’s legal industry disruptors, he’s arming them with all the tools necessary, including his trusty sidekick Josef, to educate the next generation of powerhouse lawyers.

As the new guard begins to graduate, Hounsell is making sure they’re prepared not only with a technology-driven skill set but with a new way of thinking about how to solve legal problems. Importantly, these lawyers will possess the skills and knowledge required to deliver a user experience that impacts client outcomes.

Al Hounsell, Adjunct Professor

Al Hounsell, Adjunct Professor

Tell us about the course you teach at Osgoode Law School.

The course I teach is called Engineering the Law: innovation and technology in legal service delivery.

The course encompasses the broad concept of innovation. It explores how industries are disrupted and specifically how innovation within a legacy industry like the law, is changing.

Tell us about the bots the students are building with Josef

The students undertake one large group project where they try to innovate something like a workflow process or a new client offering.

The second aspect of course is the use of actual tech tools that legal practices are now adopting. Platforms like Josef fit well because they allow you to automate anything. A student could take a piece of legislation and make an interactive questionnaire, or automate a contract, for example.

The students make heavy use of Josef for the technology driven aspects of the course and particularly in the group project, using Josef to prove their concepts.

A lot of students used Josef to build decision tree tools (like advice bots or intake and triage tools). The students were able to see just how easy it is to set up a chat experience.

The product itself really takes into account the needs of users. Josef is very empathetic to user experience, as opposed to trying to pack the product with a zillion features. Josef also takes an opinionated approach on being very user friendly. I doubt if any students even consulted the documentation because it’s so intuitive to use.

“The product itself really takes into account the needs of users. Josef is very empathetic to user experience, as opposed to trying to pack the product with a zillion features.”
– Al Hounsell, Adjunct Professor

What drew you to Josef’s platform?

I wanted to do document automation because it’s such a large area of legal innovation. I needed a cloud platform that could do that. There are other vendors that offer document automation; however, one limitation in a classroom setting is that more than half of the students are on Macs, so Windows-specific automation tools simply would not work. In the end, it turned out Josef could do so much more than document automation, so the platform turned out to be even more useful than I had hoped.

Why is this type of course important to the legal industry?

The technology side is highly apparent. We’re using tech to do more and more legal work, especially as AI improves. There will undoubtedly be more opportunities to leverage technology to enable access to justice, meet client needs, lower costs and improve efficiency. It’s an industry ripe for disruption.

On the innovation side – I think it’s a double whammy – other industries have already embraced  empathetic UX. Everything is becoming easier to use. Legacy industries like the law, have an incredible opportunity to innovate, by becoming more client-centric and empathetic to their end users.

For these same reasons, tech offers law students the opportunity to become disruptors in their industry.

“It’s an exciting time to be in LegalTech and platforms like Josef are setting the stage for a profound and client-centric transformation in the legal industry.”
– Al Hounsell, Adjunct Professor

Talk to us about digital transformation in the legal industry. Where do you stand and what excites you about the future?

Everyone’s going crazy about generative AI – and in this particular moment Chat GPT. The new roles that will be created for people who have legal training and an engineering mindset, are going require legal engineers to get into the details about the rules and parameters that surround the legal advice generated by AI tools. There’s a lot of potential there to increase access to justice and create new lines of business within traditional law.

When you look at legacy industries, the past 20 years people have said the sky is falling, but it never has – at least to the degree predicted. For example, AI due diligence tools help streamline processes and speed up review but the human element of review is still required. I think generative AI will assist with creating the types of things people don’t want to write. If you want to phone it in, it will help you do that. After all, generative AI is parasitic on large volumes of human-written content in order to predict statistically likely sequences of words in what it generates. This, quite frankly, is not how real creativity in the human mind works. And so to create and deliver really interesting work, human ingenuity will always be required.

With that said, a big driver now that AI is getting better, is going to be client needs. The gatekeepers are being disempowered when tech can come closer to what a human lawyer can do. Really listening to client needs is going to be a big driver of change.

Tech companies are great at iterating, listening to feedback and being consumer-centric. When tech companies are able to more closely approximate what a law firm produces, there will be strong impetus for law firms to implement all of these technologies and adapt business models. I guess this is all to say that it’s an exciting time to be in LegalTech and platforms like Josef are setting the stage for a profound and client-centric transformation in the legal industry.

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