The Emerging Legal Technology Forum Urges Technological Innovations to Improve Delivery of Legal Services

Topics: Corporate Legal, Government, Law Firms, Legal Innovation, Stanford Law School

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Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute joined with the Stanford Law School to conduct The Emerging Legal Technology Forum last week in New York City. It was a wonderful event.

Stanford Law Professor Phil Malone and I opened the Forum with an overview of the promise of technology to improve the way legal service is delivered. We sounded an essential chord for the Forum: Quality—technology enables higher quality of legal service, and not simply greater efficiency.

The first panel—moderated by Roland Vogl, who leads CodeX, Stanford’s Center for Legal Informatics—presented a concrete and comprehensive briefing on the state of legal technology. Prof. Vogl provided a survey of technology applications, category by category, drawing on his work at Stanford. The panelists then discussed how their firms presently employ technology, including the following examples: Seyfarth Shaw’s Chairman Steve Poor, discussed how Seyfarth employs technology and process design fundamentally to revamp its service delivery model. Wilson Sonsini’s Jim Yoon discussed how technology enables him to be far more selective in what needs to be done to achieve client objectives, producing better outcomes at lower cost. Ravel Law’s Daniel Lewis shared how Ravel utilizes technology to permit lawyers to understand better how courts apply precedent in deciding cases, taking them beyond what the cases say to how those cases impact judicial decisions.

[The automation of contract drafting] is important in its own right and in its illustration of technology’s capacity to perform tasks previously performed by lawyers.

A second chord was sounded throughout this panel: The significance of data in legal service—technology unleashes powerful learning from large sets of data. Each panelist included examples of how process and strategic decisions were based on the analysis of data that technology now enables.

The second panel of the day, moderated by Cisco Systems General Counsel Mark Chandler, took a detailed look at one significant category of technology’s impact on legal service: the automation of contract drafting. This topic is important in its own right and in its illustration of technology’s capacity to perform tasks previously performed by lawyers.

The panel included Jessica Pollack, Chief Commercial Counsel at Colgate Palmolive, which, like Cisco Systems, has created a comprehensive, world-wide program to automate contracts; Ruth Ward, Head of Central Knowledge Management at Allen & Overy, who oversees A&O’s document automation programs; and Kingsley Martin, CEO of KM Standards, who advises firms on these issues. The panel elucidated how contract automation programs are created and how they work; what they cost and the benefits they deliver; and how they can meaningfully improve client outcomes.

This panel sounded a third chord for the day: Reliability—technology can make the legal service more reliable. Indeed, the panelists reported materially lower error rates with automated systems than with traditional methods.

The next session was moderated by Margaret Hagan, who leads Stanford Law School’s joint venture with the Stanford School of Design, which undertakes projects to re-examine how legal service models are designed. Hagan shared with the audience the creative, multi-disciplinary process Stanford employs, which was inspiring as well as informative. She was joined by Philippe Maudlin, a Managing Director at Fidelity Investments, who described a design project that Fidelity undertook with Stanford, bringing to life how the design process works.

This session struck a fourth chord: Client focused design—re-examining process design requires an unrelenting focus on the user, i.e., the client. Lawyers need to suspend their presumptions of how the process should work and pursue what will work best for the client.

I moderated the final panel of the day on big data and data analytics. It included Josh Becker, the CEO of Lex Machina; Greg McPolin, the Managing Director of Pangea3; and Stanford Law Professor, Michael Kausner, who leads Stanford Law School’s Securities Analytics Project. Each panelist provided concrete descriptions of how data analytics unleashes learning not achievable by traditional methods, building on the chord sounded by the first panel.

More than 100 people attended the Forum, representing a broad array of perspectives including law firms of varying sizes, corporate law departments, technology professionals, and academics. The audience engaged with each panel throughout the Forum, both in formal Q&A and in informal discussion during the breaks. There was a palpable energy in the room from the opening session through the closing reception.

This really was an outstanding program for all who attended. It provided an insight into Stanford’s unique crossroads of law, design, and technology. And it did so in the context of concrete application to the delivery of legal service. We will do this program again next year.