Articles Posted in Legal Technology

I interrupt my four-part post on how a company can achieve higher quality legal services, that are faster, more accurate — and cheaper — by “disaggregating” business challenges that raise legal issues into tasks that (often) someone other than an attorney can do better than a lawyer (“Clients Need Legal Services But Not Necessarily Lawyers”).

I saw the following in this morning’s in-box:

“Want a Market-Sized Bonus? Better be Ready to Bill Your Butt Off at this Biglaw Firm”.

For avoidance of any doubt, this meant that a large and prominent law firm issued new, formal guidelines by which it will now require the lawyers they employ (associates) to charge a quota of specified hours in order to receive a particular bonus. I don’t know if this firm previously had such a quota — though they are common in the legal profession. My point here is simply that hourly billing quotas like these are very much a part of the landscape, and that they’re widely accepted among conventional law firms — and the in-house counsel who hire them.

Regarding this law firm and its employee-lawyers, the article included a chart with two axes.

The vertical axis denoted the “level” of the associate in question. “Level” was expressed in terms of years out of law school. Nothing about demonstrated skill or competence. Just: How long had it been since this employee-lawyer graduated with their J.D.?

The horizontal axis: Increasing dollars of bonus for “1,950 billable hours …”, “2,100 …”, “2,250 …”, and “2,400 …”

Raising the question — as use of the billable hour invariably does:

Was this hour billed for the client’s good? Or for the lawyer’s good?

I always do a double take at such a headline.

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Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities famously begins:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ….”

On one hand, the legal profession’s hourly billing-based business model rules the day in most law firms. And company law departments that resist this are so rare they make headlines.

The case of Cass v. 1410088 Ontario Inc. contains this one sentence written by an Ontario Superior Court judge in the course of disallowing from an attorney’s fee request the amount designated for “legal research”:

“If artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.”

Padding on the hours billed for researching case law is a favorite method for bulking up legal fees related to court cases — for lawyers in the United States — as well as for those in Canada:

1. Thomson Reuters’ Canadian arm noted this:

“Judge says AI could have been used”, and “Courts mindful of technology”.

2. A Toronto-based intellectual property lawyer offered this observation:

“Really, that judge was saying, ‘If you can do this faster, why are you not doing it faster? Why are you charging your client for something that could be done more efficiently?”

3. And the CEO of legal AI pioneer Ross Intelligence Andrew Arruda tweeted:

“If artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.


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In Part 1 of this two-part series of posts, I described — how “judges’ personal foibles and idiosyncrasies — I mean their distinctive, well-informed, jurisprudentially ingenious perspectives — can drive litigation outcomes more than any objective view of the law or evidence would seem to warrant”. 

From there I compared the relatively new (circa 2006) legal analytics technology to a courtroom grapevine that colleagues and I used in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the 1980s to ascertain such personal foibles and idiosyncrasies when our case was assigned to a particular judge for trial.

By this time legal analytics is old news — at least among the largest law firms and for specific categories of major business litigation. But recently this technology has moved beyond just big cities and elite law firms to Main Street and to small law firms.

Witness the example of Gavelytics’ announcement a few weeks ago.

Gavelytics — the legal analytics company — announced a new partnership with a company called “CourtCall”. In my own courtroom experience, CourtCall has functioned as a conference call service — just that this one involves judges and is deemed a formal court appearance for the participants (there’s a video offering feature too apparently).

My first experience with CourtCall came when I had a case in a small city. Until then, my experiences doing conference calls with judges and lawyers — in place of an actual visit to the court — had been confined to the well-equipped federal courts, who have their own, ample facilities for such things.

The fact that Gavelytics has partnered with CourtCall tells me that this legal analytics offering is not confined to big cities and elite law firms. It’s now coming to small cities and small law firms.

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In a recent post I wrote that judges’ personal foibles and idiosyncrasies — I mean their distinctive, well-informed, jurisprudentially ingenious perspectives — can drive litigation outcomes more than any objective view of the law or evidence would seem to warrant:

“My introduction to this came when I was a prosecutor in Manhattan. When my colleagues and I brought a felony case we knew all of the personalities among the judges on the trial court to whom that case might be assigned.

“And our prosecutors’ grapevine functioned well. We had either firsthand experience — or readily available, reliable accounts of a professional colleague — to inform the way we argued law or handled evidence before any particular judge.

“Some judges tended to disbelieve police testimony. Others would never impose a greater sentence than the law absolutely required. Some were meticulous on evidentiary objections. Others were relatively loose on such rulings. Some were temperamental. Others were reasonable.

“Learning the judge’s personal idiosyncrasies was always my first order of business when I was assigned to a particular judge for trial.”

This is the outlook of every lawyer assigned to try a case before a particular judge: Who is this person who’ll be calling the shots on my case, and how have they handled cases like the one I have before them now?

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