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Law Firm Technology Guides Help Answer ‘Overwhelming’ Questions

Nov. 12, 2020, 10:41 AM

Welcome back to the Big Law Business column on the changing legal marketplace written by me, Roy Strom. This week, we look at new tools launching to help firms and clients navigate the increasingly crowded legal tech market. Sign up to receive this column in your inbox on Thursday mornings.

By one expert’s count, a typical large law firm uses more than 400 software applications, and that number is expected to zoom past 600.

Forget “digital transformation.” The number of products means law firms and legal departments struggle to know what’s available in the market.

Would-be innovators can be left on the sidelines pondering hard-to-verify claims about artificial intelligence, the cloud, or unlocking contract data.

“When I speak about data analytics, I get a ton of questions,” said Dan Linna, director of law and technology initiatives at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. “‘How do I get started? What do I do?’ It’s overwhelming.”

Linna has tried to catalog and characterize types of innovation inside law firms. He said the industry would benefit from better information about how new products can change the provision of legal services.

Some players in the industry, including Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, see this huge proliferation of choice as an opportunity in and of itself.

The firm this week released for public use a tool it developed internally to track more than 600 legal tech products.

The “Orrick Observatory” details more than 150 project management tools, 120 artificial intelligence products, and nearly 100 firm and legal analytics platforms. Each tool has a brief description written by the firm’s innovation team and includes data on whether the company has diverse leadership.

Reynen Court, which raised $4.5 million last month and has received funding from the likes of Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins and Orrick, provides a similar function for a universe of about 100 products.

Reynen Court also lets firms quickly “test drive” products without the traditionally cumbersome process of “piloting” software.

Wendy Butler Curtis, chief innovation officer at Orrick, has discussed the state of legal technology with more than 100 clients during the past 18 months as a team developed the Observatory. She said many clients struggle to define the use cases for technologies like blockchain or AI.

Curtis said the Observatory helped clients answer questions about how to transform their processes by giving them a better understanding of what today’s technology could help change.

“It is overwhelming just to go through the selection, proof of concept, contract and launch process,” Curtis said. “There is a new-tool fatigue.”

Reynen Court founder Andrew Klein said large law firms expect to soon be using more than 600 software applications.

Even as companies proliferate, the level of information shared in the legal technology space trails behind that of most areas where technology is making an impact, said Zach Posner, managing director at The LegalTech Fund, which invests in companies helping make the law more accessible.

“You’ve got a pretty big discovery problem,” Posner said. “Information about companies in this space is not readily available.”

Last year, more than $1 billion was invested in the legal technology space. Companies have continued to raise money this year, and the pandemic has added urgency to adopting cloud-computing or other digital solutions.

Chief legal officers intend to increase their investments in digital technologies or alternative legal service providers, a survey from Deloitte this week said. That’s despite 46% reporting their budgets have declined this year.

A clearer picture of what products have already been launched will help entrepreneurs spot opportunities to build new products, Charley Moore, CEO of Rocket Lawyer, said in an interview. That, in turn, will help more capital enter the legal innovation space.

“Our kids are not going to interact with this still very physical and geographically-dependent legal system,” Moore said. “The pandemic has shown us that.”

Worth Your Time

On Transitions: Doug Emhoff, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s husband, plans to leave his role as a partner at law firm DLA Piper, Bloomberg Law’s Chris Opfer reports. The commercial and entertainment litigator will “sever all ties” with the firm before his wife and President-elect Joe Biden are sworn in on Jan. 20.

On Transitions II: Meanwhile, law firms Jones Day and Porter Wright are facing heat from the conservative Lincoln Project for advancing President Donald Trump’s fight to challenge election results. The group’s co-founder, GOP strategist Rick Wilson, told The Washington Post the group would target those firms for their help in “waging lawfare against the American people.”

On Pandemic Bonuses: Some corporate clients are worried they will be left footing the bill for “pandemic bonuses” being paid out by top-performing law firms this year, Bloomberg Law’s Ruiqi Chen reports.

On the CLOC: The Corporate Legal Operations Consortirum announced it has officially opened its doors to “any professional who engages in the legal industry” rather than just legal departments and law firms. The group began as an organization for technology-minded in-house counsel to share ideas and information.

That’s it for this week! Enjoy The Masters! Thanks for reading and please send me your thoughts, critiques, and tips.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Hughes at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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