This article was written by Michael Bochoff, Marketing & Communications Assistant at Innovacorp.

As the principal lawyer of her own practice, Manley Law Inc., and the founder of Advocate Cognitive Technologies Inc. (ACTI), Anna Manley is a force to be reckoned with. She keeps a hectic schedule, operating both companies simultaneously for the past two years, but according to her, they’re so entwined she couldn’t do it any other way.

“Manley Law uses ACTI’s software to close some of our simpler, more straightforward transactions,” said Anna. “If I didn’t have that active testing ground, I’d have to go out and find it.”

After Anna began practicing in real estate, she quickly discovered the high volume of overhead and extreme inefficiencies associated with real estate transactions. With different parties in a transaction receiving multiple documents containing similar information, Anna saw an opportunity to simplify the process. Her solution? Artificial intelligence (AI).

“At the time, there was nothing available to help firms do these things faster,” said Anna. “I’d been reading a lot about AI and natural language processing and discovered that this technology was out there, but it hadn’t been developed for the space yet. Real estate transactions provided a very structured background to develop this type of software because they’re formulaic and it looked like something a computer program could handle.”

While still in the development stage, Anna’s start-up, like so many, faces obstacles – one of which is to persuade law firms who are resistant to technological change that the ACTI software will help them. 

“There’s a lot of buzz around AI looking to improve business practices and make companies more efficient,” said Anna. “But we have to convince reluctant law firms that technology like ours increases capacity to allow firms to scale and compete.” 

Much to Anna’s surprise, the reception to her software has been ‘shockingly warm.’ Since winning the Spark Cape Breton competition in 2016, the buzz around ACTI has been positive, with strong interest from law firms in both Nova Scotia and Ontario. And while Anna couldn’t imagine growing her businesses anywhere else but Cape Breton, she notes the talent gap, specifically in terms of programming ability, as being another significant obstacle to overcome. 

“It’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” said Anna. “The universities need to be providing high quality education in those areas. For Nova Scotia to be a tech hub, we need people to support the start-up community. At the same time, it can’t exist unless we have people who possess the skills.” 

December 4, 2018, Halifax, Nova Scotia