Assessing the Value of AI and Other Technology to the Law Firm

This session examines key issues in the approach law firms take to techology projects, whether sexy AI projects or more mundance technology infrastructure projects.


  • Philip Bryce, Global Director of Knowledge Management, Mayer Brown,
  • Kingsley Martin, President & CEO, KMStandards LLC and Chief Contract Scientist, Akorda,
  • Patrick Dundas, KM Associate, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, Dean Sonderegger, VP Legal Markets, Innovation, Wolters Kluwer Legal and Regulatory US

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Comparing Law Firms and Technology

    • Kingsley Martin:
      • Following Susskind, we are supposed to be moving from bespoke to standardized work product.
      • Lawfirms tend to focus on low-volume, high-margin, bespoke work.
      • LegalZoom focuses on the high-volume, low-margin standardized work.
      • Kingsley Martin is focused on the b2b market, where he needs to provide highly efficient work product to businesses and governments. This is a space that most law firms are ignoring
      • Meanwhile, technology is moving from broad-based to sophisticated and nuanced. In other words, moving from standardized to customized.
      • He codes in multiple computer languages, however, he no longer codes. Rather, he trains computers to code as needed. This is the more efficient approach. Machine learning is faster than human learning. Law firms have not figured this out.
  • We operate in a trust model
    • Kingsley Martin:
      • Clients come to us because they trust us. But we don’t have good metrics based on good processes that can validate their trust.
      • We know that we need to move to simpler processes and documents if we want to take full advantage of techonological opportunities. However, there is real resistance to simplification within law firms.
        • This resistance is based on their perception of risk.
        • They believe that a simpler process/document may entail greater risk. However, they do not always have reliable data to support this perception.
        • So it is critical to take a closer look at the true risks involved and then quantify those risks.
        • Then you need to addess those risks. Some firms are moving to insurance/self-insurance models to cover those risks.
  • Prioritizing Projects
    • Phil Bryce
      • How to choose AI solutions?
      • Remember the difference between point solutions and platforms. And keep in mind the critical integration points between your existing technology and the new tools.
        • They must work together seamlessly.
        • Don’t be so enamoured by a new tool that you allow it to create a content silo unconnected to the rest of your tech resources.
      • He uses the classic McKinsey Value vs. Effort 2×2 grid to prioritize projects.
        • He works this grid with his management committee. They have a conversation about the placement of the various projects on the grid and then agree on the final placement of the projects. As part of this conversation, they agree which projects will be done first and which ones likely won’t be done.
        • He works this grid with the partners who supervise practice support lawyers (PSLs) to ensure they are aligned on the PSL’s priorities.
  • How should you choose your tech vendors?
    • Patrick Dundas
      • Most firms choose vendors on the basis of a good demo. However, demos almost always go well. That’s the point!
      • A better approach:
        • Start with a clear and well-articulated understanding of the problem you are trying to solve, as well as the associated requirements.
        • Get a good list of the relevant stakeholders. Understand their specific needs.
        • Be clear about your desired timeline.
        • Ask for RFPs from vendors.
          • Ask them to respond to your matrix of requirements. Their ability to do so appropriately is a good early signal of their ability to work well with you.
        • Evaluate vendor responses
          • How well did they respond?
          • Highlight/flag the responses that distinguish particular vendors
        • Check vendor references — be sure to use a script for these conversations to ensure you cover the key points.
        • Joshua Fireman recommends that you record your demos and your technical deep dives. This will help you remember the details.

Session Description:

In today’s legal tech environment, Knowledge Management professionals have a rich tapestry of tools to choose from to help drive firm success. Each vendor typically will provide ROI calculations as part of the sales pitch, but the onus still sits with the firm to choose wisely in a budget (both me and cost) constrained world.

This panel will explore the technology value chain—from efficiency to outcome to optimization of business processes, the characteristics of each step in the value chain, where different types of solutions fit, and the impact to the firm from different categories of solutions.


What Blockchain Can Teach Legal About Service Models

John Alber believes that law firms are headed to extinction. Drawing from patterns in nature, he sees similar patterns in law firms. He is concerned that there are very few inflection points at which law firms can adapt sufficiently to lead change. He suggests that knowledge management professionals can find a path to useful change by learning from the example of blockchain.

  • John Alber, Practical Futurist, Intitute for the Future of Law Practice.
  • A detailed session description is at the end of this post.

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • How serious is the Extinction possibility?
    • Looking at nature, we see that species die but sometimes leave behind elements that can give rise to new species. In the law, practices evolve and die. Sometimes they die but leave behind elements that can spawn a new practice. Often they die before they can be replaced by vibrant new practices. Without the option of adaptive practices, law firms will die.
    • Document review used to be the sole preserve of law firms. Now LPOs are taking over that business and there is no obvious substitute business for law firms.
    • A big clue about the potential for extinction — look for ways of doing things that have not materially changed for a long time. In Alber’s view, the legal industry’s approach to contracting is exactly this kind of extinction-ready practice.
  • Nick Szabo:
    • Nick Szabo is an earlier mover in blockchain. He is a computer scientist, legal scholar and cryptographer known for his research in digital contracts and digital currency. (ome believe that he is really Santoshi Nakamoto.)
    • He developed the concept of “smart contracts.” He has analyzed deeply what contracts are, how they work, and how they could optimally be digitized.
    • For him, building contracts on blockchain makes the most sense.
  • Benefits of Blockchain-like Tech for Contracting

    • Institutionless: it does not depend on whether we trust the institution (or law firm) involved. It exists viably separate from specific institutions.
    • Collective: moves away bespoke contracting to contracting by a collective consensus. This leads to less variability and more predictability in the contracting process.
    • Rules-based rather than words-based: this makes it easier to digitize the contracts.
    • Simple: we cannot digitize our contracts without first simplifying them.
  • Peter Drucker Wisdom:
    • “In a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm. … But unless an organization sees that its task is to lead change, that organization … will not survive.”
    • Law firms are ignoring the fact that they need to lead change in the legal industry. They are too focused on the work of today so they seem to ignore the work of tomorrow.
  • How do we get the necessary skills?
    • Think about design-thinking differently. It is a super-skill to acquire.
      • Take a course, do some reading, get smarter about design-thinking.
    • In his view, design-thinking goes beyond the user interface, it goes beyond making things “pretty”.  Its true value is that it helps us understand more deeply the nature of the problem.
    • Once you have a better understanding of the problem, then work to gain influence in your firm so that you can share your understanding and move the firm toward sensible change.
  • KM Professionals Could be Influential
    • We are interdisciplinary so we have a broader view of the problems and possible solutions.
    • However, we need to move beyond thinking of ourselves experts in library sciences. Otherwise, we will not be able to make an impact on our firms.
    • We cannot afford to be passive.
  • Others are innovating while law firms are largely stagnating
    • There are lots of new legaltech vendors and new legal providers that are innovating technology and processes.
    • They are moving at a much faster pace than law firms are.


Session Description:

Blockchain is all the news now in legal. It is said to be transforming trust rela onships in everything from land tles to securities transactions. And smart contracts are the talk of the town. But shouldn’t blockchain also teach us something about what we missed along the way? How we record, transact and enforce agreements has been a constant almost since the inception of the common law. Yet we let the digital age be born and grow to maturity without ever considering that perhaps our paper?bound and extraordinarily inefficient service model for managing agreements might need changing. It took computer scientists to reimagine how to make agreements concerning digital assets. With the digital age exploding around us, what else about the law needs reimagining? Everything?


Turning KM from a Cost Center to a Profit Generator

Mara Nickerson, Meredith Williams-Range, and Evan Shenkman discuss how law firm KM can generate business for law firms. (A more detailed session description is at the end of this post.)

  • Mara Nickerson: Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
  • Evan J. Shenkman: Director of Knowledge Management Counsel and Research, Ogletree Deakins
  • Meredith Williams-Range: Chief Knowledge and Client Value Officer, Shearman & Sterling LLP

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Direct Revenue KM. This involves client-facing tools and services that generate review for the firm.
    • Oslers Subscription service for clients
      • Osler’s AccessPrivacy provides a knowledge hub on privacy matters. The information is organized by topic, mainained by a KM lawyer. Oslers lawyers consider this their own knowledge hub as well.  In addition to the knowledge hub, Oslers organizers a monthly call for subscribers. This allows clients to serve themselves on the easy issue
      • Lessons learned
        • focus on fee-sensitive practice areas
        • be clear upfront about the ROI
        • Be  honest about the total cost of ownership: the cost of development, the cost of maintenance, the cost of recruiting subscribers, etc. And be equally honest about the revenue potential, which may exceed the base subscription costs.
        • Solicit client input from the first stage and keep them involved in the development
    • Ogletree Deakins
      • Their subscription services:
        • Arbitration Agreement builder tool
        • OD Comply: a subscription suite of client services to stay on top of labor &employment law resources and services
        • EEO Advantage Program: an expert and efficient way of handling EEO claims, supported by dashboards
        • Learning Solutions: customized for clients
        • FMLA Edge: helps employers comply with the Family & Medical Leave Act
        • 1-9 Secure: helps clients with immigration matters
      • Lessons Learned:
        • follow the TurboTax model — may it easy to use without training
        • provides dashboards that are easy to read and act on
        • recruit a shareholder champion
        • who need full collaboration with attorneys — they need to be involved throughout the development process
        • you need to spend money to make money
        • be prepared to pull the plug if the product/service is not a success
    • Shearman
      • Don’t start a direct revenue project unless there is a clear market demand for that product/service.
      • Start by looking at where revenue is being lost — a place where there are slim margins and a lot of write-offs is a good candidate for a KM solution.
      • Their subscription Emerging Company Formation App will help increase margin by 10-11% simply by speeding up the process and increasing efficiency.
      • Their international stock benefits work involves high write-offs of associate time. It involves canvassing local counsel for updates in local law. They are using Neota Logic to substantially reduce the time and effort involved in gathering the updates. Then they make the results available through their subscription International Stock Benefits App.
      • The key is to make the product/service once and then sell it one thousand times.
      • Lessons Learned
        • Create the right culture that finds the opportunities and learns how evaluate those opportunities properly.
        • Create a rigorous application development process.
        • Upkeep and support are huge burdens. Partner with good technology providers as much as you can. Don’t assume the entire burden.
      • Market Evaluation Process:
        • Are you going after new market share? (Getting new business from new clients.)
        • Are you going after new wallet share? (Getting more business from existing clients.)
        • Find a way to track all the direct and indirect revenue you are generating
  • Indirect Revenue KM. The number one reason lawyers/law firms are left behind is because of lack of efficiency.

    • Everything we can do to improve efficiency increases client stickiness.
      • Enterprise search
      • High-quality model documents and templates
    • Shearman
      • offers a variety of online services that are loss leaders and intended to create client stickiness.
      • Shearman Merger Matrix — they created an internal application using Neota Logic. It speed up the process and increases revenue opportunities.
    • Ogletree
      • ODConnect: their intranet
      • ODSearch: enterprise search
      • OD Blueprint: their legal project management offering
      • Lessons Learned:
        • these services must be a collaborative effort among a variety of departments. It’s not a solo job for KM.
        • clients are interest in what’s behind the curtain — they want to know how their lawyers work more efficiently
        • attorneys are more willing to share than ever — even subject matter experts are more willing to share
        • cilents are increasingly expecting these tools to be free
    • Oslers
      • Osler Code Detect
        • this idea came from an associate. It analzes the open source code clients are using and identifies potential licensing issues.
          • this tool has generated new business for this innovative associate. (This associate often does hackathons.)
      • Oslers merger notification tool
      • Oslers helps clients map their own processes. The lawyers involved always leave with new business.
  • The staffing model is changing. Even the biggest firms are shifting work away from the billable hour model. So these firms are increasing their focus on efficiency. KM is critical to improving efficiency and reducing write-offs.
  • How to promote law firm KM
    • Get involved in the RFP process. Ensure that KM efficiencies are included in our RFPs.
    • Get involved in the pitch process. When your firm includes you in a client pitch, the firm is making a major statement about the importance of KM within the firm.

Session Description:

Many firms shortsightedly think of KM as a cost center, rather than a revenue generator. This discussion will illustrate different ways that firms have successfully turned the script by using KM to bring in meaningful firm business—both at the pitch stage, and as a revenue-generator with KM client-facing service offerings. Learn how these successes increase KM buy-in internally, help justify KM headcount, and illustrate that KM is a differentiator between firms that have it ? versus firms that do not.

For more information: see Ron Friedman’s post on this session.


Redesigning Law Firm Knowledge Management #ArkKM

Jeffrey S. Rovner is Managing Director for Information, O’Melveny & Myers LLP. Today he is speaking about the next frontier for law firm knowledge management: truly successful adoption.

[These are my notes from the 2018 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Adoption is the Problem. The elephant in the room for knowledge management is low adoption. Although we offer great tools and services, why don’t our lawyers use them? It’s as if we can’t get through the last mile between our hopes for our wonderful new tools, on the one hand, and our user base, on the other hand.


  • Why does this happen???  Here are some of the perennial problems:
    • The Waterfall of Tears:
      • We introduce new tools / products / services via email, which not everyone reads.
      • We invite them to a training session, which few attend.
      • Those who attend do not remember everything they are taught.
      • Those who attend do not always decide that the new tool / product / service is worth the effort to make the change.
    • The 9X Problem: Whenever you are introducing a new technology, it needs to be a least 9 times better than the current tool. The new user is looking at the delta between their current approach and the effort required to adopt the the new approach.  Most new tools fail this test and so the user falls back on the old and comfortable way of working.
  • What can we learn from Online Shopping?
    • Shopping started out as a series of separate stores and storefronts.
    • Then some retailers such as Amazon focused on aggregration: offering as many products as possible. This required a very long tail that might satisfy customers.
    • Next, online retailers adopted nudging techniques that pushed forward recommendations and even extrapolated from searches done in your browser more generally. Some think this is creepy, but it remains a profitable approach.
  • What is the experience of law firms?
    • Most firms started by creating separate storefronts (e.g., Finance, HR, documents, calendar, practice groups, etc.)
    • Then they moved to aggregation via enterprise search.
    • At O’Melveney, they created a layer above the storefronts called Ommni that lets lawyers find what they need without having to figure out where that information originates. However, this is still a “pull” approach. The lawyer must go hunting.
  • 100% Adoption Requires Nudging.
    • To increase adoption, we need to push our efficiency tools.
    • Why?
      • There will also be some compelling new tool that does not fit nicely within our tidy aggregation approach. So it needs to be pushed.
      • The push approach can help us convey information rather than software. People want the information. They would rather remain oblivious to the new software. They want the results, not the means.
      • The push approach relieves users of the need to master new technology.
  • Omniscient. O’Melveny & Myers has created a new way of delivering information rather than merely software.
    • The first step is to identify “Moments” that are significant and require specific “Information” for success.
    • Next disaggregate that Information from its software source so that it can be bundled in a variety of ways to address the needs of a variety of moments.
    • Then, when a specific moment occurs, send the key information to the people involved — before they even request it.
    • Example: when a new matter opens, Omniscient can find and aggregate useful information such as which lawyers have the best experience and availability to staff the matter. Omniscient then sends this information to the staffing administrators by email.

Session Description:

Whether they have intended to do so or not, law firms have been conducting a 20?year longitudinal study to determine whether their lawyers can share knowledge effectively through software. The results are in, and they are decidedly mixed. That is especially unfortunate because today’s law firm business model increasingly depends on delivering the right information on to the right people at the right moment. The time has come to revisit our basic assumptions and design a better approach.

For more information: see Ron Friedman’s post on this session.


Stop Failing At Failing

With the rise of digital startups, we have become used to hearing about the need to fail fast and fail often. And we have told each other repeatedly that failure is important, failure is necessary, failure is good.

So why do we resist failure?

Because we are not stupid!

The reality is that despite all the cheap talk about the usefulness of failure, few of us find ourselves in organizations that actually put their money where their mouth is. For example, how often does your boss commend you for failing? Or, does your organization’s performance management system regularly reward you for failure?

No? I thought not.

In the absence of a supportive boss and performance management system, why risk your career by failing? Wouldn’t the wiser course be to play it safe, even if it means that you rarely experiment or innovate? After all, curiosity killed the cat!

While being risk-averse may seem like the safer path in the short term, it is a death sentence for your organization over the longer term. Without experimentation, innovation, and a healthy dose of curiosity, everything stagnates — people, processes, and organizations. And, instead of moving ahead or even just keeping up, they simply fall behind.

As Ellen Glasglow wisely observed:

The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.

So if we want to avoid the deadly rut, what should we do? Stop failing at failing and learn to do it better.

There are reliable techniques that help us understand how to fail in smarter ways and how to use those failures to make ourselves and our organizations better. We have learned the value of safe-to-fail experiments, failure targets, and failure parties. But that is only the beginning. At KMWorld 2018, I’ll be leading a workshop entitled From Failure to Fantastic that explores more techniques we can use to get the indisputable benefits of failure without unduly suffering its negative consequences. These techniques are borrowed from a variety of professions and industries, including medicine and oil and gas.

I hope you will join me at the workshop so that we can help each other stop failing at failing.

[Photo Credit: Makunin]


The Knowledge Transfer Equation

One of the great benefits of teaching is that I get to read some wonderful guidance on many key aspects of knowledge management. As I’ve written before, at the top of my list of books to read over and over again is Working Knowledge by Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak. Inevitably, every time I go back to that KM classic I find something I have never noticed before.

In preparing for one of my recent classes, I spent some time on the chapter in Working Knowledge concerning Knowledge Transfer.  It was a good reminder that all our efforts to capture, collect, and organize content are not an end unto themselves. Rather, they are intended to help us transfer knowledge throughout the organization, thereby increasing the organization’s value.

But how do we transfer knowledge effectively? The answer Davenport & Prusak offer may not be exactly what you were looking for:

The short answer, and the best one, is: hire smart people and let them talk to one another.

But, you say, in busy days (and nights) spent battling exploding email inboxes, who has time for conversation? Davenport & Prusak remind us that “In a knowledge-driven economy, talk is real work.” Arguably, dealing with some of the trivialities in your inbox is not.

If you are skeptical, consider the example of Sematech, a nonprofit consortium that focuses on research and development for the computer chip industry. Davenport & Prusak report that Sematech was successful because it created “organizational and human resources structures devoted to technology transfer.” One way they transferred knowledge was by inviting assignees (i.e., representatives from sponsoring firms) to participate in research at Sematech. Then these assignees carried their new technical knowledge back to their own firms where they could put it to use. In the words of one Sematech technology transfer manager:

We have documents, document databases, an intranet, Web, groupware, you name it. But the assignees and the face-to-face meetings we have are by far the most important channels for transferring knowledge to the member firms.

As you think about how you try to transfer knowledge within your organization, on which channels do you rely? Your SharePoint intranet? Training sessions? Email threads? Practice group meetings?

Once you know what channels you are using, consider this crucial question: how successful is the knowledge transfer? Davenport & Prusak remind us that it is not enough to simply post, publish, or announce information. In fact, even a training session may not be enough. Yes, you have made information available but have you fully transferred it? The answer to that question lies in the following equation offered by Davenport & Prusak:

Transfer = Transmission + Absorption (and Use)

In other words, posting, publishing, or announcing information is the equivalent of transmitting it. Once you have made it available, then you must take additional steps to ensure that this information is absorbed by the recipient. Finally, you need to see how and when they use it. Until the moment of use, you do not have a complete transfer. After all, it is through the use of knowledge that you achieve the goal of knowledge transfer: “to improve an organization’s ability to do things, and therefore increase its value.”

This knowledge transfer formula poses an interesting test of our intranet efforts. How much of the content in your intranet is used, much less re-used? If the answer is not sufficiently high, then it is time to think about how to get out of the knowledge transmission business and into the knowledge transfer business.

I suspect that is where you and your organization intended to be all along.

[Photo Credit: Nick Youngson]



A Lesson for the Modern Workplace and School: Connection Before Content

A few years ago I had the privilege of attending a discussion led by Clayton Christensen on the future of education. As you may know, Christensen is a professor at the Harvard Business School who became famous for his work on disruptive innovation. So it was likely that this discussion would leave us feeling uncomfortable.

Christensen did not disappoint. He asked lots of challenging questions about the true value of higher education as currently constructed. What were residential colleges delivering that so exceeded the educational value of a free MOOC that those colleges could justify charging over $60 thousand or even over $70 thousand per year? And what about graduate schools? In this era of back-breaking student debt, what were they offering that the school of hard knocks could not?

I have been thinking a great deal about these questions since I started teaching in the M.S. in Information & Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program at Columbia University. And those questions became even more pressing when I became Academic Director on July 1. How do we justify the time, effort, and expense required by our program?

It would take me a while to enumerate all the ways in which the IKNS program provides value so let me focus on one thing that became very clear this past weekend: we provide a laboratory in which our students can learn proven concepts and practices that equip them for effective leadership.

On Wednesday, August 22, our new cohort of students arrived at Columbia University’s Morningside campus for four days of Intensive study (the Intensive). Our original impulse was to stuff them as full of learning as was humanly possible in such a short time. As a practical matter, this would have required lectures from 9:00am – 6:00pm daily. We could do that. But was it the right approach?

Early in our planning, we realized that we needed to rethink our approach. Given that our program is demanding and very hard to complete without collaboration, the key was to spend the Intensive building the capacity of the cohort to collaborate. So we rethought everything. Rather than making them sit through hours and hours of lectures, we first had them develop their own self-awareness and then their knowledge of their teammates. Through a series of carefully designed individual and group exercises, they built an extraordinary level of trust and empathy. Then we could focus on learning collaboratively.

Our bet paid off. Within hours, these new students moved from being strangers to being friends. And, in that capacity, were more than willing to share their own knowledge and experience to help a classmate integrate new concepts and practices. In the process, they all learned an astonishing amount remarkably quickly. Arguably, more than they could have learned sitting passively through a series of well-intended lectures.

Don’t get me wrong. We had formal teaching sessions. But only after they were ready to learn together.

This experience is a timely reminder of an insight Nancy Dixon has shared with several prior IKNS cohorts: Connection before Content.” Building on the work of Peter Block, Dixon observed that in the workplace, we all work better when we know each other and trust each other. But that knowledge and trust should not be left to happenstance. A thoughtful manager can help speed the development of professional relationship and trust through some intentional practices such as ensuring that team members connect (and later reconnect) with each other before diving into the agenda. This creates a foundation of goodwill and understanding that can act as a shock absorber for the necessary creative friction of teamwork.

If “Connection before Content” is true in the physical workplace, it is doubly true in the virtual workplace and in a virtual learning environment such as ours. The capacity to connect enables the capacity to collaborate and the capacity to share knowledge.

Thankfully, our newest cohort demonstrated this past weekend that they are well on their way to developing their capacity to collaborate with their classmates. NOW they are ready to learn in our program and share that learning with their colleagues at work.

All of us will be the better for it.



Dan Linna: Preparing CIOs for the Law Firm of the Future #ILTACON

Session Description:

Disruptions in the legal industry are putting pressure on law firms to innovate and rethink how they deliver services in order to stay ahead. Learn about the people, processes, and technologies that law firms will need in the not-so-distant future and the measures and behaviors to put in place now to ensure your organization’s success.


  • Futurist view of law firms and how they will deliver services.
  • Future role of the CIO.
  • People, processes and technologies that will be necessary for the law firm of the future.
  • Behaviors and measures to put in place now to prepare.

Speakers: xx

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • What will your law firm be doing in 10 years?  This is the first question you need to answer. Then, ask if you are hiring the right people (and training them) to achieve that reality?
    • you will need lawyers with new skills
      • technologically able, process-focused
    • you will also need developers, data scientists, project managers
  • The market. Over the last 10 years, there has been an increase in demand for legal services. However, demand for law firm services has been flat. This is because in-house corporate counsel are keeping more work for themselves and they have become more strategic about how (and from whom) they purchase legal services.
  • New providers. There are a variety of legal service providers. And now, United Lex has merged its professionals with the lawyers of LeClairRyan. These new approach
  • Legal Departments Priorities.
    • controlling outside counsel costs
    • driving work to outside counsel that demonstrate value. (This leads to the erosion of pedigree when what really matters is performance.)
    • Key attributes of winning law firms
      • solutions focus
      • quality of work
      • legal expertise
      • responsiveness
      • cost-efficiency
      • outcome vs expectation
      • low hourly rates counts, but it is the least important of these factors
  • Performance and Quality Matter. Research by AdvanceLaw indicated that on average the AmLaw 21-200 outperform the AmLaw 20.
  • Threats to law firm business. (According to Altman Weil)
    • corporate law departments are in-sourcing legal work
    • client use of technology
    • alternative legal providers
    • alternative law firms
  • Why are so few law firms changing?
    • Partners resist most change effortts
    • Most partners are unaware of what they might do differently
    • We are not in enough economic pain to motivate more significant change
    • clients aren’t asking for it
    • we lack time or organizational capacity
    • our service delivery model is not broken so we’re not trying to fix it
    • other law firms like ours are not changing
  • Legal Services Innovation Index. Catalogs law firm innovation and then index the work done by individual law firms. For more information see:
  • How do you innovate? You need to focus significantly upon sustaining innovation. It’s not just about disruptive innovation
  • Three Types of Innovation (CapGemini):
    • 70% = core innovation
    • 20% = adjacent innovation
    • 10% – transformational innovation
  • Biggest Issues CIOs face today
    • security management
    • aligning IT initiatives with business goals
    • improving IT operations/systems performance
    • cultivating the IT / business partnership
    • cost control/expense management
  • Hurdles to digital transformation (CapGemini)
    • Cultural issues
    • presence of archaic IT systems and applications
    • lack of digital skilss
    • lack of clear leadership vision
  • Law Firm CIOs
    • Must be a strategic leader in your organization
      • how do you manage change?
      • how do you get others to buy into your ideas?
      • how do you lead up, down, across?
    • How do you contribute to a culture of innovation
  • Knowing the business
    • Law firm CIOs must know their clients’ business
      • External clients?
      • Internal clients?
        • Have you spent time developing relationships and rapport with firm lawyers?
        • Have you spent time understanding how they work?
  • Start with technology
    • EVERYONE is a technology company
  • Legal Technology
    • Basic — MS Office, metadata, eDiscovery, cloud computing, case management
    • Intermediate — document automation, expert systems
    • Advanced — machine learning, AI
  • What is artificial intelligence in law (today)?
    • Rules-driven AI  — expert systems, robotic process automation
    • Machine learning — Walmart is using Legalmation (to ingest complaints, draft a response and discovery questions) before engaging outside counsel
  • Why is so much legal work unstructured?
    • lack of standards and best practices
    • lack of metrics, including for qality
    • Why does it matter? You cannot automate chaos!
  • Steve Harman: We need to move legal services from Art to Science. Lawyers need to change from Artisans to Engineers.
  • How to approach this?
    • Focus on Process
      • disaggregate legal work
      • then figure out who is best postioned to deliver that work
      • systematic reengineering of work processes results in over a 50% improvement in performance
  • Toyota’s Improvement Kata
    • get the direction of challenge
    • grasp the current condition
    • ndefine ext target condition
    • experiment / test
  • 21st-Century T-Shaped Lawyer — able to function with the following skills:
    • Business of law
    • process improvement
    • project management
    • knowledge management
    • metrics data analytics
    • technology
  • For information on LegalRnD, check out YouTube.
  • See the Institute for the Future of Law Practice
    • mostly focused on jobs in corporate legal departments
  • What are law firms doing now?
    • some conversations with clients re: budget
    • some conversations about project staffing
    • some management visits to key clients
    • only 20% conduct post-matter reviews with clients
  • Action Items:
    • ask yourself: what will our firm be doing in 10 years?
    • put the client at the center
    • commit to disciplined continuous improvement and innovation
    • become data-driven
    • create a data plan
    • collaborate with clients, vendors, and law schools
    • identify new products & service to provide value to clients
    • go to Gemba! Embrace empathy!

Me, Myself, and I: Sustaining and Focusing a KM Department of One #G032

Session Title and Description: Knowledge management (KM) is key for any law firm or legal department looking to leverage and organize existing resources to achieve greater things. However, those who are in KM are often frustrated by a lack of resources to achieve what are sometimes rather lofty goals. In this session, we will discuss ways that you can get real results by leverage existing resources, the support of other teams, and little-to-no-cost technologies. And because there’s more than one way to “skin the KM cat”, we will also review strategies from firm-wide initiatives, to practice groups, to client-facing KM. The speakers will discuss positives and negatives to each approach, how to align your KM goals with that of your organization, and how a small KM department can make a big impact.


[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Know your institution.
    • go directly to the attorneys — go door-to-door
      • find out what they are doing
      • find out what’s important to them
      • create relationships
    • talk to colleagues in research / client development/ marketing — learn what questions they are fielding
  • Business case for KM.
    • be a gatekeeper
    • focus on realistic and actionable projects
    • work backwards
  • Prioritizing wish lists and projects.
  • Proven Strategies and Methods to Achieve Real Results.
    • Identify program sponsor / advocates
    • Find the low-hanging fruit — listen to the lawyers. They will tell you about their pain points and what they will find most valuable.
    • What can you leverage? Find out what resources/technology other groups in the firm are using. Can you use it too?
    • Relationship, relationship, relationship!
      • relationships between KM and other support functions
      • relationships with the lawyers
    • UX + UI = Stickiness
    • High-impact but achievable goals
  • Leverage Outside Resources.
    • Local KM groups or individuals
    • Build your own community
    • Relationship with existing or potential vendors
    • ILTA eGroup and content
    • KM conferences
    • Colleagues help with ideas on their Intranet
    • Vendors can also provide support

Robotic Process Automation: What CIOs Need to Know #ILTACON18

Session Description: Robotic Process Automation (RPA) gives CIOs the chance to help their firms rethink its business model. Beyond the cost savings, automation offers high value in the form of improvement in process efficiency, cycle time, productivity, quality, scalability, and governance and regulatory compliance. The value is easy to understand but there are important things to know as you move to automation in order to get it right and achieve the expected value. This session gives perspective on the value, goals, and best practices of RPA.


[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • What is Robotic Process Automation?  Software that can be easily configured to do basic tasks across applications just as human workers do. RPA software is designed to reduce the burden of repetitive, simple tasks on employees. (Source: Investopedia)
  • It automates the actions of everyday users.
    • carry out repetitive processes within applications
    • configured by business users (no development or coding required!)
    • scalable workforce to meet variable demand — you can build more bots to satisfy increased workload, you can take them down when workloads decline
    • work within existing IT infrastructure — no integration required — just trigger a bot by emailing that specific bot (they each have their own email addresses at Seyfarth.)
  • What does RPA look like?
    • Every RPA implementation is different but there are common elements:
    • central management software for bots: blue prism, automation anywhere, UI path
    • Built for processes (time-consuming repetitive tasks)
    • Tackle time-consuming repetitive tasks
    • Bots do more than a macro/script — they can tackle an entire process
    • You get the most value when you deploy bots on an organization-wide basis. (You may want to start within a department first.)
    • You can create off-the-shelf bots or custom bots; you can layer bots on top of each other.
  • How do you identify and measure ROI?
    • Any high-volume, business-rules driven, repeatable process qualifies for automation
    • ROI factors
      • Processing time — start time/end time of a process
      • Productivity — length of time a human worker versus a bot takes to complete the task/process
      • Reduction of error rates — accuracy of bot output — neither bots nor humans are error-free but bots have a lower rate of error and can be stopped easily when they encounter trouble.
      • Redeployment — when bots can handle “reactive” processes, then the humans can focus on more proactive work
  • How is RPA different from AI. Automation technologies speed up or replace human decision making.
    • RPA and AI are on different ends of the continuum. RPA involves less complexity than AI.
      • On the RPA end = RPA and Rules Engine (where the rules are explicitly provided) — primarily works with structured data
      • On the AI end = machine learning (rules deduced by statistical techniques), natural language processing, deep learning, computer vision (using input from sensors) — primarily works with unstructured data
  • RPA is being used across all departments in all industries.
    • New business intake
    • Sending calendar reminders
    • Tax automation
    • IT asset management
    • Employee lifecycle (HR)
    • Finance/Accounting (help automate processes that transfer, aggregate, and report on data)
    • PDF creation for estate tax reporting purposes
  • Gillian Power: The inability of a bot to handles process ambiguity is an opportunity to clarify your process.
  • Seyfarth Shaw’s RPA experience.
    • Launched a RPA Center of Excellence. (This sits outside the IT department.)
    • They got the idea from seeing bots used in other industries and organizations
    • Deployed in Finance, Marketing, IT and Client-facing technology (e.g., extranet)
    • Utilized by various practice groups — initial proof of concept was in their immigration practice. They were able to convert a 25-minute human process into a 4-minute bot process.
  • Other things to consider
    • Security — the bots need credentials to get into your system so they are storing that information. What level of encryption protects this?
      • Be sure to work with your IT security team
    • On-going management, changes, staff, etc.
      • help the displaced humans shift to higher-value work
    • Negotiating strong agreements with vendor
      • work collaboratively with your IT department so you evaluate the new software and vendor in a systematic way
    • Protecting IP
    • Lessons learned