Beijing-based legal startup ai.Law was established on China’s Youth Day, May 4, 2016. To date — the new company has completed its angel round of investment. Ms. Kathy Gong Xiaosi, the Founder & CEO of ai.Law, is a serial entrepreneur who was also once China’s youngest International Chess Master. In a recent interview with Asia Law Portal, she outlined the company’s ambitious and groundbreaking goals for the China and international legal markets:
What is ai.Law and what markets and clients does it serve?
Well, suppose you can imagine ai.Law as an army of robotic lawyers serving your legal needs where each robot can ‘replace’ (not complementing) human lawyers covering specific legal and administrative fields such as marriage, inheritance, foreigners’ entrance & settlement, class action lawsuits, and so on, in China. Our vision is to break down and reduce the barriers and costs of engaging legal services to individuals and SMEs. Therefore, making ‘private lawyer’ affordable for anyone who needs it.
You are seeking to serve clients in China and plan to deploy robotic lawyers to do so? Please explain.
Yes, we are aiming to serve both local Chinese and foreign users in China through our ‘allrounded” package service. Essentially, users can instantly obtain accurate, reliable and understandable answers provided by our robotic lawyers that include legal consultation & guidance, references of real cases, drafting documents, and so on. In another words, our users will technically engage with our robotic lawyers via an instantaneous ‘human-like’ communication. So far we had launched our first robot named Lily who is a marriage & divorce robotic lawyer (currently only available in Chinese language). By the Q1 of 2017, we will launch our second robot to the family, named Mike (will be available in both English & Chinese languages) who is a visa & migration robotic lawyer to help foreigners enter, work and settle in China.
How did you develop an interest in the Chinese legal market?
As one of, if not, the fastest growing economy in the world, China’s legal infrastructure to ensure a continuous and sustainable growth, and societal happiness is unparalleled. Therefore, having a transparent legal system and individual’s fair access to the rule of Law are the bedrock of some of the very basic yet fundamental values that I strongly believe in. However, lawyers are expensive and barriers to legal justice are high. So as a serial entrepreneur from a non-legal background, I know it for a fact that no change will originate from within the interest groups. – So what could change that? To me, by creating a blue-ocean market that perfectly combines my belief in social justice, the power of technology, and the passion for innovation to achieve it.
What are ai.Law’s goals for the next 5 years?
We will continuously break down the barriers and costs for individuals and SMEs to engage legal services by deploying the latest and the next-gen technology. – As one of our Chinese proverb goes, “plans never catch up with the constant changes”. So one thing we are certain of at ai.Law, is that no matter what we do, we will do so in the purpose to enhance social justice and to protect the interests of individual rights in the power of law and the innovation of technology.
Has ai.Law considered expanding into other legal markets in Asia-Pacific?
Yes, certainly. This is one of our goals in the coming years as we grow and develop ourselves to fulfill our vision which we aim to cover the whole world, not just China and the Asia-Pacific.
What advice would you give aspiring lawyers about their future careers? Is ai.Law potentially their future employer?
Technology is constantly changing and disrupting almost every aspects of today’s world, including the legal industry, however the essential belief and what Law stands for shall never change – equality, justice and human rights, so on. As the English jurist Sir Frederick Pollock said: “the Law cannot make all men equal, but everyone is equal before the Law.” What I really want to say is that understanding the fundamental and being able to simplify the knowledge will always be the essential solution to a problem. Therefore, all of us should stick to that spirit even from different walks and practices of Law.
At ai.Law, we are idealists, geeks, artists… people with dreams and stubborn enough to make it happen. We do not employ people. Instead, we create a team who shares the same belief and team spirit: “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me, just be my friend.” At ai.Law, we will make Law ‘Law’ and make Law accessible and affordable. So we invite those with the same dream to walk with us. Since we are making robotic lawyers to replace human lawyers, we are certainly aiming to replace law firms in the future. So in general, yes, we do see ourselves as a future destination for young bright lawyers in realizing this mission.