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AI Round-up: A Guide to ILTA’s Artificial Intelligence Content

17 Mar

Joe Davis has graciously allowed us to cross-post his recent compendium of ILTA content on artificial intelligence.  So, don’t miss this second opportunity to catch up on some of the latest thinking on this hot topic. Ed.

By Joe Davis, Project Consultant, Prudential Financial, Inc.

OK, so Watson won “Jeopardy!” back in 2011. That’s ancient history in technology years.  ILTA provides a wealth of programming about the current state of affairs in Artificial Intelligence that will benefit law firms and corporate legal departments.  In the future, I’m sure we’ll have a bot to curate all this content for us.  In the meantime, below is a sampling of some of ILTA’s best AI-related content from ILTACON, Insight, webinars, white papers and Peer To Peer.

Webinars

Beyond the Hype: Artificial Intelligence in Legal Research
This webinar, sponsored by ROSS Intelligence, features ROSS CEO and co-founder Andrew Arruda discussing how the company was born out of a desire to get from questions to answers more quickly.  He points out that even though AI is still in its “Model T phase,” the Model T still beat the horse in many ways.  Bill Caraher from von Briesen & Roper talks about what made his firm interested in the technology, and shares with moderator Beth Patterson the kind of firm culture that is required for this technology to catch on.  Be sure to listen for the last question to hear about how ROSS is practical for small firms, solo attorneys and pro bono work.

Nothing To Fear: How Artificial Intelligence Can Benefit Law Firms
Peter Wallqvist of RAVN Systems offers this solo take on AI, including a look at which kinds of AI RAVN and other AI companies focus on. This webinar offers the most in-depth explanation of AI on this list, so be prepared for an academic, but very thorough, treatment of the subject.

Articles

Reframing the AI Question in Law by John Alber
ILTA Futurist and retired Bryan Cave partner John Alber makes the case that the legal world should focus on using AI (and technology in general) to improve its service model. Tame Regulatory

Chaos with Cognitive Technologies by Eric Laughlin
Sanctions for improperly managed compliance requirements cost corporations more than $20 billion per year.  Author Eric Laughlin of Thomson Reuters offers a perspective on using AI to manage regulatory complexities.

When Machine Intelligence Joins Your Professional Services Team by Mark Noel
Mark Noel of Catalyst Repository Systems provides a good introduction to the advantages of using Technology Assisted Review (TAR) as part of your e-discovery process.

Artificial Intelligence Systems and the Law by Andrew Arruda
ROSS Intelligence CEO/co-founder Andrew Arruda offers a primer on the different categories of AI, along with a brief introduction to the ROSS platform.  Also included in this article are 10 predictions excerpted from a 2014 ABA Journal article by Paul Lippe and Daniel Martin Katz about the way Watson will affect the legal profession.

Audio

The Exponential Law Firm: Unlocking the Growth Potential of AI and Disruptive Thinking
Technology isn’t necessarily the key to being exponential, according to Fast Future’s Rohit Talwar.  In this session from Insight 2016, Talwar talks about how the legal profession needs to focus on three things: what is vital in the next 12 months, where innovation will come from in the next 3 years, and the an “early warning system.”  Overall, he is confident that “there has never been more opportunity for the legal sector than there is being created by science and technology today.”

Legal Innovation: More Than Just Artificial Intelligence
As the name implies, this Insight 2016 panel session is about more than just AI.  Panelist Jan Van Hoecke, CTO and Co-Founder of RAVN Systems, outlines the challenges to innovation and discusses a case study in which the risk and compliance department of a top-50 financial services company leverages AI to reduce its risk.  Could this be a potential new line of business for law firms?

Choosing the Right Artificial Intelligence for the Job
Panelists Sylvia Leblanc, Dera Nevin, Noah Waisberg, Julian Tsisin and Peter Wallqvist cover a lot of ground in this ILTACON session, including weak vs. strong AI, the trailer for the film Morgan, getting rid of “the ugly bits of lawyering” and Sharknado.  One conclusion: it is rocket science.  Tip: check out this video and this follow-up before listening to the session.

The State of Play of Artificial Intelligence in Law?
Michael Mills of Neota Logic discusses the current state of affairs and the players within the Legal AI space.  Be sure to take a look at his slide deck, which contains some useful diagrams.

Face Your Fears: Embracing Change in the Legal Environment
Consultant Ann Gorr leads this panel featuring Dennis Garcia from Microsoft, Matt Blaine from Davison Eastman & Munoz, and Jim Merrifield from Robinson Cole in a lively discussion on “how to be a grown up law firm.” Along the way, they cover “conversation as a platform,” augmented reality, driverless cars and Pittsburgh vs. Scranton.  Two resources mentioned in this session: Klaus Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution and UC Hastings’ Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice.

Grading Susskind: The State of Legal 20 Years After the “Future of Law”
While these panelists probably shouldn’t give up their day jobs to pursue a career in comedy, they do get credit for putting together a creative alternative to the standard panel discussion.  In the style of NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, this session evaluates the predictions Richard Susskind made 20 years ago in his book The Future of Law.  Host Ryan McClead of HighQ (now with Neota Logic) and panelists Susan Hackett of Legal Executive Leadership, Sam Nickless of Gilbert + Tobin and Dan Lear of Avvo discuss the present and future of legal technology.  You’ll also learn what three lawyers and three MBAs on a train, two lions, and one elephant may or may not have to do with the founding of the American Corporate Counsel Association.

Mutual Challenges and Successes: A Large Firms Discussion Forum
This session, moderated by Tim Golden of McGuire Woods, features three CIOs from large firms (Doug Caddell of Mayer Brown, Ash Banerjee of Hogan Lovells and Curt Meltzer of Chadbourne and Parke) covering a variety of issues that pertain to large firms.  The discussion turns to AI at the 17-minute mark.

Using the Right Data To Drive Your KM Program
Kingsley Martin and Karl Haraldsson examine the journey from Profiling to Search to Analytics to Predictive Coding and Machine/Deep Learning.  This session starts with a strategic view, but includes some very tactical ways to start quantifying legal practice.  Highlights include “don’t start with the Death Star,” “If I knew… I would do…”, buying a car (in four acts) and insight into the importance of data visualization.

Watson, I Need You! Augmented Intelligence for Legal

IBM’s Kyla Moran offers a broad perspective on Watson.  While this ILTACON session is light on legal-specific applications, it does offer insight into how Watson works.  Ginevra Saylor, National Director of Knowledge Management for Dentons, asks some interesting questions as moderator, including why the other Jeopardy contestants were able to answer any questions at all.

Are You Ready to Go Paperless?

1 Feb

paperBy Ginevra Saylor, National Director, Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP

If you still have not settled on a New Year’s resolution for 2017, you may want to consider making this the year to take your practice, law department, or firm paperless. The benefits of ditching your dependence on paper are many, and the obstacles have dwindled to a surprisingly surmountable few.  So, if you are thinking of making the move, here are few quick tips for getting started.

  1. Consider the benefits

Over the years, the content of clients’ matter files has changed from primarily paper to digital. Even so, many organizations have not fully adapted their record-keeping practices to reflect this reality.  For many, files have become a mix of paper and digital records, with neither alone telling the full story.  Of course, lawyers and firms need access to complete matter files to answer clients’ questions quickly and accurately and perform their work properly; when matters close, lawyers must secure, preserve, and sometimes transfer accurate files.  The obvious solution is to create and maintain one complete record of every matter, and doing so digitally makes sense given that most documents start out that way. Going with the digital brings many benefits, including providing remote and multiple access, eliminating redundant tasks (like printing and filing paper copies of digital content), reducing risk, freeing space, and decreasing physical storage and labor costs.

  1. Define paperless

The concept of a paperless office means different things to different organizations. For many, if not most, it does not mean purging all paper once and for all. Rather, it more likely means instituting a policy or practice of creating, storing, backing-up, and retaining operational and client files in digital format only. At least for the near future, many people will continue to find reading, revising, and proofreading content easier and more effective on paper, rather than on screen.  Some will also prefer printing material to read while commuting, in meetings, or in other places where computer access is inconvenient, uncomfortable or unavailable.  While paper continues to be a reality (and an expense, albeit a much lower one) in many paperless offices, the difference is that paper becomes a temporary convenience that is destroyed as soon as no longer needed. So, when taking an office or department paperless, decide how much paper you will continue to support.  Weaning people off paper can take time and making clear from the outset that paperless will not mean no paper goes a long way to assuage fear; however, being too permissive can cut into the benefits.  For instance, continuing to file both digital content and multiple paper copies and sending hard copies of digitally stored material to and from off-site storage facilities wastes time and money.  But, treating paper as a temporary convenience can strike a good balance.

  1. Assess your readiness

You will also want to make sure your practice is ready to shift to completely digital records; this will help you select a realistic target date and identify the processes, applications and hardware you may need to put in place beforehand. Make certain the office has an effective solution for converting the few materials still received (the occasional posted letter or fax) or created (handwritten notes and marked-up documents) in non-digital format to digital.  Depending on the size of the office, this could mean investing in or retooling centralized scanning services, multifunctional scan/print/copy devices at assistants’ work stations, or portable hand-held devices.  Consider how the office will ensure relevant voice-mail, any hard documents that must be kept, and physical objects are connected to the digital record.

To ensure that finding material in digital files will be as easy, and ideally far easier, than in paper files, make certain that digital files have been well-maintained and organized. In firms and law departments that have invested in a document management system, particularly one designed around clients and matters, digital files probably have a structure similar to or better than paper files that most people already are accustomed to; even without a document management system, most offices will have developed a system for organizing and sharing matter files on their network. However, keep in mind that everyone may not have been equally vigilant about moving relevant email into the proper place or refraining from saving documents locally.  Taking time to review and fine-tune your structure and ensure everyone is following established practices before transitioning to a paperless office is prudent.  If you have invested in advanced search technology, finding anything digitally should be much faster than even the most meticulously kept paper system; however, depending on your office’s uptake of your search engine, you may want to spend some time refreshing and upgrading people’s search skills.

  1. Do your research

Your planning process will also involve researching or updating research on your legal, professional, and ethical requirements for maintaining client matter files. In many jurisdictions, nearly every document in a lawyer’s file now may be kept in digital, rather than paper, format.  However, each jurisdiction is different, so legislation governing evidence, electronic records, lawyers, and the specific areas of law practiced, as well as bar and law society regulations, must all be researched carefully.  In some jurisdictions, original hard copies may be required in specific circumstances and for other scenarios no clear answer may exist.  For instance, gray areas may surface for environmental, real estate, trusts and estates, and tax matters.  When considering what, if any, material must be retained in hard copy, be careful to distinguish between what lawyers are required to keep as part of the file and what lawyers traditionally have kept as a service to their clients.  Each organization will decide for itself how much – or if – it will choose to retain as an added service beyond what it must.  And, even if no longer required by legislation or professional regulations, the firm may have agreed to preserve certain materials for clients either expressly or by implication; so, before destroying those hard copies, the clients’ agreement would likely be needed.

  1. Craft a policy and procedures

After completing all of the above preliminary steps, if you decide your organization is ready to go paperless, you will be well-positioned to start a project; two of the key deliverables will be a policy and procedures. A detailed look at what might go into that policy and procedures is far beyond the scope of this post and best left to those with expertise in records management.  But, as you may want to take this on in stages, some key points to think over before diving in include:

  • whether your paperless approach will focus only on records opened after the policy’s and procedure’s implementation or will also address conversion of records back to a specific point in time;
  • whether the policy will address both retention and destruction of digital files;
  • who will own and enforce the policy;
  • how any paper that must be kept will be retained, and
  • how and by whom gray areas in the law will be addressed.
  1. Set the stage

Depending on the size of your organization, change management may be your biggest challenge. In larger organizations, you are likely to encounter a mix of people who have been operating paperlessly for years (and wondering when management would catch up) and people who remain quite comfortable working amidst tottering paper towers.  Identify and start working with both groups early and throughout the project.  The former will be your champions and, as with any project involving behavioral change, will be critical to your success, supplying you with their own best practices and providing practical counter-arguments to the skeptics’ objections.  Your early adopters’ practical success stories about how they are working more efficiently and effectively, with reduced risk and stress and more satisfied clients, will speak far louder than the theoretical business case.

Anticipate and be prepared to counter inevitable objections from those who remain wedded to paper. One of the most common concerns will likely be access to documents if the system goes down.  Surprisingly, people seem to forget about all of the access issues – much more common than a system failure – associated with paper in the case of, for instance, fire, flood, blizzards and other emergencies that can keep us physically separated from our paper.  In all of these cases, we would likely have remote access to our digital files and no access to our paper.  Undeniably, systems do go down preventing access to digital content.  However, these tend to be infrequent, of relatively short duration, and mildly disruptive.  And, most organizations have set up their systems to reduce and mitigate this risk.

As we depend less and less on paper in our working environments, it seems inevitable that we will all go paperless at some point. Yet, until paper truly becomes a thing of the past, there will be those who object, focusing on the risks associated with the unknown.  For me the most compelling argument for going paperless came in the form of a New York Times photograph of confidential papers strewn across a city street that ran under the headline, “Fire at Brooklyn Warehouse Puts Private Lives on Display.”  It serves to remind us that even what is known and familiar has its risks – we have just learned to live with them.

People-Finding: Achieving One of KM’s Three “P”s

5 Dec

crowdBy Chris Boyd, Senior Director of Professional Services, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Our firm defines KM as “delivering more value to clients by putting the knowledge of all attorneys at the fingertips of each attorney” and includes within “knowledge” the following three “P”s:

  1. Work product: model and sample documents, how-to guides, checklists, and other practice aids.
  2. Project-related information: profiles of cases and deals.
  3. People-related information.

This post focuses on the third “P”: people-related information. KM projects that focus on the first two Ps typically get more publicity and recognition within firms, probably because the output is more tangible; it’s usually obvious if a practice group has forms and matter profiles, but less obvious if the firm has a way to locate expertise.  But connecting attorneys to the right people to answer questions and help clients achieve their goals can be the most powerful KM resource of all.

Below are some ways to achieve the third “P,” referred to from here on as “people-finding.”

Internal expertise.  This is a critical part of people-finding, and much has already been written about it by excellent authors.  See for example, the listing in Gwyn McAlpine’s November 23 ILTA KM blog post under Enterprise Search / Expertise Location.

External expertise. Clients frequently want referrals to attorneys in practices that a firm doesn’t provide or to professionals in fields other than law, such as accounting, banking, or consulting. A strong people-finding resource should help attorneys tap their colleagues’ referrals to find external experts.  The main challenge is deciding which referrals to collect and post, given that gathering every last name from every attorney is neither feasible nor worthwhile.  Our firm limits the scope by simply including in the referral tool only those attorneys and other professionals whom firm lawyers have recommended in response to internal requests for help.  This approach both limits the work and, more importantly, ensures that each referral is supported by a firm attorney who has recommended the name to a colleague with a client question.

Experience with judges, arbitrators, and others. Information about judges, arbitrators, mediators, and experts can be useful for litigators.  For example, when drafting briefs in support of a substantive motion to be heard by an unfamiliar judge, it would be useful for the litigation team to know that the judge does not take kindly to requests to exceed page limits and will not allow counsel to repeat at oral argument any of the points already set forth in the briefs. Similarly, if a litigation team is bullish about a client’s chances to defend a case at trial, the team will want to avoid using a mediator who is known to “split the baby” between the parties and instead seek someone who has a reputation for pressing for an outcome that is in line with the actual merits of the case.  And when retaining a testifying expert in a matter in which opposing counsel is known to be aggressive in deposition and cross-examination, the attorney will want to know how the witness has performed in similar circumstances – whether the witness can retain composure under pressure and testify clearly and persuasively.

A strong people-finding resource enables a firm’s litigators to quickly locate information about each of these key players in the litigation process. A judge’s profile should note the firm’s attorneys who have clerked for or appeared in front of the judge, the matters the judge has presided over, and perhaps even link to external profiles of the judge’s cases and decisions.  The resource should enable attorneys to search arbitrator or mediator names to find out which of the firm’s attorneys have experience with them.  And expert profiles should outline expertise, link to CVs, and note the cases they’ve appeared in.

Who-knows-whom. A final category of people-finding is providing attorneys the ability to find out who at a firm knows a specific person or knows people at a specific company or other organization.  Two ways to do this are (1) an enterprise search for the person’s or company’s name in documents or time entries, and (2) a search in ContactNet or similar tools to see if the name occurs in a colleague’s public contacts or the email addresses of emails sent to or from the firm.

People-finding is a critical component of a strong KM program. Enabling attorneys and other professionals to find internal experts is a great start; enabling them to find external experts, information about key players in cases, and who-knows-whom is even better.

For Your Viewing Pleasure…

23 Nov

catalogBy Gwyn McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services, Perkins Coie LLP

Did you miss any of ILTA’s programming for knowledge management professionals this past year? Below is a catalog of what you may have missed.  Because programming is member-driven based on your requests and feedback, the categorization below gives you insight into what your peers think are hot topics.

But first, some background for those new to ILTA programming. ILTA produces KM programming in a variety of formats, building upon timely themes.  Each year, you can count on targeted articles and sessions in the Knowledge Management White Paper, typically published in June, and at ILTACON, held in August.  Throughout the rest of the year, the ILTA KM blog delivers a steady stream of thoughtful content approximately every two weeks.  Keep an eye out for articles in other places, such as the Peer to Peer magazine, and ad hoc sessions, such as webinars, virtual roundtables and vendor product briefings.  To facilitate open sharing and discussion, the latter are not always recorded, so be sure to attend those with topics of interest to you.  Lastly, the Connected Community Discussion Board features lively Q&A and announcements among an active, 1600-member community.

And because Knowledge Management can touch on many other areas, don’t forget to check out programming that may not be specifically targeted to KMers but is relevant to you nonetheless. Searches in the Connected Community will lead you to publications, recordings and discussions across a multitude of areas.  Also browse the ILTA TV page where you will find dozens of short interviews with thought leaders in fields that touch Knowledge Management directly and indirectly.

Note that you do need to be an ILTA member to access many of these resources. What are you waiting for?

Artificial Intelligence/Expert Systems

Collaboration/Tacit Knowledge

Data Analytics

DMS/Information Governance

Enterprise Search/Expertise Location

ILTACON

KM Strategy

Other Innovation

SharePoint/Portals

Upcoming Programming

In 2017, we have big plans for programing relevant to KM professionals. Look for a year-long focus on artificial intelligence and the changing legal market.  In addition, the biennial KM survey, which provides useful comparability metrics, is due to be published in July 2017. If you have suggestions for content you would like to see, respond to this blog post or feel free to contact me directly. Better yet, start a discussion amongst your peers on the Connected Community Discussion Board.

*For all the Blue Book die-hards out there, sorry. Just use the links. You’ll find it.

Evolution of the Contract: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

11 Nov

contractBy Lesha Van Der Bij, Principal, Optimize Legal

Contracts have been a key component of legal transactions for hundreds of years. Many lawyers, including me, began our careers reading Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company and learning the tenets of contract law – offer, acceptance and consideration.

For some lawyers, the process of drafting and reviewing contracts has remained largely the same since the days of Carbolic Smoke Ball. These lawyers begin working on matters by trying to remember a past file where they drafted a similar document, asking a colleague for sample agreements, or even reviewing first principles.

Over the years many, within and outside of the legal profession, have come to recognize that taking an ad hoc approach to contracts is suboptimal. Not only is it inefficient, it can lead to clients receiving varying quality of responses and work product from different lawyers within the same organization.  With clients expecting more from their law firms and the emergence of new technologies, the process of drafting and reviewing contracts has evolved.

Standardizing Language

The standardization of contract language began in earnest in the 1990s and early 2000s when many law firms created model agreements. Unlike sample documents pulled from past matters, which may vary in quality, a model is reviewed and approved by senior lawyers to establish an agreed upon standard.  Models tend to include best-case language that differs depending on the party (for instance, vendor or purchaser) the lawyer represents.

By developing models, law firms could take a consistent approach to each type of contract. Standardization also helped highlight boilerplate clauses that tend to not need negotiation, enabling lawyers to focus on more contentious and deal-specific provisions.

While model agreements promote consistency and efficiency, lawyers still spend substantial time creating first drafts and conducting side-by-side reviews that compare key clauses in their deal documents to those in their model agreement. Many law firms also have a difficult time maintaining and updating their vast collection of model agreements. So, after much initial hoopla, many model document collections start to languish.

Process Mapping

As interest in Lean Six Sigma and other process improvement techniques started to increase, a number of law firms began applying these approaches to contract work. Consultants or in-house experts would lead a group of lawyers through a typical transaction, mapping out the various steps to identify and try to eliminate inefficiencies, while documenting a more streamlined process in a checklist or project plan template.

Checklists setting out the key steps in a particular transaction are then used to instruct junior lawyers and ensure that important steps are not missed. Project plan templates outline a matter’s milestones, staffing, and time estimates – information that is then used to develop more accurate fee estimates and keep matters on budget.

While checklists and project plan templates help standardize and streamline contract drafting and review, much of the time-consuming drafting remains in the lawyers’ hands.

Process Automation

Standardizing contract language and workflow generated an excellent opportunity for enterprising individuals to automate contracts. Limited automation (for example, through mail merge macros) has existed for many years. More recently, sophisticated and easy-to-use document assembly tools have emerged.

Document assembly tools enable users to answer a questionnaire asking for information about the transaction, such as parties’ names, deal type, currency, and closing date, and with the click of a button the deal information is incorporated into the applicable template to generate a first draft. While lawyers still must massage their agreements to ensure that they accurately convey the particular circumstances of each case, these technologies significantly advance the drafting process. The time spent drafting massive agreements for complex transactions, often containing only slight modifications, is greatly reduced.

That said, one downside is that these technologies require much effort and time to create templates and questionnaires. While the end user’s experience is relatively simple and seamless, the logic required to create the underlying questions is not always intuitive. An understanding of the underlying law is needed to create the templates and most lawyers have neither the requisite patience nor time to code documents.

So, many law firms still struggle with how to automate their model document collections. And, once the models are automated, how will law firms maintain and update them? Will history repeat itself, this time with coded model agreements languishing?

 Boosting Technology’s Role

In the march toward greater efficiency, still more emphasis is being placed on technology’s role. Some of the newest technologies have moved beyond automation and into machine learning and artificial intelligence. Most notably, contract analytics tools that are learning the language of contracts are being used in a number of interesting ways.

Some businesses are using these tools to analyze their day-to-day contracts by, for instance, triaging routine contracts, identifying problem clauses, and highlighting when legal counsel should be called. Law firms have started using contract analytics tools for reviewing hundreds or thousands of documents as part of due diligence.

Even with the aid of a model agreements and checklists, reviewing key clauses in numerous contracts is labourious and time consuming. Contract analytics tools can quickly identify the contracts from the mounds of data room documents, classify the key clauses in them, and produce an easily digestible summary for the lawyer’s review – all within minutes or hours instead of days or weeks.

While these technologies remain a far cry from robots replacing lawyers, they do provide the information required for quick and effective issue spotting.

Peeking into the Future

Contract drafting and review has evolved from a seemingly bespoke practice into an increasingly automated, computerized, and commoditized process. So, where are we headed?

Standardized Technology. Using automation and artificial intelligence tools to create first drafts and initially review contracts will become routine as technologies become easier to use and better supported. Companies offering these tools may well consolidate or industry leaders may expand their offerings to include all-in-one, one-stop-shop contract management systems.

New Legal Skills. Lawyers will need to develop a solid understanding of these technologies as they become a standard part of the contract process. Law schools will offer programs to provide graduates with basic knowledge of and skills using the range of tools available. Law societies will also specify a minimum level of technical proficiency that lawyers must possess to practice law.

New Roles and Mixed Professions. Lawyers will work more closely with technologists and other professionals to optimize the contract process. As tools and practice evolve, new hybrid roles that combine law, technology, and process improvement will develop.

Fewer Lawyers Required. Smaller teams of lawyers will be able to complete larger and more complex contract-related work. For instance, teams of junior lawyers conducting due diligence reviews will be replaced by one or two lawyers overseeing a computer-based document review. The volume of day-to-day contract review will also be reduced as businesses use these new tools to conduct initial assessments and identify problematic agreements requiring legal advice.

Greater Access to Legal Review. For a subscription or fixed fee, smaller businesses and individuals will have access to tools that can provide them with basic advice on routine contracts, enabling these groups to obtain previously unavailable legal advice.

Of course, contracts are but a subset of the overall practice of law. That said, the evolution of contract law provides a useful case study that may apply to the legal profession as a whole.

The practice of law clearly is changing. As new processes and technologies develop at a rapid pace, these changes bring opportunities for lawyers ready to adapt.  Not only will lawyers have the opportunity to improve legal service delivery, but also to free themselves from much of the mundane tasks and focus their time on work that can add significant value.

Even If They Don’t Ask – It’s Time to Do Some Soul Searching

19 Oct

By Mara Nickerson, Chief Knowledge Officer, Osler

Casey Flaherty and the ACC recently published Unless You Ask: A guide for Law Departments to Get More from External Relationships. The basic premise of the Guide is that if clients want their external lawyers to change the way they work and ensure they focus on delivering efficient client service, they need to ask.  And, the Guide is full of all of the questions in-house lawyers can ask on a broad range of topics, including knowledge management, process and project management and expert systems – all topics near and dear to my heart (and job). The Guide specifically warns clients not to accept puffery from their law firms, but instead ask for concrete and measurable evidence.

Casey sent me a copy of the Guide just as it was released because my firm has been rolling out the Legal Technology Assessment. Needless to say, one of the topics covered in the Guide is lawyers’ technical competencies. I was able to use the Guide as one of the tools to encourage lawyers to complete the assessment. Beyond that, I have also been using it do a bit of KM soul searching.

My firm has a very old and well-established KM program, dating back to former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Bertha Wilson, who started our centralized research collection in the early 1960s. We now have a solid KM team and many of the standard KM systems and databases. We are also quite focused on process improvement and efficiency and implemented a number of new technologies to enhance practice efficiency. But, all that might sound like puffery!

While I could debate with Casey the extent to which law firms should be required to disclose how we make our “secret sauce,” I have found the Guide a valuable tool to work through with my team and consider where we are doing well and where we still have gaps. And, of course, we do have gaps.  Even Casey counsels law departments not to expect perfection from law firms – expect only a willingness to engage and evolve.

Sometimes we can get stuck in what we are doing: it started out as the right thing to do, so we just keep doing it. The Guide reminds us to take a step back and review the ROI.  Are we having the impact we think we are?  Are our tools being used the way we expect them to be? Yes, it is time for some soul searching and I plan to use the Guide as the starting point for discussing 2017 KM goals and projects with my team.

I have forwarded the Guide to the other Chiefs at my firm and asked them to review and summarize how we are doing in the areas they manage. I want us to be fully prepared when clients ask.

And, one client has asked; the client has instructed us to use the Guide as the focus of conversation at our next quarterly relationship meeting. This client has not yet asked for a detailed response to the specific questions in the Guide. But we are ready.  And I am well on the way to setting our KM goals for 2017.  Thanks Casey.

A KM Lawyer’s Quick Guide to Document Assembly

28 Jul

assemblyby Lisa Houston, Knowledge Management Lawyer, Dentons Canada LLP

Implementing and supporting a document assembly initiative can be a daunting task, especially in the first year or so. Having some best practices and lessons learned from others who have trod that ground can be a big help. So, allow me to share one Knowledge Management (KM) Lawyer’s recollections of her early days leading a document assembly initiative.

When our global firm’s Canada region decided to implement the well-known Contract Express document assembly solution, KM led the initiative. A lean team of KM lawyers and content specialists kicked off a pilot with three practice groups, while our counterparts in our firm’s US region conducted their own parallel pilot.  Here is some of what we learned along the way.

Getting Started with a Good Pilot

We piloted Contract Express with a handful of interested lawyers and paralegals from our banking, corporate, and entertainment practices. Each group selected a collection of documents for our team to convert into templates; fortunately, the selected documents all proved to be well-suited for document assembly.

Our entertainment group chose documents used in film production financings and our finance group provided documents for a simple secured financing. Both sets were ideal for a couple of reasons.  First, they were documents for more “commoditized” transactions in that they are used time and time again on similar, smaller-scale transactions, usually by the same group of lawyers and paralegals and for the same client or type of client.  While elements of the main agreements might change based on the business terms, most of the documents remain the same from one transaction to the next. Second, both sets contained everything needed to complete the transaction from start-to-finish. One of the great things about document assembly software like ContractExpress is that one can not only create individual templates to generate one-off documents, but also generate all of the necessary associated documents for a transaction using a single online questionnaire and “master” template.  The time saved by generating multiple documents at once – compared with drafting each individually – is priceless.

Unlike the entertainment and finance groups, our corporate group selected documents that were not meant to be compiled as a set; however, like the financing documents, each of the corporate documents was a model document used frequently for many different clients. The corporate pilot documents included, for instance, model non-disclosure and shareholder agreements.  These model documents also proved ideal for document assembly, having been prepared specifically for our start-up clients who preferred shorter plain English documents that are easily understood.  While the models are not one-size-fits-all, they are simple and flexible enough for a variety of clients.

Since then, from my experience working with a range of documents, I recognized that another prime candidate for document assembly is a model form of the primary document used on significant transactions or matters, such as a share (stock) or asset purchase agreement in merger and acquisition transactions. True, these agreements can be complex and the transactions highly-negotiated, meaning no model or template could cover every possible scenario or structure, and coding to cover everything would be a monumental task.  But, if one has a quality model document at hand – one that is heavily annotated with commentary and instructions for using variations of important clauses (for example, pricing provisions) and optional clauses – converting the model document into a coded template for document assembly is time well-spent.  With this template, lawyers can prepare a solid first draft in a matter of minutes rather than hours, leaving ample time to focus attention on revising the draft to account for unique or sophisticated elements of the transaction.

However, coding complex transaction documents like these does have one small drawback: first drafts inevitably are negotiated and revised and those changes might veer into the “static” text in the template (the text intended to remain the same from one deal to the next regardless of particular business terms and circumstances). So, if something in the business deal or document changes that is not a template variable (like, for instance, agreement date, number of parties, governing law of the document, and pricing terms), one of document assembly’s prime benefits – the ability to generate new versions by simply changing answers on the template’s questionnaire – is lost and the document must be manually changed from that point on.  Even so, considering the alternative, this potential drawback is no big deal.

Training and Supporting Document Assembly

Back when we piloted document assembly, four KM lawyers and two content specialists were trained to code templates and only one of us had any experience with document assembly; I had created some templates with another product (EnAct). We divided into groups, with one of us taking the lead with each of the pilot groups, and jumped straight into coding templates. Much of the advanced coding that became necessary we learned through trial and error and collaboration.  The manuals and Knowledge Base on the ContractExpress website became our new best friends.  It also helped that our colleagues in the US were devoting significant time to their own initiative, so that we could bounce ideas off each other and ask one another if we had already figured something out.

Through the significant time we invested in the beginning and our steep learning curve, we soon recognized expecting all of us to become coding gurus – or even top-notch trainers – was unrealistic. For one, with competing demands, not everyone had time to learn more than the basics or devote extensive time to coding.  We also learned that creating templates was not just about coding; we also would need to support the process in other ways.

While the KM content specialists (who do not have legal education) who received training became very proficient at coding, we knew that at least one person supporting or instructing the coders ought to have some legal knowledge and become an “expert” coder. As the KM lawyer lead on the project, I learned as much coding as necessary to code the templates for the pilot.  I have since trained others on coding and support the other people who do the coding by helping them with the more of the advanced coding and reviewing their coded documents. I also needed to devise and deliver a more formal train-the-trainer program to spread the training responsibility over a larger group and compile materials and create templates for common but complex coding tasks.

The other KM lawyers who had received initial training during our pilot continue to support our process in ways other than through coding. KM lawyers review the initial documents and meet with the lawyers who provided the documents for template creation to get more background or instructions.  They identify what needs to be coded and highlight the documents for coding, which are then passed on to the coding team.  They also help by writing and organizing questionnaires and trying out some of the coded templates before we ask the lawyers who asked for the documents to test and approve them.  At times, our KM lawyers also enlist and supervise law students working at the firm to do some of the non-coding work.

Advancing Document Assembly

Once word gets out following a successful pilot, requests for coded templates come pouring in; in our case, we quickly learned that KM could not support the volume alone. To keep up with demand, we needed to train people outside of our KM Department and we gave a great deal of thought who might be the best people to train.

We started by delivering presentations to various practice groups, describing how document assembly could enhance their work and how they should go about selecting materials suitable for coding. Having the practice groups identify the ideal documents for document assembly helps ensure the best return on our coding investment and manage the workload. We also ask practice groups to identify people within their group to be trained in coding documents. We suggest as good candidates for coding experienced legal assistants who know the practice well, senior paralegals, and junior associates, all both good with and interested in technology.  (One thing we discovered in our own training and by training others is that not everyone has an interest in or aptitude for document assembly coding.)

With every group that requests templates, the coding contingent grows and we develop coding and questionnaire expertise in more and more practice groups. This frees the KM document assembly team to continue advising, providing advanced coding expertise, and supporting others.

Involving Our Lawyers in Document Assembly

Recognizing that our lawyers’ time is best spent on our clients’ matters, we try to limit their time in the template creation process. We ask the lawyers who request templates for their help only at three points in the template creation process.

First, we ask lawyers for their time up front to meet with us and provide relevant background on the documents and any instructions for coding. Typically, this involves just a phone call after the KM lawyer has read and reviewed the documents and identified items needing clarification.

Second, we ask the lawyer to test the templates once they have been coded and provide any feedback to the person coding the documents. Every template is coded to generate a separate document that lists all of the pages and groups of questions (or variables), a Word document version of the online questionnaire.  We ask them to provide their feedback on both the questionnaire (using that document as their guide) and the generated document, and then mark those up before meeting with the KM lawyer if necessary.

Third, after coders have revised the templates based on the lawyers’ feedback, we ask them for a final review. When the templates are ready for use, we hold a short training session for all members of the practice group who will use the coded document sets to generate documents for live matters.  We suggest that all legal assistants in the group and any lawyers who might generate their own first drafts using the templates receive this training.  As for updating the templates, we expect the members of the practice group trained in coding will maintain the coded templates.

Anyone embarking on a KM document assembly initiative is wise to be prepared for enthusiasm from lawyers and demand for coded documents to spread quickly. Make a plan for how you will identify, train, and incorporate others into the team early on so you can meet the demand when it comes.