Articles Posted in Tech Adoption in Legal


The Point

The business press and specialty legal press are replete with speculation about how “Generative AI”, ChatGPT, GPT4, and other AI developments might change law firms’ delivery of legal services. Most center their discussion on functionality: How well will they work?

But the likelihood, and pace, of adoption will depend on the answers to two other questions:

1. Will law firms apply such exciting new technology to significant portions of their work now performed by junior associate lawyers at hundreds per hour?

2. If so, will law firms share with clients — by reduced charges — the resulting efficiencies?

Based on my career as a practicing lawyer, and my 12 years as a business executive at Whirlpool and GE (where I worked with and supervised law firms), I believe that the answer to each of these questions is more likely to be “no” than “yes”. Continue reading


The Point

1. With the launch of its new “Precision Research” platform, Westlaw  promises to cut in half the time lawyers take to do their legal research, and offers more precise results.

2. Law firms bill hundreds per hour for legal research by junior / trainee associates who are only one, two, or three years past graduation. And most bills of better qualified law firm attorneys are on an hourly basis as well.

3. Cutting the time for that legal research time in half would cut the hourly bill for that legal research in half.

4. Cutting that bill in half would be good for client companies, especially in a recession. But, in the dysfunctional world of the billable hour business model, it would be deemed bad for law firms — and possibly a dubious move during a recession. Continue reading


The Point

The last few years witnessed headlines announcing a legal technology investment boom (here, here, and here).

But — for all the publicity on the investor side — actual technology adoption among law firms remains slow.

This Matters to Your Business

A survey of 560 law firm attorneys taken in May 2022 for Dashboard Legal asked them: “Are you satisfied with the technology at your firm?”

Only 37% answered “yes”. Continue reading

Technology that improves the quality and efficiency of legal work will be stymied as long as hourly billing prevails among attorneys. At least that’s my belief.

Why do I say that?

  1. Hourly quotas for attorneys encourage more lawyer time per task;
  2. This motivates a proliferation of lawyers on any given task — each lawyer with their own hourly quota; and
  3. This proliferation leads to insertion of recent law graduates alongside fully qualified attorneys to do the routine & repetitive work for which law clerks or paralegals are suited — but billed to clients at several hundred dollars per hour.

A profession that gets paid more when its work takes longer, that gets paid even better when it assigns more people to do that work, and that charges clients for training its junior personnel — will lose money using a system that improves the quality or efficiency of that work.

Pretty straightforward, I think.

Last week I heard from a couple of others on this.

On December 6 I attended “Artificial Intelligence in the Enterprise (Legal Services Version)”, sponsored by the Law and Technology Initiative of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering.

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No sector in 2019 is entirely isolated from the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes like higher accuracy or greater cost efficiency.

But the legal profession tends to resist such moves when they might result in fewer hours billed by attorneys.

Consider an artificial intelligence company whose founder I met earlier this year:*

His staff lawyers and software engineers collaborate to “teach” an AI-based system in the fact patterns found in selected, high-frequency lawsuit categories.

Like slip-and-fall liability on business premises, or an employment claim for sex discrimination.

They also “train” this AI-based system in the court cases and statutes of the state whose laws will govern the suit.

When one of his client companies / software users is served with a lawsuit — by a document that the legal system calls a “complaint” — they designate local counsel to represent them in the state where suit has been brought. By law, local counsel has to respond with specified documents.

These specified documents consist of tedious replies to alleged facts; point-for-point rebuttals to legal doctrines; and meticulous identification of information and evidence that the lawsuit recipient has the right to demand of the party who brought suit against them.

As any lawyer involved in litigation can tell you from personal experience — myself included — this is “grunt work”.

But it has to be done right. And it has to be done by an attorney.

In the “answer”, you’ve got to avoid making the wrong response to factual allegations. And you can’t afford to miss an “affirmative defense” that might get your client off the hook. Finally, you don’t want to omit anything important from your document demand or other “discovery” requests.

Otherwise, at best, you’ll create unnecessary work, and incur expense, in correcting these errors. At worst — you’ll prejudice your client’s case if the judge refuses to cut you a break and let you correct your mistake.

This is where this founder’s AI company comes in. 

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