In the book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Michael Lewis documented how the Oakland Athletics used analytics to build a competitive baseball team. In much the same way, lawyers are increasingly using analytics to get the upper hand in litigation and business development.

One of the companies that pioneered the use of analytics in law is Lex Machina. In this edition of the podcast Law Technology Now, I speak with the company’s CEO Josh Becker. We discuss the company’s beginnings as a project at Stanford Law, its acquisition by LexisNexis, and its future course, as well as the future course of analytics more broadly.

Listen to this episode of Law Technology Now below or at the Legal Talk Network. Never miss an episode of Law Technology Now by subscribing via RSS or on iTunes.

Recently, at the annual meeting of the American Bankruptcy Institute on April 20 in Washington, D.C., I moderated a plenary panel, “Artificial Intelligence: Why It Matters To Your Future Bankruptcy Practice.” The principal organizer of that conference was Karim Guirguis, chief strategy and innovation officer at ABI. All of us on the panel were impressed with Karim’s production and staging. We especially liked the big white comfy chairs we sat in on stage. I even stopped to take this moderator’s view picture of the panelists in their big white comfy chairs.

So then Wednesday, I am watching the Twitter stream coming out of the 2Civility conference in Chicago, when what do I see? The stage arrayed with the same big white comfy chairs. Totally different legal technology conference. Same chairs.

Coincidence? Maybe. But then this happened. Brett Burney sent me his post about the Summit on Law and Innovation on April 30 at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, along with a bunch of photos. And what do the photos reveal? The chairs! The same big white comfy chairs.

Wait. It gets weirder.

Take another look at the picture from the 2Civility conference, two pictures up. See the woman sitting in the middle chair? Now look at the picture immediately above from the SoLI conference. Recognize the woman sitting second from right? Yes. The exact same woman — Nicole Bradick, founder of Theory and Principle.

Hold on, there’s more. Look back up at the top photo from the ABI conference. Look at the guy farthest away from me, happily ensconced in his big white comfy chair. That’s Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase. Now look at the photo below from the 2Civility conference. Does the guy standing in front of the big white comfy chairs Look familiar?

One more. Look again at the top photo and note the man sitting just to Ed’s left. Now look at the photo of the man below speaking at the 2Civility conference. That’s right. One and the same. He is Thomas Hamilton, vice president of strategy and operations at ROSS Intelligence. And … there … are … the … chairs.

So could all these big white comfy chairs at legal tech conferences possibly be just a coincidence? Could it be just a coincidence that the same people keep appearing with them? Or is something more sinister going on? Could it be these aren’t even actually different conferences, but rather some foreign government’s plot to spread fake news of legal innovation?

I don’t know what kind of year 2018 will be for legal tech. But this much is certain: It’s lining up to be a banner year for anyone in the business of big white comfy chairs.

Critical Update: Subsequent to publishing this post, I was advised by an astute reader that big white comfy chairs were also spotted at the Annual Corporate Legal Operations Institute in April in Las Vegas. Now I’m sure it’s some sort of conspiracy.

 

[Editor’s note: We might just have to designate e-discovery consultant Brett Burney as our official roving correspondent. After posting his coverage yesterday of the Summit on Law and Innovation at Vanderbilt Law School, today we have his report from the Annual Corporate Legal Operations Institute.]

If you haven’t heard, allow me to introduce you to the emerging role of the corporate legal operations professional. If you’re a lawyer and plan to do any legal work for a company or corporation, then you’d be well-served to learn about this influential and evolving responsibility.

The role was in the spotlight last week in Las Vegas at the Annual Corporate Legal Operations Institute hosted by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, otherwise known as CLOC. There were certainly legal operations professionals in attendance, joined by a couple thousand colleagues from general counsel, in-house legal departments, eDiscovery professionals, law firms, and wide array of others who were simply curious to see what all the excitement was about at this young but quickly growing consortium.

Legal Ops

Over the past several years, more and more corporate legal departments have either hired or explored the idea of hiring a legal operations manager/director. The goal of the role appears to focus on aligning the activities of the legal department into a core business function of the company.

There still doesn’t seem to be a standard, agreed-upon definition of “legal operations” since the responsibilities cover a wide-range of areas including the general efficiency of legal work, cybersecurity, privacy, compliance, eDiscovery, policy management, and definitely the streamlining of relationships between the corporate legal department and outside counsel and service providers. As one observer at Above the Law put it, legal operations apparently covers “every aspect of running a legal department except for the dispensing of actual legal advice.”

Contract management and automation based on AI technologies were a big topic at CLOC.

It occurs to me that some law firms have gone down a similar road in hiring a chief administrative officer or chief operating officer, but legal operations in corporate legal departments appears to delve a little deeper into the processes and workflows rather than just administrative duties. In one panel, the general counsel described the role of the legal operations professional as a “chief of staff” for the legal department.

This was John Schultz, chief legal and administrative officer and corporate secretary in the Office of Legal and Administrative Affairs at HP Enterprise, who went on to state how his legal department focuses on the three “E’s” of Excellence, Efficiency, and Economy. When he first hired his legal operations professional, he thought the role would mainly revolve around efficiency, but quickly realized how integral that role positively and invaluably impacted their excellence and economy.

Based on a recent report from LawGeex in association with CLOC, it appears that only about 21% of Fortune 500 companies have a legal operations role, but it has certainly grown rapidly over the last few years and that number is absolutely expected to grow rapidly in the next few years.

Time for CLOC

Christy Burke, writing for Legal IT Professionals, said that the CLOC Institute was “fresh, relevant, and accessible” with a “universally positive” atmosphere. I completely agree with Christy – there was a palpable excitement everywhere in the Bellagio hotel and it wasn’t just because of the blackjack tables.

Institute attendees came prepared with serious inquiries, curious about what others were doing in their organizations, and looking for significant solutions to the issues they deal with. Whether it was in a session, at a party, or in the exhibit hall, people were buzzing and excited to learn and soak in what they could. I wasn’t sure if this was just because the CLOC Institute was something new and fresh, or if the excitement was genuine enough to have staying power. Time will tell.

And while all of this was fantastic, I share the reservations of my friend Stephen Embry, who has been practicing at a large law firm for several decades. In his TechLaw Crossroads post, Stephen remarked that “the gap between what people at CLOC are doing, saying and advocating and what most outside law firms are really doing is so broad, so vast and so deep, I’m starting to think it can never be bridged. Sure, there are a few law firms that get it. But most don’t. And most don’t want to.” Like Stephen, I also observed that there were few attendees there from large law firms at a place where their corporate clients (or potential clients) were eager to learn about any efficiencies that attentive law firms were willing to offer.

It Ain’t Just About the Tech …

One of the most refreshing experiences was the broader focus of the educational sessions at the CLOC Institute. In the Thomson Reuters piece “Rise of the Legal Department Operations Manager,” Connie Brenton highlighted the importance for legal operations professionals to “develop strong relationships with general counsel staff and cross-functional colleagues, both inside and outside the legal department,” which I interpret as the necessity for polishing up your people skills.

Ms. Brenton just happens to be the director of legal operations at NetApp, and one of the founders of CLOC, so it’s no surprise that there were sessions at the Institute that went beyond the meat and potatoes logistics of running a legal department. For example, on the last day, there was a two-hour session called “Projecting Credibility and Confidence,” featuring Cara Hale Alter of the communication training firm SpeechSkills. It was interactive, inspiring, and helpful. We don’t usually see those kinds of sessions at legal-related conferences.

eDiscovery vendors had a solid presence at the CLOC Institute.

In fact, I found most attendees were not in Vegas to simply see what was new, or what options were available in the market. Attendees specifically pressed exhibitors on how they could use their technologies and services to be more efficient, and how to better utilize the tools they already owned to accomplish their goals. By the end of the Institute, I started thinking of this as corporate legal “optimization” rather than “operations” just because that seemed to be the focus of everyone I spoke with.

Law firms as Vendors?

An interesting quirk in the CLOC Institute exhibit hall was the number of major law firms that had a booth. Most of these appeared to be selling a product that they had developed, whether it was an app or a workflow platform or an additional service of some kind.

This caught my attention because law firms aren’t usually in the business of creating and selling products – they’re supposed to focus on legal services. But there in the exhibit hall they were standing shoulder-to-shoulder with eDiscovery vendors and contract management providers, giving away swag and talking to whoever walked by. But who are their target customers? Law firms have their own built-in potential customer base for products with their existing clients, and it’s not like other law firms are going to use another law firm’s product.

Large law firms purchased booths at CLOC alongside everyone else.

Ultimately, it was just a little difficult to tell if law firms purchased booths simply because they wanted to be visible to current and potential clients, or if they are truly getting serious about building products to take to market. Time will tell.

The Tick-Tock of CLOC

There was no denying the excitement or the energy in Vegas at the CLOC Institute. And there’s no denying the commitment of everyone I spoke with that the role of legal operations is necessary, pivotal, and here to stay – they believe that CLOC is the right place for them to ensure an efficient legal team now and for the future.

I got caught up in the excitement, and I am keenly interested to watch how the role of legal operations evolves and more specifically how technology is utilized and assimilated into that position. It’s not about the technology, it’s about how people use the technology. And if legal operations is best situated to effectively employ technology to achieve the goals of efficiency and scales of economy, then it’s a success.


When lawyers need help navigating their eDiscovery questions, they call Brett Burney. Brett works with law firms and corporate legal departments to recommend document review tools, streamline their eDiscovery workflows, and keep litigation costs low. Brett’s website is www.burneyconsultants.com and you can download the free eDiscovery Buyers Guide he authored at www.ediscoverybuyersguide.com. Email Brett at burney@burneyconsultants.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bburney or connect with him on LinkedIn.

A first-of-its kind study of legaltech companies and their founders finds that women and people of color are significantly underrepresented among legaltech founders, accounting for just 13.6 percent and 26.5 percent respectively. Black and Latinx founders account for a staggeringly low proportion of legaltech entrepreneurs, at just 2.3 percent and 3.1 percent respectively, the study says.

The study was conducted by Kristen Sonday, cofounder and COO of legaltech startup Paladin, a pro bono management platform. She undertook it because she was curious about a paradox that exists in law: There is far more technology being built than ever before, yet somehow, the access-to-justice gap in America keeps widening.

Sonday analyzed the backgrounds of 478 founders across 269 legaltech companies and found:

  • Only a small fraction (8%) of legaltech companies are actually working to improve access to justice directly.
  • Legaltech founders have surprisingly low diversity (as noted, only 5% are black/Latinx), which is especially problematic given that the justice gap disproportionately affects women, immigrants, and minorities.

Low Numbers of Women

In her report, Sonday notes my December blog post describing 2017 as the year of women in legal tech. But the data paints a different picture, she says.

Women make up just 13.8 percent of legaltech founders — less even than the average across industries of 17 percent women founders. Male founders outnumber female founders in legaltech 6:1, even though women now outnumber men in law school.

“While much as been written about law firms’ struggles to reach gender parity and equity among their ranks, there has been scant recognition of the general disparity in legaltech,” writes Sonday, who was herself recognized among the 2017 Women of Legal Tech by the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center.

Even Lower Numbers of Blacks and Latinx

Of the 478 founders Sonday studied, only 26 are Black or Latinx. In percentages, 2.3 percent of founders in legaltech are Black and 3.1 percent are Latinx. Even when accounting for Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern founders, the total number of founders of color is still just 26.5 percent.

This is in contrast to the last U.S. census, Sonday notes, which reported that 13.6 percent of the population self-identified as Black and 16.3 percent as Latinos.

Lack of Focus on A2J

When Sonday examined legaltech companies to determine which are focused on access to justice, she found that they make up just 4.5 percent of legaltech companies overall. Adding in companies that focus on immigration, the number is still just 10 percent.

Notably, founders of legaltech companies focused on A2J are more likely to be women or minorities. Women and minorities make up 44 percent of A2J founders, with 24 percent Black or Latinx, 14 percent other minorities, and 12 percent women.

Sonday finds a number of reasons for the lack of focus on A2J. One is simply that entrepreneurs are more likely to solve problems they’ve personally experienced. Another is that they tend to focus on serving markets with a paying customer base.

For those who do want to tackle ATJ issues, there are a myriad of obstacles faced by emerging ATJ companies and their founders: lack of available initial funding, even less available ongoing funding, challenges to creating sustainable business models, lack of education in the legal industry around social enterprises, a shortage of early adopters and clients, and a ‘charity’ mentality that makes these ventures viewed as unsustainable or not worth paying for.

Sonday says that she plans to continue to research and analyze the reasons for the lack of diversity within legaltech and the challenges of building an impact-specific company, and she hopes to provide recommendations for improvement.

Until then, kudos to her for undertaking this important research.

[Editor’s note: I was not able to attend the April 30 Summit on Law and Innovation at Vanderbilt Law School, but e-discovery consultant Brett Burney was there and files this report.]

Can non-lawyers bring more benefit to the legal profession than lawyers? The organizers of the Summit on Law and Innovation (SoLI) would answer “Yes!” right after they chided me for using the term “non-lawyers.” Larry Bridgesmith, one of the organizers, pointed out that you don’t hear people referring to non-plumbers or non-accountants or non-engineers, so he implored panelists to stop using the term “non-lawyers.” Everyone has the capability to add value to the legal profession, and lawyers better start recognizing that.

An outgrowth of Vanberbilt Law School’s Program on Law and Innovation, SoLI took the better part of the day on Monday, April 30, boasting a wide variety of speakers and presenters from many different disciplines. The emphasis was on collaboration and innovation.

The two primary organizers, Caitlin Moon, recently promoted to director of innovation design in Vanderbilt Law’s Program on Law & Innovation, and adjunct professor Bridgesmith both teach at Vanderbilt Law School and have a profound passion for spurring a shift in the legal profession. Since both are so active at Vanderbilt Law School, a good part of their reflection centers around how a change in legal education could stimulate a re-focus in the greater legal profession.

Caitlin Moon

When I spoke with Moon and Bridgesmith, they were insistent that SoLI was not a technology conference. They certainly recognize how pertinent technology is to the practice of law and its evolution (especially in the realm of AI discussed at SoLI), but they interpret “innovation” as an exploration of “new ideas and methods that can improve the status quo.” And if those improvements came about via technology, that would be the means to the end. As Moon stated to me, “Technology is NOT the solution – people are.”

The primary sessions involved short presentations around themes of innovation in legal education, legal practice, and legal technology. The day culminated in a “Human Centered Design Bootcamp” where attendees were strongly encouraged to collaborate among those at their tables so that everyone could take away a practical and actionable task.

Innovation in Legal Technology

Larry Bridgesmith

One of the more fascinating panels was “Innovation in Legal Practice.” The primer talk was given by Lawton Penn, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and head of the firm’s dedicated legal solutions team (DWT De Novo). Penn’s talk appeared to present the best questions of SoLI where she shared some of the tough questions she posed to her firm’s partners, including, “What if lawyers could only deliver their services in just three sentences?” “When you have crazy restraints imposed on you, you tend to get creative,” she explained.

Lawton Penn

Penn also emphasized the importance of process in the context of improving the workflows of her lawyers. She showed a pyramid where the wide base of Process Improvement held up everything else, including the smallest tip at the top where law and legal strategy came into play. She illustrated this by sharing a picture of a whiteboard with colored Post-It notes neatly arranged mapping out a process during a meeting with one of her firm partners. After they completed that mapping exercise, the partner was overjoyed with seeing the entire process in a visual construct, and based on that the firm was able to streamline similar engagements because they could all see the process and recognize how pieces and parts could be automated.

Another interesting talk came from Joe Green who is a senior legal editor at Thomson Reuters Practical Law. Green introduced the room to the concept of “instructional design,” which he suggested could help to bridge the gap between legal practice and legal education.

Becoming the Cog in Cognitive Diversity

A phrase that both Moon and Bridgesmith are fond of using is “cognitive diversity.” They define this as not based on race or religion or gender, but rather on experiential learning. As they stated, if there are five lawyers around a table, they’re all going to look at a problem like lawyers. But why not bring in a software programmer? Or an engineer? Or someone else with a different background that can bring a fresh perspective to solving a problem?

This certainly illustrates the work that Vanderbilt Law School is doing, working with university students from computer science and other majors. But Moon and Bridgesmith recognize that there is a lack of cross-collaboration between practicing lawyers and legal educators.

I don’t know how many practicing lawyers were in attendance at SoLI because they probably couldn’t break away from the office. But there was certainly a lot of discussion among attendees on how to bring innovation and creativity into the practice of law. Contrary to what most people believe, I’ve personally witnessed lawyers become immensely creative in their legal strategy, but only within the bounds of their litigation matter or the immediate problem that they’re solving.

One of the best examples of “cognitive diversity” at work came from Patrick Palace of Palace Law. As a panelist, he explained that he has hired several folks over the last few months and none of them have been lawyers or legal professionals or even had a legal background. He stated that having these diverse backgrounds had enabled him and his firm to be more creative in delivering products and services to his clients.

Collaboration for Inspiration

Throughout the day, Moon and Bridgesmith encouraged attendees to interact with each other and collaborate. Everyone was seated at a round table, which encouraged the interaction. At one point. Bridgesmith even explained that the scheduled discussion slots were not the time to slink away to the restroom or a snack, but rather important time to work together to seek solutions.

At the end of the day during the Design Bootcamp, each table was tasked with creating a cartoon storyboard of the ideas they had drummed up and voted on. Their masterpieces were displayed during the cocktail hour.

Based on my observations, it seems everyone followed the collaboration guidance and there were some truly amazing ideas shared by each table. Everyone from practicing lawyers to professional legal educators were all working towards providing the much-needed innovation in the practice of law today.


When lawyers need help navigating their eDiscovery questions, they call Brett Burney. Brett works with law firms and corporate legal departments to recommend document review tools, streamline their eDiscovery workflows, and keep litigation costs low. Brett’s website is www.burneyconsultants.com and you can download the free eDiscovery Buyers Guide he authored at www.ediscoverybuyersguide.com. Email Brett at burney@burneyconsultants.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bburney or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Casetext today is rolling out three major updates to its legal research platform. One is an updated design and architecture to make the site faster, cleaner and easier to use. But it is the other two updates that I want to focus on, because, in combination, they dramatically enhance the results you receive when performing legal research.

Both updates involve Casetext’s artificial-intelligence, brief-analysis software CARA (Case Analysis Research Assistant):

  • First, CARA now works not only with briefs, but with any type of litigation document — and possibly even non-litigation legal documents, based on my testing.
  • Second, CARA is now integrated into Casetext’s standard legal research workflow, so that it can be used to enhance keyword queries and deliver results that are far-better matched to the facts and issues at hand.

When Casetext introduced CARA in 2016, it was the first product of its kind on the market. When you uploaded a brief or memorandum into CARA, it would analyze it and generate a list of cases that are relevant to the issues discussed in the document but not mentioned in it. It was a powerful tool to vet an opponent’s brief or proof documents of your own. The American Association of Law Libraries named it new product of the year in 2017 and it spawned a new generation of similar brief-analysis programs.

But for CARA to work, the uploaded document needed to contain case citations. That was because its algorithm compared the cases in the uploaded document to the cases and articles in the Casetext database, looking for other cases that were usually cited alongside those cases.

With today’s update, CARA works with any kind of legal document, regardless of whether it contains citations. You can, for example, upload a complaint that contains no citations and use CARA to find cases relevant to the facts and issues.

That would be good news of itself. But even more notable, in my opinion, is the integration of CARA within the standard legal research workflow. I got to try it over the weekend in advance of today’s release, and I found that I almost always obtained search results that were directly on point to my facts and issues, and did so without having to construct elaborate queries.

Here is how it works.

Now when you go to perform a research query in Casetext, the standard search bar has two buttons under it, one labeled Keyword Search and one labeled CARA Search. If you select the latter, you are prompted to upload a legal document.

Once you do, CARA analyzes the document and then contextualizes your query to the facts and legal arguments the document contains. By using use, even a generic query can deliver on-point results.

Here is a simple example. Say I am researching whether copyright can vest in state legal materials. If I search just “copyright,” Casetext gives me 65,124 cases. The top results are not helpful, and that would be an awful lot of cases to wade through. I went on to try constructing more complex queries, but still could not put my finger on cases that were on point. My only option would have been to start reading through a long list of results in the hope of hitting on what I wanted.

But if I did that same simple query, “copyright,” and also uploaded the complaint filed by Fastcase in its lawsuit against Casemaker over copyright in Georgia administrative materials, then I obtained results that were directly on point. Even though my query remained just the generic term “copyright,” CARA used the complaint to identity the facts and issues I was interested in and deliver on-point results.

As another example, I searched “allergy” and got 10,401 cases. What I was interested in was liability for death caused by peanut allergy, but Casetext could never have known that based on a generic search for allergy.

If, however, I uploaded a complaint seeking damages for a death caused by exposure to peanut oil, I received cases that were much more directly on point.

It is important to understand that you don’t have to use simplistic queries such as I’ve used here. You can still construct more complex queries. But even then, by combining your query with a legal document, you are likely to get more precise results.

Note also that you can toggle between the CARA results and the keyword results at any time.

Just to push the envelope a bit, I even tried this with a few documents that had no relation to litigation. These experiments produced mixed results. For example, I tried uploading written testimony I had submitted to the state legislature on pending bills, and then tried entering queries related to the subjects of those bills. Twice, the CARA-assisted search performed better than a keyword search. But a third time, it seemed no better than a keyword search. I also tried uploading a memorandum that provided a broad overview of a legal topic and then entered a query relating to a specific application of that topic, with only so-so results.

These experiments with non-litigation documents lead me to think that the CARA AI-assisted research tool works better with litigation documents because they contain more precise discussions of facts and issues.

Those anomalies aside, the CARA AI-assisted research tool strikes me as a major advance in legal research. It addresses a core problem with traditional legal research — that the results are typically too broad. Even a skilled researcher capable of constructing complex Boolean searches often finds it difficult to zero in on highly pertinent results. In my initial testing, the addition of CARA’s AI to a query makes a powerful combination, delivering results that much more closely matched my facts and issues.

 

Leave it to me to cover something on the afternoon of the last day of early-bird registration. So register fast if you’re interested.

This summer, July 18-20, in the bucolic Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, the practice management company Rocket Matter is hosting its first Legal Wellness Retreat, which they are describing as “two full beautiful days of goodness for the mind and body,” combined with eight hours of CLE and a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, yoga and ropes courses.

(My advice: Combine it with an evening at Tanglewood, where you can catch some Bach or Mozart.)

Each morning of the conference will start off with optional yoga and 12-step programs. Then, each day will cover four hours of wellness programming, including:

  • Secrets to a Successful and Happy Legal Career.
  • Better Lawyering Through Mindfulness.
  • How Time and Stress Management Can Ease the “Weight of the Law.”
  • Transforming Personal Adversity into Professional Assets

After lunch, attendees will have their choice of an afternoon activity, including hiking the Appalachian Trail, yoga, canoeing on the Housatonic River, or a ropes course. At night, participants can enjoy the cuisine and culture of the Berkshires.

Speakers include Brian Cuban, author of the book, The Addicted Lawyer, Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption; Jeena Cho, co-author of the book, The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation; and Heidi S. Alexander, deputy director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in Boston and director of the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP).

If you register by the end of today, early-bird tickets are $1,000. Starting tomorrow, they go up to $1,200. Beginning June 1, they will cost $1,500.

At the annual meeting of the American Bankruptcy Institute on April 20, I moderated a plenary panel, “Artificial Intelligence: Why It Matters To Your Future Bankruptcy Practice.” In advance of the panel, the ABI recorded a series of video interviews I conducted with some of the panelists. Here is my interview with Thomas Hamilton, vice president of strategy and operations at ROSS Intelligence.

At the annual meeting of the American Bankruptcy Institute on April 20, I moderated a plenary panel, “Artificial Intelligence: Why It Matters To Your Future Bankruptcy Practice.” In advance of the panel, the ABI recorded a series of video interviews I conducted with some of the panelists. Here is my interview with Darby Green, commercial product director for litigation and bankruptcy at Bloomberg Law.