Rise of the Bots: Microsoft’s Zela
Members of Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs (CELA) team in Australia and Finland embarked on a plan to use Microsoft technology to build an artificially intelligent legal assistant, designed to reallocate attorney and paralegal time to strategic work in June 2017. The assistant’s name is Zela.
Partnering with the CELA Engineering business unit and Microsoft legal staff around the world, they clarified the scope of repetitive, low risk queries that often lead to legal bottlenecks due to either:
- Self-help resources not existing;
- Clients not knowing that guidance exists;
- Clients knowing guidance exists, but not knowing where to find it; or (and most commonly)
- Clients knowing the fastest way to get the answer is by asking their CELA contact rather than researching themselves.
By August 2017, lawyers from Asia, Europe, Canada and LATAM had contributed over 2,000 questions to a knowledge base in the open source Q&A Maker program, spanning the following topics: MOUs, NDAs, Sponsorship Agreements, Marketing, Privacy (including GDPR), Microsoft Cloud resources, compliance and company information (entities and signatories).
The core project team worked together to integrate Q&A Maker with Microsoft’s bot framework, including text analytics and Language Understanding Intelligence Service (LUIS) – which uses cognitive intelligence to derive the intent behind queries – and the Bing Translator API.
Improving client engagement
It quickly became apparent that the bot would need certain key features to incentivise broad use by CELA’s clients (and avoid Zela being relegated to the “just another tool” graveyard). CELA lawyers and engineers worked together to develop bespoke code so that:
- Clients could either ask questions via free text field, or by selecting topics, sub-topics, and top 5 questions (which update automatically depending on user clicks and text queries)
- If a client asks a question in a way Zela doesn’t understand, or that is out of scope, Zela offers the client up to four options of questions within a lower confidence score, and gives the client the option to escalate to “Zela managers” (a team of paralegals that have visibility into a Zela portal and moderate feedback, escalations, train the bot, and loop in legal professionals from around the world if the matter requires urgent attention from a legal professional)
- Clients are asked whether Zela’s response was helpful – and the response is recorded (and monitored on an aggregated basis)
- Microsoft’s accessibility requirements were built in, so, for example, text can be auto-read (for people with sight impairments)
- the Q&A text could be translated for use in markets where clients don’t speak English in day-to-day tasks.
The CELA team also wanted to be able to measure Zela’s success, and how (and where) it was being used successfully. So the team integrated Zela’s telemetry with Microsoft PowerBI, to collect data like:
- which subsidiaries are using Zela, and how often
- the most common questions, topics and sub-topics (i.e. is there something CELA should deliver training on)
- the amount of lawyer and paralegal time that has been shifted to higher impact work
- the number of times is Zela answering the client’s question, or suggesting topics
- the number of users, and questions
- client satisfaction with Zela interactions.
If you would like to learn more about Zela, then join us at ALTACON and come to the Rise of the Bots panel session, which features Ben plus Nick Abrahams, Global Head of Technology & Innovation, Norton Rose Fulbright (Facilitator), Alex Rosenrauch, Legal Process Specialist, Telstra and Garry Barnes, Product Owner – Applied Machine Learning, Telstra.
ALTACON features two concurrent streams on legal technology presented by international and national thought leaders and technologists working at the cutting-edge intersection of legal + technology. ALTACON also features a LegalTech Expo where you can meet up with leading Australian legal technology companies and our partners. Register now!
About Ben Gilbert
Ben Gilbert is a commercial attorney supporting Microsoft ANZ. In particular he supports the teams engaged in licensing cloud products and digital transformation solutions to large enterprise and public sector customers. He is currently Microsoft ANZ’s legal lead for the Retail industry.
Recently, Ben worked with engineers in Microsoft’s HQ to develop a legal assistant bot, which is enabling Microsoft lawyers worldwide to concentrate on high risk, high value work.
Ben was shortlisted as the Australasian Young In-house Lawyer of the Year at the 2018 Australasian Law Awards.