Future Lawyer Week USA

   Words by Paul McQuillan

   on 02/12/2019 12:15:00

imageWe exhibited at the Future Lawyer Week for its inauguration in the USA to discuss Legal Technology and the mixture of challenges and opportunities that advancing technology presents for Legal Practises.

Our focus at CRMCS is the application of the Microsoft Cloud for Organisations and Case Management in the Legal and Asset Management Sectors – however we always take our time to discuss the wider sector with exhibitors and attendees to discuss and understand the sector, both from our technologist view point, and how this impacts Legal Professionals.

The following is our takeaways from the discussions and presentations we had over the two days in New York.

Procurement and Big Tech

An eye opener was the statement by Patrick Huston, the Assistant Judge Advocate General for the US Army, how the Army had changed strategy from having large long-term in-house development plans to partnering with the big tech providers to support combined system development between the Public and Private Sectors.

Historically the army would maintain closed systems that were developed, built and maintained solely within the military – but now as the pace of innovation increases, organisations and even those with very sensitive security concerns such as the US Army are pivoting their strategy to work in partnership with technology providers rather than going it alone to build new technology that would then be used in the Public Sector and latterly released to the Private Sector.

This compares the rate of innovation between what can be done internally with a clear roadmap vs the ‘market pace’ of innovation as more ideas and technologies are released and refined across a wider public – in many ways this differentiates the plan-driven Waterfall view of Project Management to the outcome-driven Agile approach; in allowing the market to release a minimum viable product which is then perfected through use over time, and then examine how the innovation of ‘what works’ can be built upon and partnered with.

This does however place extra responsibility in the conduct and rules of engagement between organisations and big tech, and we can expect to see these standards of good conduct to cascade from the governmental sector and into the commercial domain.

Based on our discussions and understanding of the new frameworks to data and tech, we would expect to see new client requirements focused on the legality of data, ownership and citizen rights in a digital world – and the combination of private tech and the public sector working in tandem to understand and build precedent in this new landscape.

The March of Machine Learning

From the larger pools of data available, we can see machine learning providing us with new insights that can improve the way we do business.

The challenge has always being how Machine Learning can be introduced to business in meaningful effective ways over always being a ‘always tomorrow futuretech’.

However from our discussions at the summit, we can see today the way meaningful applications of machine learning are improving business.

  • Analyse Contracts and Legal Agreements to more quickly discover errors or interpret the meaning for Legal Case Handlers
  • What is the best period of time between follow-ups to improve the outcomes of our Sales or Account Management Processes
  • When is the best time to release our Newsletter or Product Update to promote readership – AI-assisted smart schedulers to improve how clients and leads engage with us.

Given our background working in the Property Sector, the ability for AI to analyse the details of a Leasehold Pack and extract meaningful insights is an opportunity for Solicitors and New Build Developers to improve their processes through Machine Learning.

The presentation from Luminance on the evolution of their AI Engine for Document Analysis is a good indication of how far this field has come in the last 3 years.

Ethics in AI

Data centralisation in the Cloud allows for learning algorithms to produce better insights – and this can produce tremendous value.

However this comes with significant concerns for the future in how ethical decisions are made, and simply having a ‘computer says no’ attitude will not be sufficient justification for how decisions are formulated based on existing data.

Algorithms work off existing data and so re-enforce existing biases. - we can expect Machine Learning to automate and bring efficacies to existing decision making, but we should not expect problem solving decisions to come from machine learning.

It was discussed during the summit of the increasing role of Ethicist within big tech, and the need for this role in keeping technology balanced and not reinforcing existing biases inherent in existing data.

What’s the benefit of Innovation to Legal?

Legal revenues are typically made up of fee earner hours spent looking into matters and cases – if technology is improving how we can consider matters and so improving the efficiency, it can also be reducing the hours taken and so limiting fee earning hours.

Is the ability to do more with less a positive factor for revenue generation?

This can be a tricky area where existing business process meets technological change – and this change can pose problems in correctly mapping out the right way to utilise technology without swallowing too much of the ‘kool-aid’ and losing what made a practise successful in the first place.

However we have seen how digital disruption has up-rooted many traditional businesses in other sectors, and how a failure to respond to a changing landscape can be initially appealing but a cause of failure over the longer term.

From our discussions, there will always be a challenge between fee earning hours and innovation hours, and striking a good balance is key for successful practises.

The other point in our discussions was overcoming the fear of not just charging by time, but charging by service, and the emphasis that a combined human and tech approach with a service underpinned by good practise can expect to charge a higher fee.

A similar transformation has been occurring in the Financial Services sector for the last 6 years where innovation has come from both a mixture of investment by the larger corporates and from disruption by smaller FinTech players – and we would expect to see a similar process across the Legal sector.

Beyond eDiscovery

An area of Legal Tech that is now very established in eDiscovery and using automation to improve the efficiency of the Discovery process.

This has been a success for Legal Practises – and now Legal Tech is looking at more advanced systems that can apply this success to other areas of a practise or legal processes.

Increasingly technology is looking into Contract Analysis and production of some pre-pack legal items such as Conveyancing and simpler Business-to-Business agreements.

Legal Tech is a long way (if ever) from replacing legal minds – so this can be best viewed as a ‘cyborg’ approach of augmenting human intelligence with computational.  This focuses on the strengths of machine learning and repeatable tasks instead of trying to apply technology in domains where human problem-solving skills are superior.

Democratisation of Technology

Technology is increasingly intertwined with how both business and society operates – and this changes how organisations look at IT, and how human resources and technological resources are managed.

From our discussions, we noted the increasing importance on two concepts in today’s Tech landscape:

  • Citizen Developers – historically technology would be ‘provided from elsewhere’ and be the system that normal mere mortals would use.  As technology now operates at every level of society, this is becoming more inclusive for non-technical actors to use and bring their own innovation into how technology is used.  This is the concept of Citizen Developers who will take the Platforms provided by both large and small tech providers and use these platforms to build the systems, apps and tech used by legal businesses.
  • Supplier Diversity - it’s easier for suppliers to integrate their specific areas of domain knowledge into your wider solution via the Cloud, as the cloud (when done well) gives a common language via open APIs to collaborate with.  This allows clients and practises to make use of a variety of suppliers based on the functionality or service they provide, and not be limited in how they build their IT Roadmap.  Business IT then much more resembles the real world of building an organisation through useful business areas rather than a monolithic IT layer that would limit innovation in favour of governance - the Cloud has changed the approach for many successful practises.

From our discussions and the speakers at the Future Lawyer Summit, we think this will impact procurement and the way successful organisations build their Roadmap for the uptake of the Cloud and specific areas of Technology.

The days of simply outsourcing to one big IT Provider and having them as the gatekeeper between the business and IT is likely an outdated model and increasingly fading into irrelevance.

Deep Fakes and Online Legality

Politics on both sides of the Atlantic is very alarmed at the prospect of deep fakes that can successfully impersonate a political candidate and literally put words in their mouth.

Discussions on this topic extended into the business sphere where deep fakes could be (and have been) used to impersonate phone calls to promote fraudulent transactions – and that this can be a costly problem.

This is effectively the evolution of phishing where potential scammers are innovating themselves to find more effective ways of exploiting human systems to gain security access or confirm fraudulent transactions.

Both the US and the UK have seen the threats of hijacking democracy on a wider scale and are taking steps to understand and prevent this in the future – and this evolution of technology affects the US Army, Politics and ultimately Business in the opening of new risk vectors for Cyber and Physical Security.

Between the Ethics of Big Data, and Cyber Security, our opinion at CRMCS is that we will continue to see government regulation in the form of GDPR and the next GDPR become increasingly important across the Western world.

Summary & Further Reading

Legal Tech has been changing dramatically in the last few years and so there is a wealth of information available online and from the big tech providers on the changing nature of technology – some of which we have collected below.

From the summit, we want to thank Cosmonauts for providing a world class event in New York and we look forward to the UK Future Lawyer Week in June 2020.

Many Trade Events are driven by sales and so have value – but in our opinion, this event is geared towards a deeper understanding of the impact of technology on the legal sector, and so has a stronger value to both attendees and vendors alike in giving an excellent overview of the sector and where technology is taking us, as well as the successful application of technology by the vendors.

Artificial Lawyer - https://www.artificiallawyer.com/

Microsoft Dynamics AI Sales Insights - https://dynamics.microsoft.com/en-gb/ai/sales-insights/

Compass Magazine by Calico Legal Group – https://calicolegalgroup.co.uk/

At CRMCS, we specialise in solution architecture to help build their Roadmap for using the Microsoft Cloud – focusing on our experience in Case Management and Collaboration in the Cloud between CRM, Marketing and Document Management.

If you could benefit from advice on using the Microsoft Cloud within Legal Tech, then please do not hesitate to contact us to setup a meeting and discuss in detail.


Future Lawyer Week will return to New York City in November 2020

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