Keeping track of legal technology vendors, trends and new products could be a full-time job in itself. It’s why we attend the annual Legaltech® conference, for our own education and on behalf of our clients.
This event gathers speakers and exhibitors to talk about what’s here and around the corner in tech solutions for law firms. If you were unable to attend the 2020 conference a few weeks ago, or you were there but could use a refresher, please continue reading for our take on the legal industry and what vendors have in the pipeline.
Blockchain in law and client industries
The plenary session was delivered by Bettina Warburg, a Blockchain researcher and co-founder of Animal Ventures, a venture capital and innovation agency that specializes in emerging technologies. We found it to be very helpful in understanding the current state of blockchain technology and what to expect in the future. While LAC Group has not worked on any blockchain projects yet, we do anticipate this sector to continue growing as law firms find more use cases for incorporating the technology.
The session was insightful as it showed a number of successful use cases for blockchain. These use cases included removing the middle man from a process or service, working with digital assets, using data that can be stored permanently, and transactions that involve buying and selling of any kind.
As clients are starting to build out private blockchain projects, lawyers have a greater need to understand all the regulations and implications of migrating to this new technology. Because transactions on a blockchain are slower than other alternatives, not every case warrants the use of blockchain. However, because this technology can be used in various industries and for various functions, we expect blockchain will eventually impact most lawyers given that it’s a new area of legal practice and many industries have already started to see the benefits of blockchain. We believe it will be important for law firms to get ahead of the curve and explore how they can leverage this technology to assist their clients.
Lexis had a strong presence at the conference, which was clear when you walked into the exhibit hall as it had one of the biggest, most prominent exhibits. On the other hand, Thomson Reuter had a small exhibit off to the side. In addition, the company did some of the session presentations, like the following:
Using machine learning to understand the language of law
This session was helpful as it showed us how law firms are now using AI to improve their workflow.
Lexis Chief Data Officer Rick McFarland presented the steps of building a good language AI tool. Flyn Flesher, who serves as knowledge management counsel for Ogletree Deakins, walked us through how he took 30 hours to build an AI chat bot for his firm.
The purpose of the AI chat bot “Ask Karlos” is to direct people to the right firm resources. The bot was also designed for lawyers to seek out the correct knowledge experts in specific fields. Additionally, the firm also built out a knowledge base for more extensive questions and answers.
Flesher mentioned during the session that to improve the adoption of Karlos at the firm, they incentivized the lawyers to ask questions that they thought Karlos could not answer. This allowed Flesher to continue tweaking the bot so that all the relevant questions would be covered.
As more law firms continue to build out or purchase AI tools to optimize their workflow, LAC Group will be assessing these tools to assist our clients in understanding what products work best for the firm.
Expanding the legal analytics footprint
We found this session, hosted by Lex Machina CEO Karl Harris, to be the most relevant for us as many of our client engagements involve legal analytics products such as Lex Machina and Westlaw Edge. Harris highlighted the key takeaways of the Legal Analytics Survey conducted by ALM in 2019.
One of the main points from the session is just how many law firms have adopted legal analytics in the last two years. Compared to 38% in 2017, this number had almost doubled by 2019, to 70%, and we expect this to keep increasing as products like Lex Machina further develop their analytics capabilities. Additionally, 92% of law firms plan to increase their use of legal analytics in the next 12 months, compared to only 54% in 2018.
The session speakers emphasized that analytics is just another data point to assist lawyers. While there are people who are worried that analytics technology will replace their jobs, AI and analytics have clear limitations as lawyers still need to massage the data and add their strategies and understanding how to use the data.
How much of contracts still need manual review
That was the title of this interesting session hosted by Charles Dimov of ContractPodAI, an AI-based contract management tool.
The speakers discussed some of the shortfalls of using AI to review contracts and where they saw the usefulness of products like ContractPodAI. It was unanimous that using AI was critical in speeding up the contract review process and that in the next five years, manual review time could be reduced by 50%.
The nuance is how it is being used and which items still need to be reviewed by a lawyer or other contract expert. Some of the issues brought up with AI include:
- AI does not do well with items that are written instead of typed.
- AI may not understand the nuances of some detailed contracts.
- AI cannot yet be trusted to do a complete evaluation.
One of the presenters indicated that he was training a machine learning system to recognize expected clauses in various types of contracts and to identify when those clauses were missing.
Analyzing the analytics: A comparison of the federal litigation analytics market
As litigation analytics is one of the hottest topics in the legal tech industry, this session was one we knew we had to attend. The two presenters, Dianna Koppang, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg and Competitive Intelligence Manager Jeremy Sullivan at DLA Piper shared their experience with 25 other librarians who tested some of the most popular litigation analytics platforms on the market:
- Bloomberg Law
- Docket Alarm Analytics Workbench
- Docket Navigator
- Lex Machina
- Lexis Context
- Monitor Suite
- Westlaw Edge
They researched the same 16 questions on each of the different platforms, and the result was that there was no clear winner. Each platform performed better in some instances than the other platforms and knowing each platform’s limitations was important. Another big takeaway from the session is that the results are much better when combined with research through other platforms such as company and dockets research.
Spend management implications of new legal technology
As more law firms are adopting the products we saw at Legaltech, one of the main issues we see is how to best internally market a new technology to drive user adoption at the firm. Many AI products seem useful, but the reality is that lawyers have a tough time changing how they perform a small task as part of a large workflow.
As the industry has evolved with new sectors and products that did not exist a few years ago, LAC Group plans on working with law firms to ensure that they have a strong understanding of what tools are out there.
Since competition is stronger for e-discovery and contract management platforms, we expect some consolidation in the next few years. It will be interesting to see if the big players in the legal research space (Lexis, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg Law) will build out their own products or make another acquisition.
While we are already seeing more firms using legal analytics to their advantage, we will be monitoring the developments of key players in this space. Given what we have learned through the Legal Analytics Survey in 2019, we expect a greater percentage of law firms to have access to analytics. With this change in the market, law firms will be curious to see which products will give them the best information to win new business.
2020 legal technology trends and vendor updates
The e-discovery space seems to be growing exponentially as there were over 30 vendors that we would consider to be part of this sector, such as:
It is clear to us that e-discovery continues to grow in demand and investment money is continuing to go into these products. With so many e-discovery companies exhibiting at the conference, the big question is which of the products will do the best job of utilizing AI and while still being intuitive enough for users to adopt and feel comfortable using.
We also noticed a good number of contract management companies which included:
This space also seems to be growing pretty quickly as these products leverage AI to help law firms become more efficient in reviewing contracts.
The pace of new and improving technology has truly ramped up. It’s why vendor advice and guidance is one of the key value areas our clients appreciate of LAC Group’s spend team.
If you have questions on the vendors or products mentioned above, please contact us for our answers or recommendations.