Industry Standard Documents – With a Capital “S”

Kingsley Martin’s KIIAC KM tool has been highlighted on the 3 Geeks before. The KIIAC tool is a next-generation KM analysis resource, that analyzes a volume of documents to determine the most standard language for each clause within the document set.
The direct value of something like this tool is obvious for a firm. Law firms now spend copious amounts of un-billable time developing and maintaining model document templates for a given practice. KIIAC can do the same in seconds at a fraction of the cost. At a recent conference, I made the point that now a firm can actually know what its standard documents look like. Developing a model, standard template in the old-fashioned way produces what one person or small group of people think the standard should be, not what it actually is.
Now … extend that thinking to the broader market. Think of the power and value of being able to produce standard document templates at the market level?
Well actually … Kingsley was already doing that thinking for you. He recently released his Contract Standards web site, where he is gathering various types of documents, running them through his KIIAC analysis engine, and producing true industry standard models. The site includes checklists, clause libraries and a document assembly engine for compiling standard clauses into usable documents. The site already includes a number of agreements and will grow over time.
Another form site? Not really. Just like the law firm challenge noted above, KIIAC brings the knowledge from very large sets of documents and brings in to focus a true standard. What this means is we now will have Standards with a capital “S” in the legal market. These standards come from documents actually being used on the market, not what some small group of people think should be used. These standards will be knowledge that hasn’t previously existed.
Caveats: Obviously having a true standard will be dependent on having a relatively large set of documents in the system. But the beauty of the system is that it will scale to very large sets. So over time, the standard will become more and more focused as it gets used and continually augmented with new sets of documents.
Imagine what the existence of real market standards could mean for the practice of law?
Yeah I know – my mind just blew up too.

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Ken Adams said...

KIIAC is a great tool, but like any form of computer-driven analysis, you run the risk of glorified garbage-in, garbage out: if your contract language is limited to what's in your document set, it will likely have its fair share of the archaisms, redundancies, misconceptions, and other shortcomings that pervade traditional contract language. So strong editorial control is important. And the stronger the editor, the less they'll need to rely on the technology.

Kingsley and I have previously discussed this, and I expect we'll keep on discussing it! So this notion isn't novel, but I thought it worth airing.

Steven B. Levy, author of Legal Project Management said...

I like the picture of a standardized wrench set that you chose to accompany this post. Wrenches separate the toolmakers from the artisans; whether I want to repair my kid's bike or build him a treehouse, premade tools let me pour my energy, skill, and craft into the desired result.

I think this effort will be much, much harder than you suggest, having gone through something similar at Microsoft five years ago. The heavy lifting won't be done by KIIAC, however, or by the folks helping standardize and validate its output, but rather in getting attorneys to accept that the value they really add isn't in the creation of tools but their skillful application to client problems.

Kingsley Martin said...

Hi Ken,

As we have indeed discussed before, your restatement of common think regarding garbage-in, garbage out assumes that a computer cannot filter. Watson, the IBM jeopardy machine, has clearly demonstrated that the analysis of completely raw data gathered from the Internet can yield correct answers. Moreover, in contract drafting there is some comfort in knowing market; and it is only through knowledge of market standards that practitioners can better serve their clients by exceeding such standards.



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