This is part 3 in a 3 part series.  Part 1 questions Goldman’s Sachs data showing that 44% of of legal tasks could be replaced by Generative AI.  In Part 2, we find some better data and estimate an upper limit of 23.5% of revenue that could be reduced by Generative AI. All of our assertions and assumptions will be discussed in further detail in a free LVN Webinar on August 15th.

The Big Idea:  We apply reductions in hours due to Generative AI to a few matters to determine Generative AI’s potential effect on profitability.
Key Points:
  • We establish a baseline sample matter and compare changes to that sample matter when Generative AI is applied
  • We explore how leverage is affected by Generative AI and how those changes may affect profitability in unexpected ways

Determining Generative AI’s effect on law firm profitability requires a bit more than a “back of the napkin” calculation with rough percentages based on keywords in time entries, as we did when roughly calculating the effect on revenue.

As Toby pointed out at the end of the last post, Generative AI is unlikely to hit all timekeepers equally.

We begin with this assertion.

Generative AI will disproportionately impact non-partner hours.

We are comfortable making this assertion for two reasons:

  1. Generative AI, in its current state, is most likely to replace or shorten the time to complete lower complexity and lesser specialized tasks that should be performed at the associate or paralegal level.
  2. Any time legal work hours are reduced, Partners tend to protect their own hours.

With that in mind, Toby began a profitability analysis, beginning with a baseline sample matter that does not factor in any use of Generative AI. We will use this baseline to compare against our AI adjusted matters.


Baseline M&A Sample Matter Data

Our baseline sample matter is loosely modeled on an M&A transaction and includes 5 timekeepers:

  • an Equity Partner
  • a 17th year service partner
  • 10th, 7th and 3rd year associates
TK Hours Rate Realization Revenue Expense Profit
EP 80 $1,000 88% $70,400 $15,200 $55,200
SP17 100 $895 88% $78,760 $48,500 $30,260
10yr 125 $735 88% $80,850 $48,750 $32,100
7yr 90 $660 88% $52,272 $32,400 $19,872
3yr 55 $595 88% $28,798 $18,150 $10,648

Estimated Annual Profit Per Equity Partner (PPEP) – $1,851 X 1400 hrs = $2,591,400

Leverage – 60% Non-Partner Hours


There are, of course, a number of assumptions in this baseline data that could greatly change from firm to firm, including the billable rates, the realization rate, and the expense for each timekeeper. However, we will keep this baseline data consistent across all of our examples in order to make a fair comparison. With different rates, realization, and expenses you will get different results. We strongly encourage every firm to perform a similar calculation for themselves.

Baseline Matter Analysis

The total hours billed are 450. The total revenue is $311k and the total profit in dollars is $163k.

Our model then translates the profit on this one matter into an estimated PPEP number for the firm. This is so we can determine profit margin impact separate from profit dollars.

In this baseline model, the PPEP number is ~$2.6m; meaning that if all work at this firm were staffed and billed like this one matter, the firm average PPEP would be about $2.6m.

Leverage

There’s an old adage in economic circles: “Workers Work. Owners Benefit.”
Continue Reading AI-Pocalypse: The Shocking Impact on Law Firm Profitability

by 3 Geeks (Ryan McClead, Greg Lambert, and Toby Brown)

This is part 2 in a 3 part series. The first part is here. Part 3 is here.

The Big Idea: We found a much better dataset, though still small, from which to extrapolate actual effects of Generative AI on the legal industry.

Key takeaways:

  • We got anonymized and summarized data for 10 corporate legal departments from LexisNexis CounselLink
  • The data showed that almost 40% of time entries, representing 47% of billings, could potentially use Generative AI.
  • We estimate that a realistic initial upper limit for Generative AI would be to reduce that work by half, or 20% of time entries and 23.5% of revenue

In the previous post, Ryan got tired of hearing the Goldman Sachs “44% of Legal is going away” stat being quoted uncritically and decided to actually look into the underlying data used in their report. Ryan’s exploration of the data is an interesting story in and of itself, but the bottom line is that the data is fuzzy at best, the sample size is laughable, and the breathlessly unquestioning reporting on Goldman’s study has been remarkably sloppy.

After writing up his findings, Ryan shared that post with Greg and Toby, and the question quickly arose, “can we find some actual, useful data to better understand the effect that Generative AI might actually have on law firms?” Gregreached out to Kris Satkunas from LexisNexis CounselLink, a recent interviewee on the Geek in Review, to see if CounselLink could share some anonymized benchmark data for us to analyze.

LexisNexis CounselLink Data

As a reminder the Goldman data was using survey questions about how important certain “work tasks” were for their jobs. Those tasks included things like “Getting Information”, “Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events”, and “Scheduling Work and Activities”. These are quite vague and wide open to interpretation.

In an attempt to find more useful data for our purposes, we asked Kris for the percentages of all time entries that included the keywords “Draft” or “Review” in the description. Our assumption is that those two terms will capture a large percentage of actual time entries in which lawyers are likely to use Generative AI. We fully recognize that this simple heuristic will not produce a clean data set from which to extrapolate definitive results, but as a first pass at some real data, we believe this gives us a nice estimate of tasks that could potentially be ripe for automation with Generative AI.
Continue Reading Generative AI Could Reduce Law Firm Revenue by 23.5%

This is the first in a 3-part blog post, it first appeared on The Sente Playbook.  The other 2 posts are co-authored by Toby Brown and Greg Lambert and will follow later this week. Apologies for the length of this post, but I was channeling my inner Casey Flaherty.
The Big Idea:  The data that Goldman used is insufficient to make the claims about Generative AI’s effect on legal that their report did.
Key Take-Aways:
  • Reporting about this report is sloppy
  • Reporting within this report is sloppy
  • The underlying data doesn’t tell us much meaningful
  • 3 Geeks attempts to find meaningful data
On March 26th, 2023 Goldman Sachs sent shockwaves through the legal industry by publishing a report claiming that 44% of “something” in the Legal Industry was going to be replaced by Generative AI.  I didn’t question that stat at the time, because it sounded about right to me.  I suspect that was true for most people who know the legal industry.  As I’ve heard this stat repeated by multiple AI purveyors actively scaring lawyers into buying their products or services, I eventually started to question its validity.
I started by looking into the press coverage of that 44% number and was immediately confused.  (All emphasis below added by me.)

Law.com  – March 29, 2023
Generative AI Could Automate Almost Half of All Legal Tasks, Goldman Sachs Estimates
“Goldman Sachs estimated that generative AI could automate 44% of legal tasks in the U.S. “

Observer – March 30, 2023
Two-Thirds of Jobs Are at Risk: Goldman Sachs A.I. Study
“The investment bank’s economists estimate that 46% of administrative positions, 44% of legal positions, and 37% of engineering jobs could be replaced by artificial intelligence.

NY Times – April 10, 2023
A.I. Is Coming for Lawyers, Again
“Another research report, by economists at Goldman Sachs, estimated that 44 percent of legal work could be automated.”

Okay, so which is it?  Generative AI is going to replace 44% of legal tasks, positions, or work?
Because those are 3 very different things; each of which would have extremely different impacts on the industry if they came to pass.  Lest you think I cherry-picked three outlying articles, go ahead and Google “AI Replace 44% Legal Goldman Sachs” and see what you get.  Those 3 articles are in my top 5 results.
My top result as of this writing is a news article from IBL News, writing last Tuesday that Goldman says,  “AI could automate 46% of tasks in administrative jobs, 44% of legal jobs, and 37% of architecture and engineering professions.”
We should probably just go back to what the Goldman Sachs report actually said and then we can chalk this up to lazy tech journalism.  Well, not so fast.  Because while the Goldman researchers clearly say “current work tasks” (see below) even that begins to fall apart once you dig into the underlying data.

What Goldman Sachs actually said in the report

Continue Reading 44% of Investment Bankers Think They Can Make Lots of Money Off of Attorney Insecurity (AI)

Tim Parilla isn’t just the Chief Legal Officer at LinkSquares… he’s also a customer. That unique position of being the leader of the legal department of a company whose mission is to improve the workflow and efficiency of corporate legal departments, creates an exciting environment for Tim and his team.
Juliette Kopecky is the Chief Marketing Officer at LinkSquares and is leading the company’s DEI Initiatives and works closely with the in-house legal team to handle everything from internal issues to reviewing all the marketing and business development contracts. Juliette points to the fact that both she and Tim sit on the company’s executive team and have aligned their individual departments to the company’s overall mission, helps both of them understand and prioritize their overall processes.
Tim also gives us some insights on how he works with his outside counsel in large law firms. He lists some very simple, but effective ways that he interacts with law firms:
  • Have clear communications
  • Set scope and expectations
  • Be professional and competent
Most of all, Tim and Juliette point to the fact that regardless of if you are dealing with outside counsel, in-house legal teams, or even with the software development teams… the goal is to solve “business problems.” Not legal problems. Not organizational problems. Not technology problems. Solve business problems. If that is the way in which you address your issues, then that helps put you on the right path for creating an effective solution.

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Crytal Ball Answer
Stuart Dodds is Principle at Positive Pricing and is an executive board member at the Legal Value Network. When it comes to the future of legal pricing, he sees a focus on setting expectations for delivering superior client service, understanding the need to find the right people with the correct skillsets, and establishing the correct change management processes to help lawyers and others adjust to the upcoming shifts in the legal market.
Contact Us:
Twitter: @gebauerm or @glambert
Voicemail: 713-487-7821
Email: geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com
Transcript

Continue Reading LinkSquares’ Tim Parilla and Juliette Kopecky: These Aren’t Legal Problems or Tech Problems… These Are Business Problems (TGIR Ep. 180)

When it comes to what clients spend on legal services, there are savvy purchasers who look to manage their legal spin based on value and data-driven analytics. And there are those who simply just pay the invoice. Alex Kelly, co-founder, and COO of Brightflag talks with us about how they use AI and data analytics to help savvy corporate counsel and in-house legal teams make better decisions on how they purchase legal services. Brightflag recently announced a $28 million funding round from OnePeak, and Alex, along with co-founder Ian Nolan is looking to expand the team at Brightflag and help their customers with monitoring and controlling their legal spend and identify ways to focus on the value they get from their outside legal counsel, rather than just the hours of work.

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Information Inspirations

Coca-Cola is apparently tired of its outside law firms not improving their diversity numbers. Since the firms won’t do it on their own, Coke is laying down the law to force them to diversify their attorney ranks or lose out on Coke’s business altogether.

While many law firms are announcing record profits, that isn’t stopping some from using the pandemic as a reason to restructure their workforce and begin reducing salaries and cutting jobs. The restructuring wave looks like it will continue through 2021.

While we see some value in the new social media platform, Clubhouse, Brian Inkster from The Time Blawg gives 12 reasons why it really isn’t for lawyers.

Goodwin Proctor LLP is just the latest law firm to find itself exposed to a data hack. This time it was through a vendor, and we may not have heard the last of which other firms might be affected.

Listen, Subscribe, Comment

Please take the time to rate and review us on Apple Podcast. Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.

Links:
Transcript:

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 104 – Brightflag’s Alex Kelly on Using Data and Analytics to Make Better Legal Spend Decisions

I recently attended a conference that included both law firms and clients. One of the clients had a slide showing his company’s savings by bringing work in-house. It was the classic approach of comparing billing rates for law firm lawyers to hourly compensation rates of equivalent level in-house lawyers. Even though this lawyer was not

Image [cc] Xtreme Xhibits

Whenever I try to explain to my friends and family what my job is as a pricing guy, they usually give me a blank stare. My kids have even comment they think I might actually work for the CIA since I can’t seem to explain it well. The reason is is

In Part One of this series, we talked about how pricing is pulling towards the compensation challenge for law firms, based on how pricing is interwoven with profitability. In this next section we put forth a “Straw Man” for how compensation might change to better motivate profitable behavior by law firm partners.
Part Two
A