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Staying Relevant - Part 5: The Real Scary Technology

image [cc] tsukubajin
In Part 4 of this series we discussed why firms avoid next generation technology and why that needs to change.
Replacing Humans
To look deeper in to what the future might hold, we will now explore two next-generation knowledge management (KM) technologies. I refer to these as analysis KM tools, as they extend beyond technology that organizes things, and become technology that performs true analysis functions.
LexisNexis has developed an analysis KM product that analyzes knowledge from multiple systems and makes decisions about the content. The Matter Experiences Module of the Lexis Search Advantage product can analyze time entries, documents and other records to determine 1) what type of work a matter is, and 2) what type of tasks a time entry includes. In our profit margin world where we need to understand the costs of providing various services, such a technology will have tremendous value.
Although it sounds straight-forward, most lawyers do not know what type of work a random matter includes. The reason is they never cared about that data point. Instead of labeling a new matter as Patent Litigation, it was called “Company XYZ vs. ABC Corp.” So firms are unable to search and retrieve by matter type. If you don’t know what a service is, you will not know where to begin to understand its cost.
But even when you know the type of matter, you will only be able to see the overall fee. This knowledge has some value. But being able to break the work down into relevant phases and tasks, lawyers will understand their costs at a much more actionable level. Firms can now know how much time is spent on a given task-type for a specified type of work. An additional benefit of having technology perform this coding work is that the results will be consistent and therefore of higher quality and value.
Another, perhaps more interesting and immediately useful analysis KM technology comes in the form of document analysis. KIIAC (pronounced kayak) has a system that analyzes volumes of documents. To illustrate its ability, here is a step-by-step description of it in action:
  1. A user submits 300 different examples of an Agreement into the system. KIIAC analyzes and then returns its best guess at the structure of an Agreement based on the content of the 300 examples. This structure includes a listing of all clauses and their relationships.
  2. Then a lawyer reviews the suggested clause structure and makes adjustments to it.
  3. A second analysis is performed using the finalized document structure. KIIAC then returns an analysis of how variable the language of the 300 examples is. This includes an identification of the most standard language for each clause.
  4. KIIAC can then generate a new document draft using the most standard, non-negotiated language.
The result is actually an identification of the standard way Agreements are written. This is a task humans could not perform.
But wait … there’s more:
5. KIIAC can then compare yet another Agreement against the identified standard, see where the new document is different and if it includes all the relevant clauses.
KIIAC is displacing humans in this process. In traditional practice, lawyers pull a few recent examples of a document type, review them all in an attempt to cull out deal-specific language and then produce a ‘clean’ draft to start the next deal. KIIAC is able to perform the same tasks, but do it using hundreds or thousands of examples. And it does it in a matter of seconds instead of hours. I might add KIIAC does a better job. If the recent examples chosen by the lawyer do not include a specific clause, it may well not end up in the clean draft. KIIAC, in its more comprehensive approach, is far less likely to miss anything. And unlike a lawyer, it can analyze a new draft, say from the opposing party, and in seconds know if it anything is missing from it.
I refer to these new technologies as analysis tools primarily because they perform the tasks of humans. This is a qualitative leap in the type of technology used by lawyers. More importantly, it is technology with a direct impact on profitability. In comparison, an upgraded version of Word has very little, if any impact on the bottom line.
Lawyers need to seek out these types of next generation technologies and find ways to implement them profitably within their practices.
Part 6 in the series looks at segments of the legal market beyond private practice and the forces of change acting on them.

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1 comments:

DiligenceEngine said...

I get the scary aspect of machines that can do lawyer work better than lawyers. One important point to remember though is that much of the work that computers will take on in coming years is not fun, thought-intensive work. It is work that lawyers would complain about if they had to do it. Take predictive coding supplanting human document reviewers. Being out of a job is an unhappy occurrence, but this is far from a dream job. I was a corporate associate for several years at a large NYC law firm. Some of my work there while I was a junior lawyer was challenging and interesting. But a decent portion of my early tasks seemed like they could have been better done by sophisticated technology (or, in some cases, someone making $10/hr). Lawyer-replacing tech may cause some lawyers pain (especially those that do not embrace the new tech). But it will make many law jobs more interesting and challenging. Which is a happy thing.

 

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