Promoting Data Competency in Law Firms

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 24, Number 2 (November/December 2019), pgs. 20-22.

By Josh Becker

Josh Becker is the head of legal analytics at LexisNexis and chairman of Lex  Machina. A long-time recognized though leader on leveraging technology to improve the practice of law, he is responsible for defining Lexis’ legal analytics strategy and vision. Becker previously served as Lex Machina’s CEO for seven years, leading strategy and operations. During his tenure, Lex Machina was acquired by LexisNexis. He was also part of the founding team of Dice.com (NYSE:DHX) and ran corporate development at Agile Software (sold to Oracle). He was a venture capitalist at Redpoint Ventures and then a founding general partner of New Cycle Capital.  Becker co-founded and remains chair of The Full Circle Fund, a coalition of technology and business leaders that collectively funds and supports leading social entrepreneurs. In 2015, he received The Jefferson Award for public service for his work with Full Circle Fund

When we consider just how central data and technology are to the legal profession, it becomes increasingly imperative to distinguish between data literacy and data
competency. Data literate legal professionals understand that data analysis can help them make smarter decisions, are comfortable interacting with data, and occasionally use data-based insights to create a strategic advantage in a legal or business context. Law librarians and knowledge managers, for example, need data literacy given the nature of the work they do, and there is an increasing expectation that lawyers be data literate as well.

Data Literacy Is No Longer Enough
While most of us understand that data literacy is valuable and necessary, as legal work becomes increasingly data-driven, data competency will be the standard by which all legal professionals—not just information professionals—are measured. Legal  professionals who are data competent have resolved to move beyond basic awareness and have placed data analytics at the center of their everyday activities. Data
competence implies a high level of comfort with newer technologies and real expertise in applying them to real-world problems.

Data competent professionals make frequent use of a variety of advanced tools for finding, analyzing, and manipulating data in order to be able to make the best possible tactical and strategic decisions in particular use cases. They can immediately match appropriate tools to specific legal or business problems, and they can use those tools confidently and efficiently because they use them regularly, every day.

Many librarians have already attained data competence and are actively investigating new capabilities and new tools as an integral part of their jobs. The legal profession
urgently needs their help, both in getting lawyers to grasp the importance of data competence and in providing hands-on training so lawyers can integrate data-based tools into their existing workflows.

Lawyers are trained to understand the intricacies of the law, but few have had any training in legal technology. When they are trying to size up opposing counsel, attempting to understand the litigation history of opposing parties, setting motion
strategy before a particular judge, or trying to anticipate how long it will take to litigate a particular case, they are accustomed to relying on their own experience, anecdotal information from colleagues, and, sometimes, nothing more than a hunch. That needs to change.

Law Librarians Can Lead the Charge in Data Competency
How can law librarians take the lead in promoting data competency among lawyers?

First, they can take responsibility for due diligence when it comes to adopting technology tools. Forward-thinking law librarians are already driving adoption of data analytics in
both the practice of law and business of law. To be effective in this role, they need to stay up to date on technology developments and marketplace trends. Data analytics in the legal industry is still in its infancy. Lawyers and legal executives need lots of help  distinguishing between a bewildering array of products. Law librarians are perfectly positioned to compare and evaluate these resources. They can use their research expertise to develop sample search queries that will illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of specific solutions. They can also help the profession develop more objective criteria for evaluating factors such as ease of use.

A recent presentation at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Annual Meeting described an example of the kind of leadership that law librarians can provide to a profession that is seriously in need of guidance. In the example discussed, a group of experienced information professionals from a variety of backgrounds and job roles collaborated on a project to provide law librarian colleagues with a deeper  understanding of litigation analytics. They investigated the ways in which products
are not comparable, established test parameters and developed sample questions, engaged in hands-on testing, published their results (with appropriate caveats), and provided honest feedback for vendors serious about improving their offerings. These are
activities that very few lawyers have the time or interest in pursuing.

In any effort to evaluate legal analytics tools, it will be crucial to address the challenges presented by one of the primary sources of data for legal analytics solutions: Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, which is a massive dataset of federal litigation data that is growing by around two million cases per year. However, PACER has serious data gaps, its classification of cases and filtering rely heavily on its Nature of Suit
(NOS) codes, and its raw data requires extensive normalization to provide reliable results to analytics solutions users.

Data-Based Tools are Not Interchangeable
To make intelligent buying decisions and perform effective research, it’s essential that consumers of analytics tools understand the tradeoffs that vendors make in addressing these issues, such as those presented by PACER, when they develop their solutions. What are their processes for tagging and coding, and to what extent are those measures tailored to idiosyncrasies of individual practice areas and specific kinds of cases? Can a solution distinguish between ANDA (Abbreviated New Drug Application) and non-ANDA cases in searches of patent litigation, or file sharing and non-file sharing cases in
copyright litigation? To what degree are individual vendors willing to invest in legal subject-matter experts, not only to help design their solutions but also to provide continual input that will “teach” machines to make better decisions and optimize algorithms? These are the kinds of questions that law librarians and other information
professionals in the industry need to be prepared to ask. And then, after they’ve received their answers, share what they’ve learned with colleagues at their organizations.

Provide Training and Engage with Vendors
Law librarians can also take more responsibility for educating employees in their own organizations. Collaborating and sharing findings with other legal information professionals is an excellent first step, but the next step involves communicating those findings to the audience that needs them the most: lawyers and firm leadership. This
may mean offering regular training sessions to which colleagues can bring their real-world legal and business challenges and learn the best way to address those challenges using tools that are already at their disposal. It may also mean organizing events for
busy lawyers. While many experienced lawyers are reluctant to take the time to attend tech-focused “boot camps” or an occasional “Tech Tuesday” presentation, holding events is a good way to grab their attention for a defined period of time and get them to listen
and engage. Law librarians can also develop training programs for summer interns, who are more likely to be open to data-driven approaches to the practice of law and who, after all, represent the future of the profession.

Law librarians can also consider engaging more regularly with vendors. Law librarians can help vendors develop more user-friendly interfaces, urge them to be more transparent about their data-handling practices, demand they provide honest assessments of the content and functionality tradeoffs they make in developing solutions, and advocate for product features that focus more narrowly and effectively on everyday use cases. They can also insist that leadership in their own organizations gives them a seat at the table alongside lawyers when vendors seek help testing their products. Legal culture is a persistent barrier to data competency. Law librarians must recognize that they have an important opportunity, as well as a responsibility, to help change that culture.

Risks and Opportunities Ahead
Data competent legal information professionals needn’t have advanced degrees in statistics or data science, nor must they have a detailed understanding of artificial intelligence, analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, and other data-parsing technologies. However, when specific questions arise during litigation, investigations, negotiations, client pitches, business development activities, or hiring talent, the use of advanced tools to answer such questions should be second nature.

As a group, lawyers still lack sufficient awareness of and hands-on experience with a bewildering assortment of technology tools that can help them answer such questions much more quickly and accurately. As tools get better and are more widely used, there is a serious risk that legal teams who are better-informed and more technologically savvy adversaries in a dispute will have the distinct advantage of having access to a broader base of factual information and deeper insights. While that presents a serious
problem for some firms and their clients, it also presents an opportunity for law librarians to provide value and, ultimately, to enable better representation for those clients.

EXTRA
Listen to the Legal Talk Network episode “AALL 2019: Legal Analytics—Products and
Best Practices,” recorded at the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting at bit.ly/ND19LegalAnalytics.

 

Law Librarians & The Future of Law Firms

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 24, Number 2 (November/December 2019), pgs. 23-25.

By Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong of Ottawa, Canada, is a legal market analyst, speaker, and consultant who forecasts the impact of legal industry trends on lawyers, legal organizations, and clients. He is the author of Law Is a Buyer’s Market: Building a Client-First Law Firm and writes regularly about the legal profession at law21.ca.

This past summer, I gave the keynote address to the Private Law Librarians & Information Professionals (PLLIP) Special Interest Section Summit X: The Path to 2030, in Washington, DC, during the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting. The
title of the presentation was “New Horizons: How Law Librarians and Legal Information Professionals Can Redefine Law Firms in the 21st Century.” The following is a brief summary of those remarks.

The Legal Landscape
The gradual but unstoppable transformation of the commercial legal marketplace—including new client buying patterns, rapid technological advances, and a host of new providers emboldened by regulatory liberalization—is creating a state of “climate  change” in the market. This poses an immense challenge to law firms, which developed
and flourished in last century’s more sedate competitive climate and whose business model will now have to adapt in response to this change.

Among the most important consequences of this legal climate change is a growing bifurcation of legal work into two broad categories:

  • “commodity” work (routine, repeatable, straightforward, traditionally
    given to associates), and
  • “complex” work (intricate, challenging, high-stakes, traditionally kept by
    partners).

These two types of work have always existed in law firms, of course. But one of the profitability secrets of law firms is that they perform commodity work the same way they perform complex work: sequentially, laboriously, by-the-lawyer-hour. This is the key feature of the law firm leverage model: bill associates’ on-the-job learning efforts on basic tasks and reap the resulting profits.

Now, however, this law firm profitability secret is becoming a handicap. Commodity work is migrating from law firms and moving to more efficient and cost-appropriate platforms, including managed legal services companies and low-cost/offshore centers. These providers are winning this work because they have designed systems and trained
people to carry out these tasks faster, cheaper, and more efficiently than law firms can.

Law firms could keep this work if they were to adjust their workflow, pricing, and profitability approaches; that is, if they would perform commodity work efficiently and systematically, as it should be done. But law firms just aren’t set up to do that, structurally or culturally, and few are even trying. Continue reading

ARK Group Conference to Highlight Role of the Modern Law Firm Librarian: Knowledge Management, Big data and Analytics, and Client-facing Solutions

The modern law firm librarian and legal information professional’s role continues to evolve along with the changing legal industry, and knowledge management, analytics, and client-facing solutions now occupy more and more of legal information professionals’ time.

The ARK Group’s 13th annual Law Firm Library, Research & Information Services conference brings together a group of legal information professionals to illuminate their changing roles, and to share their strategies and best practices for dealing with current challenges and opportunities.  Several members of the American Association of Law Libraries’ Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals’ section (PLLIP) will be among the speakers at the event, which will be held Thursday, February 21, at the SUNY Global Center in New York.

Below is a snapshot of the presentations. View the full agenda on the ARK Group site.

Opening Remarks – Conference Co-Chairs
Kris Martin, Senior Director, HBR Consulting, and Holly M. Riccio, Senior Manager, HBR Consulting 

Putting Intelligence in BP Decision Makers’ Hands 
Angela McKane, Lead, Technology Intelligence, BP 

Keeping Up With the Quants: Leveraging Data in Managing Departments
Kathryne L. Valentine, Director of Knowledge & Practice Innovation, Dentons US LLP

Partnering with Clients to Drive Practical Innovation
Toby Brown, Chief Practice Management Officer, Perkins Coie LLP, and Gwyneth McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services, Perkins Coie LLP

There Are Always Two Sides to Every (KM) Story
Kathy Skinner, Director of Research & Information Services, White & Case LLP; Gina Lynch, Director of Knowledge Services, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; and Holly Riccio, Senior Manager, HBR Consulting 

Buyer Beware: Evaluating Analytics Products – How to Select an Analytics Product
Jean O’Grady, JD, MLS, Sr. Dir of Information, Research & Knowledge Management, DLA Piper LLP (US); Diana J. Koppang, Director of Research & Competitive Intelligence, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP; and June H. Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library and Research Services, Sidley Austin LLP

Time for a Little Library R&R (Recovery & Revenue) 
Greg Lambert, Chief Knowledge Services Officer, Jackson Walker LLP, and Lee Bernstein, Library Manager, Haynes & Boone, LLP 

Who moved my cheese? How firm libraries create new top-line (and bottom-line) value
Ron Friedmann, Chief Knowledge & Information Officer, LAC

Kill the Library, Elevate the Service…
Huu Nguyen, Partner, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP; Scott D. Bailey, Global Director of Research Services, Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP;  Nancy Rine, Director of Research Services and Conflicts, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver &  Jacobson LLP; and Thao Tran, KM Manager, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver &  Jacobson LLP

 

Law Firms & Technology – 6 Vital Questions to Ask Your Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics Vendors

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By June Hsiao Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library and Research Services at Sidley Austin LLP

New artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics products are flooding the legal information space, and they claim to do everything from predicting the outcome of a case to writing briefs.  What do you really know about these products and how they work?  How do you separate the valuable products from the junk?  As the global director of library and research services at a large law firm and a former law school CIO, my team and I are constantly finding and evaluating legal information tools that can improve the work that our firm does.

Many of the newest information tools employ a mysterious algorithm that magically spits out results.  Users are expected to trust that the vendor is providing results that are reliable, accurate and unbiased.  Blindly trusting a third party, however, is a risky move for any law firm.

The vendors may not be willing to release details about the algorithms they are using, but you can evaluate the data that goes into the algorithms to begin with.  I am also a former database programmer, so the concept of “garbage in, garbage out” is ingrained in me.  We need to understand what is going into these magical algorithms in order to evaluate what is coming out.  Continue reading

KM, AI & Client Engagement: The Changing Role of Law Firm Librarians, Part 2

Reposted with permission from Gregg Wirth of the Legal Executive Institute’s LEI Blog

By Gregg Wirth, a financial journalist and the Content Manager of the Legal Executive Institute’s LEI Blog.
law firm librariansThe role of the law firm librarian has undergone dramatic change as technology, artificial intelligence and other innovations have allowed some information service professionals to reinvent the job. This has brought these professionals into areas of knowledge management, strategy, business development, client engagement and legal process improvement that are changing the way they approach their role within the firm.Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler, is one such innovative soul. (Eight years ago, Lowry shifted her career to report to the CIO and broadened the context of her services around technology, information, and driving greater value in services delivered by her team.) Lowry recently discussed with Legal Executive Institute how her role at the firm has evolved; and in Part 2 of our interview, she discusses her involvement in the firm’s business development and client engagement strategies, and the firm’s newest initiative, IncuBaker.

Legal Executive Institute: Previously, you spoke about how your role at the firm has evolved into one that, in turn, has allowed you to transform other aspects of the firm. Has this evolution changed how the firm interacts with its clients or how it identifies new business development opportunities for your practice groups?

Katherine Lowry: It’s changed in a couple of significant ways. Originally, it was Bob [BakerHostetler’s longtime CIO Bob Craig] and myself identifying, and bringing awareness to our Partners on the impact of technology to the legal practice. This included monitoring new legal start-ups and developing a framework to analyze our research in a tool created by my team called the Legal Nexus of Forces.


 This engagement process with our attorneys and clients helped us see that there was value in our research and ideation around improving our services using technology.


The evolution of where we’re at now is transforming this process. About a year or two ago, I was asked to go out to a client pitch. Since then, I’ve been to several of them. And it’s become more of a corollary to what I’m trying to do here at the firm — to bring what I am doing internally out to clients. For example, today, we have years’ worth of research and product studies that allow us to engage with clients frequently in collaborative ways through team calls or providing CLEs to communicate the advancement of technologies and how they change the landscape of our firm and the entire legal industry.

During the collaboration discussions at the table and the client pitches, it has been really helpful to have someone like me there to ask, “What kind of technology do you use? How do you use data?” It is a great compliment and pairing to our attorneys who are focused on delivering the best legal services to our clients, and I’ve had a lot of success at our client pitches in that regard.

After one pitch, we ended up receiving an invitation to return to complete a CLE program for a client. It was just the relationship partner, myself and Bob, and the client gave us one hour — we ended up staying for two because they had so many questions. It really hit home that clients found value in our research and identification of technology-driven solutions.

K-Lowry

Katherine Lowry, Director of Practice Services at BakerHostetler

Legal Executive Institute: So, was it this process that then led the firm to create IncuBaker?

Katherine Lowry: In a way it was. This engagement process with our attorneys and clients helped us see that there was value in our research and ideation around improving our services using technology. We worked with our Policy group to form IncuBaker, a more formalized Innovation team. One that is founded on research, awareness, collaboration across our attorneys and clients to deliver new opportunities. The future of IncuBaker in 2018 will continue to focus on machine learning, DLT/Blockchain Technology, and analytics. We want to explore with the clients how they’re using these technologies in their business and how it can improve our relationship.

That’s why we got into IncuBaker. We’re really trying to transform the dialog around certain technologies, not just internally, which is of course very important, but with our clients as well. We know that things like machine learning or distributed ledger technology are going to be some very disruptive technologies, especially for the legal industry. Previously, there was really not a path in place to decide how the firm would examine and use these technologies and help clients navigate these areas.

To really make a difference, we need to understand how these technologies can impact the firm, then collaborate with our clients and figure out what that ultimate impact is there too. I feel that’s what IncuBaker can offer — it can make sure that we have good communication back and forth for the businesses and the other administrative departments to understand how the firm can utilize these and other technologies.

We need to ask these questions now. What do these technologies mean? Does this mean we can offer a new line of service? Are we structurally set up to be able to have and apply machine learning?

Legal Executive Institute: Does that take a lot of internal coordination?

Katherine Lowry: I would say, overall, it’s a top-down approach, and we’re making sure to work appropriately with the group chairs, asking them to provide attorney liaisons to participate in studies and conduct proof of concepts to determine what technology will provide the greatest amount of value. As far as administration departments, it’s really about collaborating with them and casting a vision of what’s possible together.

That’s where the engagement with the client, I think, is going to get even more valuable as we progress. The undertone is technology, but it’s really about understanding. “What are their business issues? What are they trying to solve?” From there, we feel at Baker, we’ll have great intelligence to figure out what we should focus on to support them and to provide even better service to them.

And I think we’re having a lot of success so far with that.