The Mississippi Bar today announced that it is switching the research service it offers as a free benefit to its members from Casemaker to Fastcase. The switch will take effect for its more than 9,000 members on June 1.

“This new partnership allows us to support our members by providing free access to tools that will benefit them in their practice of law,” said Deanne Mosley, executive director of The Mississippi Bar, in a statement announcing the switch. “We’re proud to partner with Fastcase to provide access to such innovative research tools and online law libraries.”

Mississippi Bar members will be able to access Fastcase through the bar website at www.msbar.org, where they will be able to log in with their bar username and password.

According to Fastcase, 30 state bar associations and dozens of metro, county, and specialty bar associations offer its service as a free benefit to members. Through those partnerships, Fastcase says, its service is available for free to more than 800,000 lawyers — two-thirds of all lawyers in the U.S.

Twelve of those states switched to Fastcase after previously offering a different legal research service. Ten switched from Casemaker to Fastcase.

In 2016, the Minnesota Bar made the reverse switch, from Fastcase to Casemaker, only to reverse itself six months later.

 

Although law firms often talk about innovation, fewer than a third have actually tasked someone within the firm with the responsibility for driving innovation.

This post was a BlawgWorld Pick of the Week.

That is among the findings of a new survey, the 2018 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey. published today by Aderant, a global provider of business management software for law firms.

When firms were asked whether they had specifically tasked anyone with responsibility for innovation, 29.7 percent answered yes. Large law firms of 500 or more lawyers were more than twice as likely to have such a person, with 55.9 percent  answering yes.

Whether firms have tasked anyone with innovation, by size.

Firms were also asked about which technologies had the greatest impact on efficiency. The top five technologies that firms said had either a moderate or high impact on efficiency were:

  • Document management, 90%.
  • Time and billing management, 88%.
  • Financial management or ERP, 73%.
  • Mobility and mobile apps, 70%.
  • Business intelligence, 70%.

Technologies found to have the least impact on efficiency were enterprise search, project management, task management, and customer relationship management.

Technology concepts with the greatest potential to drive efficiency.

One interesting question that I do not recall having seen before in a technology survey asked respondents to identify the technology concepts — as opposed to specific technologies — they believed had the greatest potential to drive efficiency. The top five:

  1. Automating routine tasks, 64.2%.
  2. Workflow automation, 54%.
  3. Analytics, 47%.
  4. Integration of existing law firm systems, 34%.
  5. Mobile access to law firm systems, 24.1%.

Given the legal industry’s focus of late on artificial intelligence, it may come as a surprise that only 16.1% identified AI as having the greatest potential to drive efficiency. Other lower-ranking concepts were:

  • Predictive analytics, 7.3%.
  • Cloud-based solutions, 8.8 percent.
  • External collaborative tools, 17.5%.
  • Internal collaborative tools, 18.3%.

Although cloud computing did not rank high as a concept driving efficiency, firms seem to be more open to the cloud, the survey found, with only a quarter saying they were not adopting cloud computing. While surveys often ask about barriers to cloud computing, this survey turned that around and asked what was driving cloud adoption. The top five factors:

  1. Provides better disaster recovery, 50.5%.
  2. Less costly compared to on-premise solutions, 39.1%.
  3. Augments business continuity, 29%.
  4. Better cybersecurity, 27.5%.
  5. Improving features and functionality in cloud products, 25.4%.

In addition to innovation and technology, the survey looked more broadly at the business of law. It found that the legal business climate is improving, with 57 percent of respondents saying that business at their law firm is better or much better than it was in the last 12 months. The larger the firm, the more likely it was to say its business was better.

The top challenges facing firms, the survey found, are pricing, cybersecurity, operational efficiency, technology adoption, and competition.

Alternative fee agreements continue to be used in relatively few matters. Most respondents reported having 20 percent or less of client accounts structured under any arrangement other than the billable hour.

The survey was completed by 138 business and legal professionals at law firms all over the world. Most respondents were not lawyers, but instead held business, technology or financial roles. Ninety-eight percent were from firms of 25 or more lawyers, and 25 percent were from firms of 500 or more lawyers.

The full survey can be downloaded at no cost and with no registration required: The 2018 Aderant Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey.

“Sometimes I get nervous
When I see an open door
Close your eyes
Clear your heart
Cut the cord”

-The Killers: Human

They say change is hard. I’m not sure I agree. Leaving one thing for another is hard. The process and decision of leaving something and somewhere are gut-wrenching. It’s difficult. It takes time and patience. Changing at the end of that process when you see the better path is easy. For me, this process meant deciding to leave my law firm, Frost Brown Todd, where I have been for most of my career. and the full-time legal practice.

I have spent almost my entire working life under the Frost roof. I essentially grew up under that roof, raised children while there and moved from associate to equity partner with all that that entails. I laughed, cried, sweated and rejoiced under that roof. Its been a rewarding place and took me places and let me do things that I never thought I would do when I graduated law school. It was safe and secure. It’s been great and I value it all.

Leaving it all to pursue my passion was hard.

So Why Change, Particularly Now?

Most of my partners were supportive, albeit a bit incredulous, about my decision. (One of my partners sent me a one-word email which said “Dude?”). Why would someone leave the security of a large firm and what he had done his entire career to set out on a new endeavor, particularly at this stage when most are cutting back and reaping the benefits of years of experience.

First and foremost, my decision had nothing to do with the firm or my colleagues. I hold both in the utmost and highest regard. But like so many things in life and with your career, doors and the path forward have a way of opening for you when you don’t expect it.

For several years, as many may know, I have been writing and presenting in the legal space. At first, I did this as a potential way to get business, focusing on the law and new developments in my areas, mass tort, class action, data breach, etc.  Gradually, though, I found myself writing and doing less concerning the substantive law — the nuts and bolts — and more on how the practice of law itself is changing, where it is going and how that direction is being impacted and shaped by technology and innovation. How efficiencies that could be brought on by better processes and different billing options could open new doors and ways of practice.

And along the way, I began meeting some fascinating and smart people who I came to respect and admire. People like Casey Flaherty, Jim Beckett, Aaron Street, Bob Ambrogi and Keven O’Keefe among others. People who were disruptors, movers, and shakers.

And I as is spent more time in this space, I also became fascinated with the entrepreneurs developing legal technology. How and what they were selling. Their passion, their enthusiasm, their willingness to fail from time to time. People like Ed Walters of Fastcase, Andrew Arruda of ROSS, Nicole Bradick of Theory and Principle.

To a person, all these people were encouraging and supportive but also pushed me to take my talents, skills, and experience in the direction of my newfound interests. That’s what disruptors do. That’s what entrepreneurs do.

I started attending new and different conferences. Conferences like the ABA TechShow. CLOC. I even branched out and went to things like the Consumer Electronics Show, South by Southwest, and other conferences where disruptors and innovators from all sorts of disciplines come together.

And I found, possibly because of my exposure to all these new ideas, my interest in the actual practice of law itself was also shifting. I became less interested in the actual handling of a case — the nuts and bolts — and much more interested in formulating overall strategies. Determining the risks and possible outcomes based on those risks and finding solutions using new and different tools to minimize risks and, just as importantly, reducing the overall transactional and disruptive costs — both financial and human. Using technology in case management and budgeting and in the courtroom. I even taught a group of trial lawyers how to better use trial presentation technology in the courtroom. How cool was that?

Because of all this exposure, this pushing and perhaps because, quite honestly, I have always been a nontraditional thinker in life and law, working with innovation and technology became the thing I found I enjoyed. This was the work I wanted to spend my time doing. While I hesitate to use an overworked phrase, this became my passion. When I found myself waking up in the morning eager to get to work on my passion instead of the traditional practice of law, I began to think it was time to get serious about a fundamental change.

What Is It About Leaving?

But that change didn’t happen overnight. It took me a long time to finally see and admit what I liked and what I wanted to do. It took awhile for me to define and figure it all out.

But the change process required a final difficult step: I had to decide exactly how I was going to do what I wanted to do. I tried out all sorts of strategies in my head to not leave the safe and secure place where I was. How I might devote time and energy to my passion but still practice traditional law. Maybe I could reduce my billable hours. Maybe become of counsel. I even thought I might pursue my calling as a skunkworks. (Yeah, I know, not a chance.)

Each time, I wasn’t satisfied with the solution and, more importantly, where it led. Each time, it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel right I suppose because I was hedging my bets. I wasn’t leaving for my passion, I was compromising it. When the idea finally hit me that maybe it was time to cut the cord and just fly, I quickly rejected it. Out of the question. Too risky. Scary.

But each time I went through the analysis I ended up back to this same place. The more I wrapped my head around it, the more it made sense. And how, even though I didn’t necessarily want to admit it, it felt exactly right. Once I got over this hump, the process was complete. It was time to leave.

And so, as of May 31, I will leave the safety and security of the big firm and set sail on my own.

So What Will I Be Doing?

Three things. First, I plan to devote more energies to my blog (if you’re interested, here’s a link), to writing and to speaking. Focusing on how the practice of law can infuse technology, process, and innovation and be better. Not just for a few but for many.

Second, coaching. Helping lawyers, law firms, and in-house counsel see where the practice is going and how the delivery of legal services can be improved based on technology, innovation, and process. Helping lawyers use technology and innovative tools to better their practice and be better lawyers and people. And coaching startups and entrepreneurs in the legal space to make products that lawyers will actually want and use. Coaching entrepreneurs how to navigate and sell to law firms and legal departments.

These two legs of the stool were obvious. The final one took some time to tumble to, but once I did, it made my decision so much clearer.

Some of the best advice I ever got was from Bob Ambrogi, who told me to write about something I knew about. And so it is with my new adventure. Several weeks ago, I had coffee with Pat Lamb at CLOC to congratulate him on his new partnership with Elevate. As I was describing what I wanted to do, I casually added he was doing similar things but still liked to practice and offer legal advice at very high levels from time to time. And so, it hit me that, in addition to writing and speaking and coaching, I also still have something to offer as a practicing lawyer.

In talking with Pat, it dawned on me that I could use what I was learning about technology, innovation and process management to help companies in the mass tort and complex case arena, the areas where I have some expertise. To supply strategic case assistance and management help. To advise clients how to analyze the risk and exposure of these cases and then how to manage through those risks. How to put teams together to do work, how to define the best possible results for the client and how to use new and different billing strategies and analytics to get there. In fact, with Elevate and Dan Linna, I was already working doing just this sort of thing: developing on new billing and organization processes for mass tort cases.

This became the third leg of the stool. Once I figured this part out, my path became very clear. And my decision easy. So what will I be doing?  Writing, coaching, and, yes, still practicing. A three-legged stool.

My new career. I’m really excited about it.

Leaving is Hard, Change Easy

So to anyone going through the “leave or change” process or thinking about it, it’s easy to say follow your passion. But like most people, I wondered what that means. Is it just some platitude we mouth and repeat so often it is often devoid of any meaning?

I do know now that it’s not easy to figure out what your passion is and how to follow it once you know. It’s not always self-evident. It takes some patience, some work, some hard thinking to figure out.

And the whole concept of leaving gets in the way and makes it hard. Leaving entails saying goodbye to valued colleagues. To the safe and secure. To something you know and feel comfortable with.

Following your passion at the very least then has to mean doing the hard work to really find a passion that lets you overcome the reluctance to leave. It means listening instead of talking. Listening to your head and often your heart. Seeking out and listening to others about what you want to do, even when they say things you don’t want to hear.

And sometimes in these days of big data and hard analytics, it means that in matters of love and passion, you sometimes just have to go with your gut. And when you do, you have to have the courage to recognize when something feels right.

It’s from passion that you get the courage to do what’s hard. To leave the nest. To cut the cord. It’s passion that makes change come easy. I know now that that’s what finding your passion is. That’s all it is.

Starting June 1, I will be pursuing full-time writing and coaching through TechLaw Crossroads and my blog; and a legal practice outlined and defined by my passion as a solo through EmbryLaw LLC.

Change is easy. Leaving is hard. Close your eyes. Clear your heart. Cut the cord.


Stephen Embry is author of the blog TechLaw Crossroads and is on Twitter at @stephenembryjd.

 

The number of artificial intelligence companies catering to the legal field has grown by 65 percent in the last year, from 40 to 66.

This finding is from the In-House Counsel’s LegalTech Buyer’s Guide 2018, published today by the contract review automation company LawGeex.

The increase in AI companies includes a number of “agile and well-funded startups,” says the guide, but also a number of established players that are joining the field, such as LexisNexis with its Lexis Answers and Bloomberg Law with its Points of Law.

As its title suggests, the guide is oriented to in-house counsel. It covers AI for uses such as contract review, e-discovery, legal analytics, prediction, due diligence, legal research and e-billing. It also covers a variety of other legal technologies, including for digital signatures, task management and communications.

The guide also details the 22 largest legal technology mergers and acquisitions and the 45 largest fundings in the sector over the past year.

My instinct is to be highly skeptical of a purported buyers’ guide that is written and published by a company that competes within that market. But this guide actually appears to be entirely neutral, giving LawGeex no greater billing than any other listed company. The entries for all the listed companies appear fair and many include comments from actual users.

Two Observations

Two further points worth noting about this guide:

First, its listing of AI companies is not complete. Most notably, it omits Thomson Reuters, whose Westlaw, with its natural-language processing, was one of the earliest AI products in legal. Thomson Reuters Labs and, within it, the Center for Cognitive Computing, are major initiatives devoted to the study of AI and data science. Just in January, TR rolled out an AI-powered product for data privacy law.

In addition, there are a number of small legal tech startups that are using AI but that are not included on this list.

Second, when the guide suggests that established players such as LexisNexis are joining the field, it should be pointed out, for the sake of accuracy, that LexisNexis, like TR, was using AI in its research platform well before most of these other players came along.

Because of the buzz around AI in recent years, companies have become more explicit in talking about it and marketing around it. But AI in legal has been around for a number of years in contexts such as research and e-discovery.

 

Update #2: The Washington Post has this: The Cybersecurity 202: Security community has its own encryption debate after discovery of new flaw.

Update: “Don’t panic,” is the message of an EFF post published subsequent to my post below, but avoid using PGP, at least temporarily until more is known. And computer security blogger Graham Cluley says “the sky is not falling,” but consider taking some common-sense precautions. 

Lawyers are often urged to use encryption to protect the confidentiality of email communications with clients. In May 2017, the American Bar Association issued a major ethics opinion saying that, in every case, lawyers should evaluate the need for “particularly strong protective measures” such as encryption.

But encryption is no longer safe as a secure means of sending emails after European security researchers this morning published a warning that they have discovered critical vulnerabilities in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption that can reveal the test of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the past.

“Email is no longer a secure communication medium,” Sebastian Schinzel, a professor of computer security at Germany’s Münster University of Applied Sciences, told the German news outlet Süddeutschen Zeitun, as reported by Gizmodo.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued an alert this morning urging immediate disabling or uninstalling of tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email.

It also issued guides on how to temporarily disable PGP plug-ins in:

EFF says users should stop sending encrypted email and instead use alternative end-to-end secure channels, such as Signal, a free and open source program that allows secure text and voice messaging via desktop, Android and iOS.

A roundup of the week’s news from the worlds of legal technology and innovation:

Suffolk’s online innovation courses OK’d for CLE. In a post here last October, I reported on a new online certification course in legal innovation and technology being launched by Suffolk University Law School in Boston. This week, Suffolk announced that the Florida Bar has approved the first two of the planned six courses for 12 CLE credits each, including up to 2.5 credits towards Florida’s required three hours of technology-related CLE. Florida requires lawyers to complete 33 credit hours every three years, and was the first (and still only, but watch North Carolina) state to require technology CLE as part of that total. The two approved courses, Legal Operations and 21st Century Legal Services, begin May 29.

Open-sourcing EDGAR. LexPredict, the software and data company, announced this week that it is preparing to launch OpenEDGAR, a project aimed at making the SEC’s EDGAR database easier to search. “OpenEDGAR is a comprehensive framework for building databases from EDGAR, and can automate the retrieval and parsing of all EDGAR forms,” the announcement said. LexPredict says OpenEDGAR “will be able to build custom data sets and parsers, provide real-time search API access, and even deliver terabytes of historical bulk data to organizations that need assistance.” To be notified when it launches, email secdatabase@lexpredict.com.

Incubating blockchain dispute resolution. Kleros, a company that is using the Ethereum blockchain to develop online dispute resolution for virtually any product or service, announced that it has been accepted into the Thomson Reuters Incubator program. Participation in the program allows Kleros to take up residence for six months in Thomson Reuters Labs Zurich location, where it will receive office space, executive mentoring, and access to data and technology capabilities. The Kleros project relies on concepts from game theory, cryptography and blockchain for securing evidence, selecting jurors and providing incentives to make honest decisions.

In a related note, on May 15, Kleros will launch an initial coin offering.

PWC deploys eBrevia’s AI contract analytics. Professional services giant PWC this week announced that it has entered into a joint business relationship with eBrevia to use its contract analytics software across a range of use cases that require quick and accurate abstraction of key terms from unstructured data. PWC had already been using eBrevia’s technology in a variety of contexts, but this news represents an acceleration and broadening of that relationship and a greater degree of collaboration between the two companies.

Worth reading: Can a lawyer ethically accept Bitcoin as payment for legal fees? “Yes, but … ,” says Michael Kennedy at Ethical Grounds. … Does your car need to comply with GDPR? Turns out it does, according to Jiri Chejn at Security & Privacy // Bytes. … So your firm has adopted initiatives to deploy new technologies and improve processes. Good for you. But is it working? Ivy B. Grey explains how to figure that out. … And speaking of tech CLE, my colleague Kevin O’Keefe wonders if bars are being hypocritical in pushing tech training while shutting down consumer-facing tech initiatives.

 

When last we wrote about judicial analytics company Gavelytics on March 13, it was announcing a $3.2 million funding round to support development of new features and expansion into additional jurisdictions. Today, the first two of these new features roll out — a rulings database and an arbitrator archive.

As I wrote when Gavelytics launched last September, it uses artificial intelligence to extract data from court dockets and then applies analytics to reveal insights about judges, such as how they might rule on particular matters and in what timeframe. It was founded by Rick Merrill, a former biglaw litigator who because frustrated over his inability to get meaningful information about the judges before whom he appeared.

Gavelytics launched with analytics on judges in Los Angeles and Riverside counties in California. In April, it added San Francisco County Superior Court. During the second quarter of the year, Merrill told me in March, he planned to rapidly add most of the rest of California. Later this year and into next, he said, he would add analytics for additional states.

With today’s enhancements, Gavelytics adds two features:

  • Trial court rulings. This databases includes thousands of Los Angeles trial court orders dating back to 2000. Users can search the rulings by judge, subject matter and type of motion. This will allow users to see not only how judges tend to rule on certain types of motions, but also the actual rulings. This can be particularly useful, Merrill said, under California Code of Civil Procedure §170.6, which gives parties the right to disqualify a judge from a case without having to show a reason.
  • Arbitrator archive. The arbitrator archive provides analytics on more than 30 arbitrators who are former Los Angeles Superior Court judges. A lawyer could use this, for example, to find out if an arbitrator tended to rule for plaintiffs or defendants while on the bench, or if the arbitrator was subject to an unusually high number of §170.6 motions from one side or another.

While these new features are available only in Los Angeles, they will be rolled out to San Francisco soon and will be available statewide later this year, the company said.

The jury of popular opinion is divided on the writing style of the newest justice on the Supreme Court. Slate pronounced Neil M. Gorsuch a terrible writer. But a forthcoming quantitative study of his published opinions concludes that he “does exceedingly well according to the standards of good writing that legal writing authorities espouse.” His writing is the subject of a mocking Twitter hashtag and has been covered in the New York Times.

Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch; photograph by Franz Jantzen, 2017.

But what do legal editing programs think of Gorsuch’s writing? There are several such programs available to lawyers. The most-popular ones operate as add-ins to Microsoft Word, performing grammatical and stylistic analyses of briefs, memoranda and other legal documents.

I decided to test Gorsuch’s opinions against three of these programs: BriefCatch, PerfectIt and WordRake. I had never before used BriefCatch. I had previously reviewed both of the other programs, calling PerfectIt a virtual, eagle-eyed proofreader, and twice testing WordRake against Supreme Court opinions, first against the writings of Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan, and then against Justices John G. Roberts Jr., Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer.

At the outset, it is important to note that these three programs operate differently and perform different functions. WordRake and BriefCatch are similar to each other in that they focus on enhancing clarity and concision. In contrast, PerfectIt is a proofreading tool; its suggestions are more granular and encompass punctuation, formatting, citation style, capitalization, and more.  WordRake and BriefCatch perform a one-time analysis — one calls it a “rake,” the other a “catch” — while PerfectIt performs a series of tests.

Texas v. New Mexico

I started with Gorsuch’s majority opinion in the water dispute, Texas v. New Mexico. This was the opinion in which Gorsuch “seemed to hit his stride” as a writer, Nina Varsava, author of the study of his opinions and both a Yale law student and Stanford doctoral candidate, said in the New York Times.

When I ran the three editing programs against this opinion, PerfectIt immediately caught something neither of the others did. One of its first tests looks for spelling variations, and it found the same word spelled two different ways, “mold” and “mould.” In this case, the variations were intentional. Gorsuch quoted an opinion that used “mould,” but in his own use of the word, he chose “mold.”

Another PerfectIt test, this one for capitalization, also caught something neither of the others did. It noted that the word “Compact” appeared in the opinion 24 times capitalized and four times not capitalized. It gave me the option of using one form or the other in all instances (or of leaving them as they were), but also warned to check the context, as words may need capitals in one place but not another. Here, the differences in capitalization were intended. Some referred to a specific compact by its formal name and thus were capitalized, while others referred the noun in its generic sense. PerfectIt also caught inconsistent capitalization of the words reservoir and state.

Unlike PerfectIt, BriefCatch and WordRake focus on enhancing concision and readability. With regard to Gorsuch’s opinion in the Texas case, both programs were sparse in their edits. A good example is the first paragraph, which some readers have praised for doing what opening paragraphs should do — draw in the reader.

BriefCatch made two suggested edits to this paragraph. First, it suggested changing “are made” because it is the passive voice. It did not provide rewording, but a sidebar suggested, “[R]ewrite in the active voice, focusing on the actor, not the action.” BriefCatch also suggested changing “In an effort to reconcile” to the more concise “To reconcile.”

WordRake made the same suggestion to shorten “In an effort to” to simply “To,” but it did not pick up on the passive voice.

Skipping over the next two paragraphs to the fourth, BriefCatch offered several suggestions. (Note that BriefCatch highlights text and shows the suggestions in a right-hand panel, whereas WordRake shows its suggested edits directly in the document.) BriefCatch suggested changing “before this Court” to “here.” It suggested that the phrase, “New Mexico filed a motion to dismiss,” be changed to “New Mexico moved to dismiss,” explaining that it is better to use “strong verbs” that are “short and sweet.” It recommended deleting “in pertinent part” as unnecessary and changing “a number of” to “many” or “several.” It suggested replacing “concerning” with a shorter word such as “about,” “for,” “over” or “as for.” It also suggested changing “violations of” to “violating,” changing “be permitted” from passive to active voice, and changing “to the extent they” to “if they.”

WordRake made some but not all of the same suggestions. It agreed on changing “filed a motion to dismiss” to “moved to dismiss,” getting rid of “in pertinent part,” changing “a number of” to “several,” and changing “concerning” to “about.” One suggestion it made that BriefCatch did not was to delete the phrase, “At the same time.”

Both BriefCatch and WordRake continued to make similar corrections throughout the opinion. Here is how BriefCatch edited the opinion’s final paragraph. For the phrases “are persuaded,” “be taken,” “is sustained,” “are overruled” and “is remanded,” BriefCatch suggested changing all from the passive to the active voice. It also suggested changing “in the absence of” to “without.”

WordRake made no mention of the paragraph’s frequent use of the passive voice and suggested a crisper edit to the “absence of” phrase, changing “in the absence of any of the considerations” to “absent the considerations.” It also made the nonsensical suggestion to change “Nothing in our opinion should be taken” to “Nothing should be taken.”

Artis v. District of Columbia

With Gorsuch’s writing in Texas v. New Mexico having come through these editing programs relatively unscathed, I decided to go back to his dissenting opinion in Artis v. District of Columbia. This was the opinion Slate author Mark Joseph Stern cited as an example when he wrote, “Gorsuch’s prose has curdled into a glop of cutesy idioms, pointless metaphors, and garbled diction that’s exhausting to read and impossible to take seriously.”

Both BriefCatch and PerfectIt were far kinder. Here again, BriefCatch tended to focus on instances of the passive voice and WordRake tended to look for opportunities to shorten sentences. This is illustrated in the first paragraph of Artis. BriefCatch seized on the passive voice in “was built.”

WordRake tried to shorten the paragraph, with nonsensical results. It wanted to change, “… sometimes all that means is we need to look more carefully for the reason it was built in the first place,” to, “… sometimes all that means is we need to look more carefully it was built.” Huh?

The two programs diverged in this next paragraph. BriefCatch disapproved of the passive “was commonly used” and wanted to change “in cases where” to “when.” It suggested changing “period of time” to either “period” or “time” and “in these circumstances” to “here,” “in that case,” or “in that event.”

WordRake ignored all of BriefCatch’s suggestions. Instead, it deleted the transitional phrases “by contrast” and “in this situation.” It changed “used in cases where” to “used where” and deleted “necessarily.” It changed “happened to sit” to “sat” and “suffice to allow” to “allow.”

The two programs made various other edits to the dissent, but they were all in the same vein and relatively innocuous from a critical perspective.

PerfectIt, as I mentioned, performs a unique set of tests. It noted right off that Gorsuch twice failed to hyphenate “common law” in the phrase “common law rule,” and suggested that hyphenation is preferred. It found the same omission in several other phrases, such as “state law claims.” It also found five instances where Gorsuch failed to capitalize the first word after a colon. It found numerous instances where words appeared both capitalized and uncapitalized, such as “Court” and “court” and “State” and “state.”

Henson v. Santander

Rather than continue with Artis, I decided to turn to a paragraph that has generated much critical comment, both favorable and disfavorable. It is the first paragraph in Gorsuch’s first majority opinion since joining the Supreme Court, Henson v. Santander. Scholar Varsava called its alliteration “showy and jarring.”

BriefCatch had no problem with the paragraph.

WordRake suggested two minor changes, deleting “that” and “exactly.”

Thus, neither BriefCatch nor WordRake were bothered by the justice’s showy alliteration.

Reading Happiness

BriefCatch provides two additional analyses that neither WordRake nor PerfectIt have. One is a set of five scores related to readability. (See this explanation.)  Here is how Gorsuch scored in the Texas case:

BriefCatch also provides a narrative report. Here was the report for the Texas case:

 

In the Artis dissent — the case Slate criticized — BriefCatch gave him a higher score than in the Texas case:

And here was the narrative BriefCatch gave for the Artis dissent:

In Henson, the opinion with the “showy” alliteration, BriefCatch gave Gorsuch the lowest overall score of the three opinions:

And here is the narrative it provided for Henson:

The Bottom Line

I performed this analysis in order to compare how different legal editing programs would handle the same documents. As you can see, PerfectIt is best used as a proofreader and best deployed before finalizing a document to check for errors and inconsistencies. Both BriefCatch and WordRake are also best used before finalizing a document, but for the purpose of tightening language and improving readability.

Use of all of these has to be guided by your own editorial judgment. Just because a program says you should do something, that doesn’t always mean you should. Otherwise, you might end up with a phrase in your document such as, “We need to look more carefully it was built.”

 

In 2016, Florida became the first state to mandate technology training for lawyers, when it adopted a rule requiring lawyers to complete three hours of CLE every three years “in approved technology programs.”

So far, no other state has followed suit. But now one has moved a giant step closer to following in Florida’s footsteps. The North Carolina State Bar Council has approved a proposed amendment to lawyers’ annual CLE requirements that would mandate that one hour of the required 12 hours of CLE training annually be devoted to technology training.

The council adopted the proposed amendment on April 20. The proposed amendment now goes to the North Carolina Supreme Court for approval.

The proposed amendment would also add a definition of technology training:

“Technology training” shall mean a program, or a segment of a program, devoted to education on information technology (IT) or cybersecurity (see N.C. Gen. Stat. §143B-1320(a)(11), or successor statutory provision, for a definition of “information technology”), including education on an information technology product, device, platform, application, or other tool, process, or methodology. To be eligible for CLE accreditation as a technology training program, the program must satisfy the accreditation standards in Rule .1519 of this subchapter: specifically, the primary objective of the program must be to increase the participant’s professional competence and proficiency as a lawyer. Such programs include, but are not limited to, education on the following: a) an IT tool, process, or methodology designed to perform tasks that are specific or uniquely suited to the practice of law; b) using a generic IT tool process or methodology to increase the efficiency of performing tasks necessary to the practice of law; c) the investigation, collection, and introduction of social media evidence; d) e-discovery; e) electronic filing of legal documents; f) digital forensics for legal investigation or litigation; and g) practice management software. See Rule .1602 of this subchapter for additional information on accreditation of technology training programs.

Now the question is, Which state will be next?

Legal technology companies are confused about how to market and sell their products, concludes the inaugural Legal Tech Go-to-Market Report, conducted by legal PR and marketing firm Baretz+Brunelle. Ninety-seven percent of respondents in the survey believe the legal tech industry has no firm grasp of go-to-market strategy or, at best, only a scattered one.

In my column this week at Above the Law, I take a closer look at this survey and suggest some reasons its conclusions may be overbroad or overstated.

Read it here: Do Legal Tech Companies Lack Coherent Market Strategies?