Carolina Carrasco, General Counsel, Alstom Chile

The future of legal tech is an exciting prospect for lawyers across Latin America. With its potential to transform the legal industry, GC magazine catches up with Carolina Carrasco, general counsel of Alstom Chile, to uncover what she believes the future holds for in-house counsel in Chile.

Our team is looking for new ways of working and new systems to improve legal work. We are looking for new ideas and resources, in order to become more orientated towards implementing artificial intelligence into our work, and this is just the beginning. We recently reviewed new systems that are currently on the market, but before anything can be implemented, in our case, it needs to be validated and implemented by the central offices based in France.

Recently, I was in a regional legal meeting comprised not only of lawyers, but contract management, insurance and compliance people. In this meeting, we spoke a lot about how we are going to manage artificial intelligence and new technologies. Also, how we can manage automatisation in the best way.

For instance, since I work a lot with contracts and negotiations, it would be very good to have a reliable system where I can find worldwide information. Maybe it exists, but I am not aware of it as this is a new issue to deal with for a lawyer of my generation. I am in charge of Chile, but I have also been in charge of other countries which I am not overly knowledgeable about, such as Colombia. In that situation, I have to go to a local legal firm for assistance.

It is difficult for me to research case judgments from different jurisdictions – it would be great to have a system that would make those processes and daily tasks easier. Finding information like this mostly means I have to go to an external lawyer. I do not work in litigation – it is not my area – but sometimes when I am putting together a legal opinion, I need information on judicial cases. At this moment, this information, for a non-litigation lawyer, is not easily found. And this only refers to automatisation and search.

One of the barriers inherent in implementing legal tech comes internally. I know there are certain constraints on my company to implement new systems as there are some systems already implemented at our central level that sometimes don’t fill all the local needs on automatisation or otherwise, which represents security risks.

The circumstances have not obliged me to seek new support systems as it hasn’t been until recently an issue or something that was considered not only a tool but really a resource for optimisation. Obviously, it would be good if external lawyers used more technology. Ultimately, technology could help lawyers deliver solutions within a shorter period amount of time. But still, I believe that the options available to external lawyers, for example to find case law, are the same as the options that are available to me. In the end, we experience the same difficulties. The only difference is that often I do not have the time to do the research myself.

When it comes to legal technology and innovation, I think the legal sector is falling behind other professional sectors in Latin America. Consider that most doctors have artificial intelligence working with them in order to do surgeries, yet these scientific professions are very different to the law. Lawyers tend to be – maybe because of the past – counsellors of the family or of a company. They tend to be more focused on a close relationship with customers than implementing new technology.

The new and upcoming generation is different. My perception is that, in the last five years, new lawyers coming into the market are much more technology- and AI-oriented. They see technology as an asset – something that could be very useful. I think the view of technology and the role it plays within our profession will eventually change, but no one can tell you how quickly the market will allow the process to be implemented, nor the cost of such optimisation.

Looking to the future, I can imagine working with programmes that would speak to you like a robot. Lawyers will have access to a lot of information that will help you make the right decision much faster in the right situation. I know there are some programmes already out there in which you can enter the facts of a case and the programme helps you make a decision regarding a legal issue based on previous decisions. In this case, artificial intelligence will be able to help you make legal decisions quickly. This is happening now. As a result, it means that your workload will be reduced, because part of the work will be done by technology – the software will only be confirming what you have already analysed in a specific situation, or maybe challenge that opinion so you will have new tools to analyse the situation again. I can imagine the future of legal tech looking something like that – and if things were to head in that direction, it would be very interesting. As a consequence, I believe that some legal professionals are starting to fear artificial intelligence, as they believe that it has the potential to replace lawyers.

I do not believe that AI has the potential to disrupt the legal profession. Even if you feed an AI system all of the information, you will still need a lawyer to go through the process of feeding the information into that system. AI may do part of the job as it seems difficult to imagine now AI orienting customers face to face, negotiating, issuing a legal opinion, or litigating in front of a judge. Closeness is an essential part, nowadays, of our job. Times are changing, and we are always working towards becoming more creative and innovative. But, at the end of the day, I see people are still reluctant towards technological change.

Maybe in the future it will be like the movies: everything will be done in a way which is hard to imagine at this moment. At the same time, thirty years ago it was hard for me to imagine speaking on a smartphone. Now I do almost everything on my smartphone.