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.

Speakers:

  • 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.]

NOTES:

  • 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.

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New Free Contract Analysis & Document Assembly Tool [#ILTA11]

Kingsley Martin, Founder and President of KIIAC LLP announced at the International Legal Technology Association’s Conference 2011 a new resource that he has created and is making available to the legal community free of charge. His hope is that through this website we can work collaboratively to improve the quality and efficiency of legal drafting. His new website, www.contractstandards.com contains tools to help analyze legal documents and identify component provisions, to generate drafting checklists, to automate document drafting, and a discussion forum to develop contracting standards. On the website, Martin describes their mission statement as follows:

Our mission is to openly share contract standards–contract analysis, checklists, and clause libraries–in an effort to establish global contract norms. It is hoped readers will share their knowledge through comments, practice guidance and other contributions. Contract Standards is a work in progress with new materials added daily.

[The site is developed and maintained by kiiac.com.]

In an educational session on Low-Cost Information Management and Knowledge Management (ILTA INFO7), Martin demonstrated how this new resource could be used to provide some core KM functionality free:

  • Creating Contract Standards.The contracts standards section of the web side includes a list of all major agreements types, a matrix for identifying the components of agreements, and a clause library. In time, there will also be a Definitions Library. The provisions are drawn from publicly-available sources.
  • Contract Automation. The contract automation section of the website contains free document assembly tools and end-user guides. Participants are invited to suggest new features, or even collaborate in developing open source document assembly tools for general use. The document assembly tools allow you to create a document template and then populate the template with the variable terms that are specific to each contract such as the name of parties and economic terms. Finally, the website can automatically generate a drafting checklist containing all variable terms, optional text and questions that you should ask clients to help you with the drafting.
  • Drafting Guidance and Discussion.This discussion section of the website is intended to collect the comments, questions and recommendations of users. The hope is that this discussion will contribute to the development of contract drafting standards, as well as the development of document automation and analysis software.

Kingsley Martin and KIIAC welcome comments, questions and suggestions. The main question is how lawyers will react to a free resource that has the potential to change the way we draft — at a price that is hard to ignore.

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Light Bulbs in Las Vegas [#ILTA10]

How many light bulbs are in Las Vegas casino lights? According to WikiAnswers, 9,000,000 light bulbs per floor. Last week, however, the International Legal Technology Association’s 2010 annual conference resulted in a great deal more light in Vegas as one informative session after another caused “light bulbs to go off in my head.”  There were several “aha” moments in the sessions I attended, but here are some of my favorites that I don’t want to forget:

  • Ron Friedmann, Gerard Neiditsch and Jeffrey Rovner presented a compelling case for analyzing more carefully the business of law as practiced by most firms.  Their session provided a practical way to take some of the provocative ideas presented by Richard Susskind at ILTA 2009 and make them a reality.  The key take away: different business models may require different technology and business processes, and a mismatch can lead to great inefficiencies.  Do you understand the business drivers at your firm? (For more information on this session, see the presentation slides and  a summary by Andrew McLennan-Murray.)
  • Paul Domnick, CIO of Freshfields, described the viral way some of their social media initiatives behind the firewall have taken off.  Most striking is how they have been willing to stretch and experiment to achieve fantastic results.  In one experiment, they replaced their traditional intranet with a wiki.  That wiki now receives an amazing 1,000,000 page impressions per day.  Further, they did this using Atlassian’s Confluence — NOT SharePoint. In explaining his team’s approach, Paul said: “We need to be the broker between the art of the possible and the real needs of the organization.” (For more details on this session, see the presentation slides and  David Hobbie’s terrific notes.)
  • Kingsley Martin’s astonishing KIIAC software is able to analyze precedent documents and generate a form automatically in a matter of hours.  This will transform the creation of model documents and the role of practicing support lawyers. Above all, if this software allows firms to generate an “at market” form of a complex agreement at the push of the button, what will that do to the practice of law?
  • Keynote speaker Jason Jennings reminded conference attendees that “the right [corporate] culture is the ultimate competitive advantage.” His research indicates that companies achieve and sustain success by engaging their employees in a “shared, noble purpose.” This is an interesting litmus test for both companies and law firms.
  • From a fantastic session on  developing a social media policy by Julia Montgomery and Karen Sheehan:  Education is the key to a social media policy. Without education, it’s difficult for employees to understand both the opportunities and dangers presented by social media.
  • In a session on Supporting Alternative Fee Arrangements, Jason Epstein of Baker Donelson said that most firms were already doing AFAs in one form or another, but most likely weren’t doing them well.  As a result, these firms were probably losing money on them.  In his view, AFAs should be “a spur to make the practice of law better.”
  • From my notes on the Matter-Based Budgeting Session: “Budgeting is an iterative process. Once the lawyer puts a draft budget on the table, that opens up an important ongoing conversation with the client.”
  • Major General Clyde Tate (of the US Army’s JAG Corps) on dealing with massive change: Perseverance is key. “Bureaucrats love it when you give up…your job is to wear them down.”

What were your “light bulb moments” at ILTA 2010?

[Photo Credit: Zetson]

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