Tuesday 8 May 2018


AI, specialisation & copyright: Graeme Gilfillan comments

Here is a reply received from copyright expert Graeme Gilfillan (Nisa Online) to the recent guest post on artificial intelligence by Messrs Tyler Golato (InterProVise) and Rob Green (GRM Search). What are your thoughts on the disruption caused by AI and automation? - email Afro-Buff or comment on the post.

  • The deployment of AI by law firms (traditional as well as new entrants) has (its already here) very specific implications as far skills in the future are concerned in that there are identifiable skill sets that AI specifically will eliminate on the one hand (automation and analytics) and create demand for (qualified specialized skills) on the other hand.
  • The skill sets that are square in the sights so to speak are all those ‘general’ skills…….from secretarial and administrative all the way to senior partners.
  • Automation is one aspect, but the real impact is that in all general intellectual property law matters and cases, AI will outperform an attorney…..in the same way that in medical diagnostics AI outperforms a GP
  •  As the dust settles in the wake of AI’s intervention into the lives of “IP” law firms an inspection of the legal landscape confirms the following challenges:
    • Legal specialization – there is an imperative to take specialist qualifications to go where AI can’t so to speak – as far as “IP” is concerned this means postgraduate qualification in any one of the “IP” bouquet.
    • There are no badges for copyright lawyer trying to be a trademark specialist – so specialised is each sector – much like an orthopaedic surgeon will not consider trying to ‘double-up’ as a cardiovascular specialist i.e. there is little room in the future for the ‘IP’ specialist, an extremely heterogeneous concept in a specialised world of homogeneity.
    • The reality that in an internet borderless world, qualifications (in the intellectual property bouquet) that stop at a country’s national border have less and less utility – there is an urgent need for intellectual property bouquet law firms to completely re-think about how they understand and operate in a borderless world, and exactly what specialised skills and qualifications are required to service clients in the/of the future
    •  The ubiquitous, infringing nature of a smart phone has brought copyright law into all aspects of everyday life. Intellectual property law firms in South Africa are underinvested in copyright law skills and it’s an indictment of the entire legal sector. No different than patent law, post-graduate qualifications are requisite with copyright law and there has been little to zero investment in copyright law qualifications and skills. The 35 hours (of effective teaching) “IP” elective offered to BA LLB students does not prepare or qualify an attorney admitted to the High Court in South Africa to offer advice in copyright law, nor patents, trademarks, designs, trade secrets or geographical indicators.
    •  There will be little utility for the ‘generalist’….. nor will there be need for big expensive buildings that clearly cost clients a fortune.
    •  There will be (already is) significant demand for highly specialized legal skills in all areas of intellectual property law – which more and more the traditional law firm is failing to/cannot provide.
    •  There will be (already is) a real premium for scarce top legal skills – much of which will have little to do with litigation per se
Your post is very welcome and the first sign at Afro-IP that this critical issue of AI is starting to get attention.



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2 October 2019 at 22:04 delete

Hi there...
Where do I get hold of Graeme Gilfillan? I have a big case for him that I would like for him to look into. Your speedy response would be much appreciated.