An immigration law firm using an AI-based expert system to automate both routine and complex tasks and a law school lab designed to prepare students for innovative practice are the 2019 winners of the College of Law Practice Management’s InnovAction Awards.

The COLPM presents the awards each year “to those unsung heroes and rising stars within the legal profession who dare to think differently and succeed by doing so.” Entrants are judged based on their originality, disruption, value and effectiveness. Their innovations must have occurred within three years of entry.

This year’s winners are:

Siskind Susser for Visalaw.ai

Key Team Members: Greg Siskind, Josh Waddell and Jason Susser.

Siskind Susser is an immigration law firm based in Memphis that has been using Neota Logic’s AI-based expert system studio for more three years to create apps that replicate legal analysis and automate routine and complex tasks and document generation. Some apps are free and were developed rapidly in response to immigration policy changes and enforcement actions to assist people with immediate needs. Others involved hundreds of hours of work to develop.

The apps will soon be incorporated into case management systems and the firm recently signed a distribution agreement with the American Immigration Lawyers Association to market the apps to its 16,000 members. Among the apps are:

  • An H-1B public access file generator that makes it easy for employers to meet the 24-hour deadline to create this series of documents and notify labor unions.
  • A 50-state immigration advisor that assists rural and inner-city hospitals in assessing whether they qualify to recruit international physicians to work in their facilities.
  • An app that advises people born abroad whether they are considered citizens at birth.
  • An app rolled out in one day in Spanish and English that helped DACA recipients understand how they were affected by President Trump’s revocation announcement.

Suffolk University Law School for its Legal Innovation and Technology Lab

Key Team Members: Kim M. McLaurin, Sarah Boonin, Gabriel Teninbaum and David Colarusso.

In October 2017, Suffolk Law created the Legal Innovation & Technology (LIT) Lab, a joint project between the school’s clinical programs and its LIT Institute. The lab aims to prepare students for innovative practice through experiential education. It provides students the opportunity to apprentice alongside legal tech and data science professionals while working on projects for internal and external clients (e.g., nonprofits, courts, and small firms).

In addition to serving clients, this work acts as the foundation and inspiration for independent scholarship and innovation. This can be seen in work such as the lab’s partnership with Stanford’s Legal Design Lab, which resulted in creation of an online game (Learned Hands) to help AI improve access to justice by crowdsourcing issue spotting for lay peoples’ legal questions. This labeled data can then be used by AI developers for training and a benchmarking.

The LIT Lab is currently building on this work, training machine learning classifiers to spot issues in novel texts that once published will help better connect folks with legal services. The Lab’s unique structure allows it to share best-of-class technology and process insights while leveraging existing institutional infrastructure, chiefly, the pedagogical expertise of clinical educators paired with the perspective of legal scholars.

Futures Conference

The awards will be presented in conjunction with the College of Law Practice Management Futures Conference in October in Nashville.

Patrick Lamb, co-founder, ElevateNext Law, and chair of the InnovAction Program, said that this was a particularly strong year for entries, which came from around the world. “This year’s winners highlight the intersection of law, tech and process, which is becoming more important than ever,” Lamb said.

Judges for this year’s awards were: Ida Abbott, Ida Abbot Consulting; Casey Flaherty, Procertas LLC; Ron Friedmann, LAC Group; Stephanie Sciullo, MSA Safety, Inc.; and Tony Williams, Jomati Consultants LLP.

COLPM is an organization formed in 1994 to honor and recognize distinguished law practice management professionals, to set standards of achievement for others in the profession, and to fund and assist projects that enhance the highest quality of law practice management.

Note that I am a COLPM fellow.