Artificial Intelligence, Lawyers and What The Future Might Hold

The following post is related to the upcoming Vanderbilt Law School’s conference on artificial intelligence, April 13-14 in Nashville. More information and registration can be found on the event website.

Our robot overlords are actually much nicer than we anticipated. Helpful, even. And we’re excited to be part of a great event at Vanderbilt University Law School on April 13-14 talking about our digital friends. More on that in a moment.

Technology has rapidly become one of the biggest verticals within the legal profession, and in recent years we’ve all read the stories about how robots are going to take jobs from attorneys. Whether under the moniker of early case assessment tool, technology-assisted review (TAR) platform, or now artificial intelligence (AI), for several years we have seen dramatic increases in technological capabilities and how these tools and algorithms can handle some of the more laborious duties of our work. So yes, in a sense, technology has taken some work off the plates of attorneys.

But here is a fact: Counsel On Call – being one of the most robust users of leading technologies for efficiency, cost reduction and quality improvement initiatives – actually has more attorneys working now that in 2010 when this tech boom really took off. Significantly more.

That just reinforces what we tell our clients: that technology, when utilized properly and by attorneys familiar with the subject matter and the tools, is one of the main pillars of a high-functioning legal department. Yes, technology helps by allowing one attorney to do what used to take five or ten attorneys to do, especially in areas like discovery, compliance and diligence and on the front end of projects. But when looking at areas such as e-discovery, we ultimately use the same number of attorneys for the review portion, but they just spend less time and get results faster. They can handle more matters for a client because they’re more efficient. Their legal knowledge is still needed, their ability to manage and train these technology platforms is more important than ever, and their ability to track and report using detailed metrics to make better business decisions is essential.

So why do we bring this up? After all, we’ve been talking about these benefits for years. Well, we are pleased to announce that Counsel On Call will be part of the upcoming Vanderbilt Law School AI conference. As part of a panel with Catalyst CEO John Tredennick and Baker Donelson visionary Clinton Sanko, our Richard Stout will look at where technology stands today versus what is being reported and where we’re going in the near future. The panel is part of an excellent program that features Richard Susskind (new book “The Future of the Professions”), Andy Daws (Riverview Law), Andrew Arruda (ROSS AI platform) and Dan Katz (attorney/scientist/technologist), among others, and will discuss in detail how AI functions and where it’s taking us. It’s a unique program and one we should all be interested in.

That being said, whether it’s called TAR, CAL, AI or something else, it all comes down to an algorithm. We’re already using that algorithm extensively to create massive cost savings and quality improvements in the legal profession, and lawyers are the innovators leading the charge and training these tools in many cases. We’re optimistic about where AI will take us and how it will create opportunities for different types of attorneys.

So yes, we welcome our robot overlords and how they can help us do our jobs … and ultimately get better results for our clients.

The 'Doers' Perspective: Fully Deploy the Integrative Law Model

Change requires “doers.”

I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the brightest minds in the legal industry—attorneys who have a real sense of where we are as a profession and where we need to go. However, in meeting regularly with these innovators, the most common question I’m asked after brainstorming ideas is, “How do we actually do this?” 
 
The fact is that very few people take the initiative to actually do something about chronic problems in our industry. But I call those in that minority the “doers.”
 

The doers have determined the issue to be this: Times have changed and the legal model needs to be reshaped to appropriately address today’s challenges, which are just as much about business issues as they are legal matters.  

The solution is straightforward, I believe, and that is to add an area to the legal profession that we refer to as “integrative law,” wherein an in-charge lawyer steps back and takes a holistic view on the best way to get work accomplished. Within integrative law are companies, or Integrative Law Providers (ILPs), that bring experienced and flexible attorney resources to the table, as well as a focus on legal process and effective management, smart use of technology, and reduced legal spend. Furthermore, this entity is grounded in the metrics, processes, technology, flexibility and quality control that today’s in-house legal departments need. 
 
Most importantly, the ILP does not replace anything within the legal life cycle; it simply allows the in-house legal department to assign and define the value of its work, make best use of all resources, foster collaboration, and ultimately conduct its legal work more efficiently and effectively for less money.
 
In short, the ILP brings true process to the model shift that our profession is currently undergoing.
 
Why the Shift Is Necessary
 
Business decisions are often conjoined with legal matters, yet most lawyers have limited training or experience in business management. Corporations are examining the dollars spent on legal matters and demanding fiscal solutions; but to date, our industry has generally offered Band-Aid fixes and dated models. Consider the following:
 
The average company spends $4.3 million on legal fees per $1 billion in revenue. 
The average hourly rate for associates at AmLaw 100 law firms is more than $500.  
 
The cost problem is exacerbated by the common “silo approach” to legal matters, with in-house and outside counsel handling issues in isolation. Many cost containment methods have been explored, including the use of alternative fees, offshore outsourcing, the disaggregation of discrete tasks, using regional and ‘alternative’ firms, or bringing as much work as possible in-house. 
 
While these are good first steps in reducing outside legal spend, these methods do not prioritize processes, the need for flexible staffing, collaboration, institutional knowledge or ongoing cost savings through continuous process improvements.
 

The Rise of the Integrative Law Providers
 
Some corporations have turned to legal process outsourcing companies (LPOs) or staffing companies to help. LPOs, which are typically offshore companies staffed with low-cost, non-U.S. attorneys, can provide volume-oriented services and basic processes for certain types of work—mainly first-level document review or simple contracts assignments. Similarly, legal staffing companies, which many lawyers confuse with ILPs, provide armies of attorneys at low hourly rates for voluminous matters or temporary attorneys for a short-term need. Both the LPO and staffing company options have challenges with work management, duplication of work, attorney retention and lack of a big-picture solution.
 
The ILP brings the best attributes of multiple providers together with an “ease of use” model and a focus on managing an entire project. An ILP is not a law firm, but it offers experienced attorneys in a variety of practice areas. It’s not a staffing company, but it has the flexibility to meet the needs of any size matter. It’s not a technology vendor; but it captures, understands and uses metrics with numerous platforms. It’s not a bottom-barrel hourly rate provider; but it focuses on life-of-project costs and a more holistic approach, which also results in significant cost savings. 
 
The experienced U.S.-based attorneys in an ILP find that this is a different way to practice law and, therefore, are trained in such areas as creating and managing to a budget; managing projects, processes and teams; maximizing various technology platforms; identifying and understanding performance and efficiency metrics; and communicating with all partners (in-house, IT, outside counsel, technology). They reveal the need for improved and flexible legal solutions with ROI-driven business initiatives and help define the value of different types of legal work. 
 
The ILP provides measurable results with a single point of contact to design, implement and manage the process to achieve cost-effective, high-quality legal results and business information.

The Legal ROLE Model: Deploying a Real Team
 
Fully integrating ILPs into today’s legal model begins with redefining the team and how its members operate to create a truly collaborative approach.
 
The core of the integrative legal team consists of three defined ROLEs, or Resources Organized for Legal Efficiency: in-house counsel, outside counsel and the ILP. All players work together, eliminating silos of isolated work and making the most effective use of each team member’s skills and expertise. 
  • In-house counsel is the ringmaster, assigning value to legal matters and providing high-level guidance to the company’s customers and business leaders.
  • Outside counsel is focused on strategy and direction, and has the training, resources and expertise to navigate complex issues.
  • The Integrative Law Provider is the process developer and attorney provider, working collaboratively with both partners to develop and execute efficient workflows and control costs.

In a way, the three roles in this integrative core team are similar to those involved in building a house. The homeowner (in-house counsel) chooses an architect (outside counsel), who also works with a contractor or project manager (ILP). The architect draws up plans for the house that reflect the owner’s design preferences and budget parameters. Once everyone is in agreement, digging and building starts. It would be too expensive for the architect to do the actual construction, and the architect isn’t the best person to handle that work anyway. Therefore, it is the contractor’s job to bring in and manage his or her team of specially trained construction workers who have specific skills related to each task and can give the contractor feedback on the work they’re doing and make sure there aren’t any issues. The architect and homeowner direct and supervise the work and can check on it as needed, and if change orders are made, the contractor communicates to the team to execute them.

To carry this analogy further, the integrative model is akin to using the same team to design and build one house after another, no matter the size, and to get continually less expensive and more streamlined with each passing build or project. With the ILP playing a more significant role, the other partners have the ammunition needed to make intelligent and quick business decisions, an essential objective in today’s legal landscape. 

This new ROLE model accomplishes several goals:

  1. Allows in-house counsel to properly delegate and complete work based on complexity, volume and budget;
  2. Allows for effective resource allocation, making the best use of all legal partners;
  3. Eliminates the silo approach and forces all partners to work together to get results;
  4. Integrates technology, promotes access to data, and makes process and quantification the drivers of decision-making.

Does It Work?

Consider the applications. An in-house attorney must know what a piece of litigation will cost in order to make a business decision about how to proceed. With data and analysis from similar matters — provided by the ILP — the in-house attorney accurately understands the costs involved for each aspect of the matter, such as discovery, research, depositions and other necessary work. When this information is know, an informed, measurable decision can be made.

In another example, when a company is considering a small acquisition, the in-house attorney decides whether to have in-house or outside counsel run the deal. Those working on the deal meet with the project manager (PM) from the ILP team and discuss objectives, time frame, and anticipated issues and challenges. The PM can share areas that have caused concern in the company’s prior acquisitions, and can recommend a technology or database for post-deal integration or use. In addition, the PM will assemble the team, coordinate the training, manage the process and the team to ensure work product quality, and meet the deadline — all while outside and inside counsel are focused on bigger-picture issues involved in the deal. Any issues that arise are communicated immediately so that the lead attorney can make timely and well-informed recommendations. At the conclusion, a post-deal integration sheet is provided to in-house counsel so that the legal team’s priorities are known in order to focus on moving forward and can be applied to future matters.  

Similarly, in contracts management, the attorney knows the length of time the ILP team takes to turn around a contract to the business units, whether there are potential challenges with particular contract types (or vendors), and which attorney on the ILP team is most adept at handling negotiation or practice-specific issues. Because the attorney has one team handling the corporation’s contracts with the same process, consistency is greatly improved and dozens of metrics are tracked, and that information can be applied to future matters.

No matter the area in which the model is implemented, the ILP provides, in addition to client-dedicated and experienced attorneys, a process that has quality-control measures built in, detailed reporting, a focus on best practices and areas of improvement, and life-of-project reports that objectively evaluate costs and efficiency. All of this information can ultimately be presented to the general counsel, CEO and/or CFO so they can understand how effectively company resources are being used to handle legal matters.

The end result is that in-house counsel receives a highly efficient, defensible work product in which technology, costs and quality control are the foundation. This model can be used on matter after matter, year after year. Ultimately, corporations have the process in place to handle matters of any size and the data to make solid business decisions. 

At this point in our profession’s existence, that’s what I call change. ‘Doers’ at some of the largest corporations in the world are already deploying this new model.  They can answer the “How do we actually do this?” question. 

Can you?

 

Jane Allen is the Founder of Counsel On Call, an Integrative Law Provider that works with one-third of the 25 largest companies in the U.S., dozens of publicly traded companies and one-quarter of the AmLaw 250 – including many of the largest corporations in our region. Counsel On Call works closely with general counsels to create and implement innovative legal models that focus on process, metrics, flexibility, quality control and return on investment.

 
 

 

DS7.0: Fresh Topics, New Challenges and Solutions

Counsel On Call’s Discovery Symposium 7.0 was recently held in Nashville, Tenn. The annual two-day event was a good balance of relevant large data topics, fun networking between in-house attorney peers, and open dialogue on the issues challenging the legal industry today.

The Symposium’s program is full of experts, but not the typical people one sees at other events. Instead, our speakers are the in-house attorneys who are actually in the trenches for their companies, trying to solve challenges that are ever-changing while learning new technologies and processes – doing it all on a shrinking budget. The Symposium provides our attendees – some are GC’s, others Heads of Litigation or Discovery, and others manage specific parts of the process – some of the intelligence necessary to do all of these things. (See the DS7.0 agenda and panelists here.)

This was the genesis of the Discovery Symposium seven years ago when 35 in-house attorneys first gathered in Nashville in a law firm- and vendor-free environment to discuss the challenges they were encountering. Counsel On Call coordinated the topics and stepped out of the way. Today, the issues of 2009 are not only still present, but are also more complicated. Roles have changed. Brilliant people have changed their respective outlooks. Priorities and strategies have changed. And so has the programming.

We limit the number of Discovery Symposium attendees to 75 because we’ve found that number consistently produces the most open dialogue in the room for each panel. This year did not disappoint in that regard.

From panels on “Getting Maximal Results in Information Governance” to “Broadening the Big Data Model” to “Quantifying Success with Business Intelligence,” the topics were fresh and garnered enthusiastic audience participation. For IG in particular there seems to be a fair amount of frustration with policies that must be written and can’t be enforced consistently, but panelists Jessica Watts (Hewlett-Packard), Mike Lisi (Fidelity Investments) and Scott Veenendall (UnitedHealth) provided very helpful examples of what has worked and what hasn’t at their respective companies that the audience appreciated.

The “Business Intelligence” session was particularly enlightening. Led by two well-known experts in the financial services industry Counsel On Call is proud to partner with on these initiatives, the session began with a simple question: “Why?” Why is it important to track the data you want me to? What is the benefit of providing you access to our data to do it, or to lock down our resources to help you? From there, the panelists provided examples of the data that is most meaningful to them: data that provides the basis for judges to rule on reasonable amounts of discovery, data that wins cases and allows them to budget with precision.

But it was an evergreen topic of interest at Counsel On Call’s Discovery Symposium that garnered the most discussion this year: Technology Assisted Review (TAR). In one form or another, we’ve covered this topic since the first Discovery Symposium, but it’s only now that there is a true critical mass of regular users, as well as an educated group of in-house attorneys who have an understanding of TAR but have not yet deployed it for a variety of reasons.

Led by John Tredennick (Catalyst) and Susan Hammond (Regions Financial), the session began with an overview of what TAR really means, encompassing Continuous Active Learning, predictive coding and even early case assessment-focused platforms. But the two issues that drew the most interest asked: What are the best cases to utilize TAR, and does it really provide the value in-house departments are searching for?

For the former, the general consensus was that TAR could be used on any case, but for those without an overwhelming volume of litigation there was a ROI level after 50,000 documents. This number was reaffirmed in a survey we conducted with our attendees about their use of TAR prior to the symposium.

For the latter, related question, there is still much debate. Many attendees firmly believe that aspects of TAR are continually utilized (and fully utilized on large cases), but with core teams of client-dedicated discovery attorneys who know the technology and consistently get results. That is certainly a principle at Counsel On Call – no matter how much a platform can reduce a data set or how quickly it can identify the responsive documents, it is only as good as the attorneys who train the tool and work within it.

For smaller departments or for those companies that do not have significant litigation portfolios, it is a hard proposition to sell internally. Many of these companies are very dependent on outside counsel and are vulnerable regarding technology decisions. To a person at DS7.0, however, these attorneys said the discussion on this topic was going to help them shape new policies for either anticipated litigation or to be ready with their own process for any potential litigation.

Again, DS7.0 was a great event and the post-event survey scores – an average 4.39 out of 5.0 for the panels – were outstanding. We are already planning next year’s event, which will be held in late April or early May in Nashville. If you are an in-house attorney or manager of the discovery process and are interested in learning more about DS8.0, please visit the Discovery Symposium website and contact us to get on the event distribution list.

Rethinking Training and Formalizing the Counsel On Call Way

Counsel On Call has always done things differently in the legal marketplace. Differently for our clients. Differently for our attorneys. Differently in the results we focus on and achieve. We approach projects from a business perspective – using well-trained and experienced attorneys, providing transparent budget forecasts, identifying key metrics to track, using best in breed technology, and employing a best practice approach on all matters are just a few of the issues on which we’ve always been at the forefront.

These initiatives allow us to not only keep long-term clients, but also long-term legal professionals. Legal professionals who are highly skilled, motivated by the work and environment they get to be a part of, and who practice high-level legal work while gaining more control over their life.

In 2014, our focus in the Managed Services Division is to increase the level of specialized training for all of our legal professionals. This training will include explaining much of the EDRM model, integrated with topics we have found to be essential, including how we work and communicate with clients, our collaborative approach to projects, the elements of successful teams, and many more.

We kicked off this Certification Program by visiting each of our offices and Managed Services facilities to focus our team members on understanding the “Counsel On Call Way.” These were open discussions about the issues above, but also touched on understanding the true life cycle of a document, from creation to disposition to understanding all the players who deal with that document.

The latter point is a real differentiator at Counsel On Call. Attorneys at doc review companies might only click ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a document. That doesn’t teach attorneys how to work more efficiently, or how to flag potential issues that might impact a case, or identify trends, or how to work well with other partners, or how to become a leader, if desired. That is an approach with a narrow focus.

Our attorneys have always been trained to think bigger, and we have now formalized that training. Our Certification Program details issues such as Information Management/Governance (Record Retention, etc.); Identification and Preservation (Legal Holds); Collection and Processing (role of the technology provider); Review and Analysis (nuts and bolts of review); Technology-Assisted Culling and Review (reducing data and speeding efficiencies through the use of latest technology); Privilege, Work Product and Logging (there are a lot of privileges in many industries that we did not learn about in law school); and finally Production and Presentation (how a document is used in deposition and trial).

Our Managed Services Division is also focusing on training its leaders at various levels to understand team dynamics: how teams should be run; how to handle stress, conflict or communication issues; tracking and metrics; among other topics.

We also believe that this formalized training program is essential in providing a career path within our Managed Services Division. Team attorneys can become quality control team members, QCers can become team leaders, team leaders become project managers, and PMs become trusted high-level consultants to our clients. It’s what we’ve organically developed with our attorneys over the years, so there’s a lot of buy-in from the hundreds of Managed Services attorneys who work with us.

These initiatives and programs will not only help our individual legal professionals but will impact the continued success in providing clients what they need and in explaining how Counsel On Call is prepared to handle the ever-changing challenges. Along the way, we are cultivating a new path for attorneys and rethinking how training can bring an increased level of sophistication to all of our team members, giving them the tools to succeed in this growing area of legal expertise.

Energetic Group for Discovery Symposium 2.0

In May 2009, we hosted our inaugural Discovery Symposium, a Counsel On Call client event for a small group of heads of litigation, general counsel and e-discovery managers. We thought that by keeping the group small it would increase the likelihood of candid dialogue about what our clients are experiencing on a day to day basis, where they are struggling, and hopefully result in some real information sharing and best practices… and to help our E-Discovery Division improve and better meet their needs.

The feedback we received from the 35 in-house attorneys who attended the event indicated we achieved these goals, and several attendees made us promise that we’d organize the event again in 2010. So not only are we hosting it again (May 12-13), we’re stepping it up a notch with what we believe is even better programming that is more tailored to the diverse e-discovery knowledge levels of our attendees.

Best practices surrounding early case assessment and technology platforms will be a significant part of the program, as will process management, collaboration, budgeting and outside counsel relationships. We’ve also developed breakout sessions for those attendees without “robust” IT departments and for those highly knowledgeable about the litigation hold and ESI policy processes, among other topics. Panelists are from companies such as AT&T Mobility, AutoZone, Cox Communications, FedEx, Fidelity Investments, HCA, International Paper, Partners Healthcare, and SunTrust Banks, among others.

The response to the DS2.0 program has been tremendous, so much so that we’ve had to cap the registrations at 55 attendees from 40 legal departments across the country. It's a diverse group of Fortune 25 corporations, mid-size companies and smaller departments and we’re really looking forward to the event.

We’re also excited to once again “live blog” from the event, so please check in next week for recaps from each session. For more timely updates, you can also follow Chad Schmidt on Twitter (others to follow are listed on the menu to the right).

If there are any questions you'd like us to pose to our distinguished panelists, we'd love to hear from you... please just post in the comments.

Discovery Symposium 1.0 Promises To Share Best Practices

Next week, we will have the pleasure of welcoming 35 senior in-house litigation managers, representing 25 companies, to our home base in Nashville for the inaugural Counsel On Call Discovery Symposium 1.0. It’s very exciting for us, as it provides the opportunity to get several of our clients in a room together and talk about best practices in discovery and litigation support.

We tried to limit the event to about 30 attorneys to foster a healthy environment for exchanging experiences, and we’re pleased that the demand has been so high. It's a great program – discussing all areas of discovery – that is completely led by the attorneys who are in the trenches and dealing with these challenges on a daily (hourly) basis. We’re proud to be by their side, but in this instance we’re merely facilitators and believe that’s going to help generate the best possible dialogue among some of the brightest minds in the in-house profession.

Here are a few of the session titles:

  • “Good Policies for Retention and Holds; Standards of Care in Preservation and Collection”
  • “De-dupe, Near Dupe and Being Duped: Software Decisions Good and Bad”
  • “Working With My Law Firm: The New Dynamics”
  • “Creating Your Own Discovery Team”
  • “Budgeting for E-discovery: Not a Pipe Dream”

We will likely produce a recap that shares some of the best practices discussed during the event, and if you’re an in-house attorney interested in reading it, please send us an e-mail and we will add you to the distribution list. Also, based on the response this year, we are considering opening up the event to non-clients in 2010 (event will be in Atlanta or Boston), so please indicate if you would like to receive information when it becomes available.

And if you like Twitter, we’d recommend following Dennis McKinnie, formerly a general counsel of two publicly traded companies, formerly with PoGo’s IP litigation group, and a past Staff Counsel to the Supreme Court of the United States … he’s been the Executive Director of our Atlanta office the last four years, and he just got his Twitter account up and running and will tweet during the program. Dennis is well-known for his txt/Blackberry skills, so we’re going to put him to the test.

Richard Stout will also post on this blog from the event, so don’t forget to check back May 13-14. Subscribing to the blog (on the right side of this page) is the easiest way to make sure you don’t miss an expanded update.