Talking Tech: Task Automation in the Library

Reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 24, Number 6 (July/August 2020), pgs. 47-49

By Cynthia Brown, Sr. Director of Research Services at Littler Mendels; Michelle Hook Dewey, Legal Research Services Manager at BakerHostetler; and Jennifer Mendez, Director of Knowledge Management Innovation at Fisher & Phillips LLP

The term “robot lawyer” has been tossed around for years, but what about “robot librarians” or “robot knowledge managers”? In Singapore, several libraries already have a full-fledged robot named AuRoSS (Autonomous Robotic Shelf Scanning system) wandering the aisles doing shelf reading and collection maintenance. For most folks though, the idea of an actual robot, or “bot,” is a bit too futuristic. Nevertheless, across industries, the concept and implementation of automation continues to grow. This is where robotic process automation, or RPA, comes into play. Though physical robot librarians are probably not on the horizon yet, the potential uses for RPA and other task automation bots in the law library and legal knowledge management are endless.

Sophisticated consumers of legal services are already using task automations such as
RPA in a variety of spaces. Payroll, time and attendance management, compliance
reporting, and benefits administration are just a few of the ways many companies are
using RPA to streamline human resources (HR) functions. For example, HR systems
use RPA to simplify forms by copying the address fields from one form to dozens of
others. Clients are also looking to simplify supply chain management by using RPA
processes for tasks such as inventory management, demand and supply management, and invoice and contract management. In the finance and accounting space, RPA bots have regularly been implemented to facilitate payments, records, sales, and collections. Other forms of task automation, such as chatbots, are used to facilitate simple information gathering undertakings.

Research support is perhaps the most natural next task automation candidate. Libraries and knowledge centers are rife with opportunities to explore the benefits of task automation. Beyond just research tasks, your library may find a variety of ways to employ bots for some of its day-to-day administrative actions, thus allowing your staff
to engage in the highest-caliber, most valued work. As you begin to think about identifying and developing RPA and task automation opportunities in your library, you may find the guidance below to be helpful. Continue reading

Fastcase 50 Honorees Include Marlene Gebauer, Global Director of Strategic Legal Insights, Greenberg Traurig LLP

Marlene Gebauer, Global Director of Strategic Legal Insights at Greenberg Traurig LLP, has been named one of the Fastcase 50 honorees for 2019. Fastcase 50 recognizes lawyers, judges, legal technologists, librarians and others for their contributions to the legal field. Marlene is a PLLIP member and a co-host with Greg Lambert on the The Geek in Review podcast, which covers “the Legal Information profession with a slant toward technology and management, along with interviews of key players in legal information and technology.”

From the Fastcase 50:

Marlene is a visionary in the application of legal technology, and was one of the first to bring data analytics into the day-do-day functions of law firms. She applied analytics across the entire firm, not just in one practice group or the other. Through her work at Greenberg Traurig she has boldly reinvented the way her firm approaches practice by creating the firm’s Innovation Lab, which implements processes through gamification techniques. Marlene routinely shares her knowledge on the popular podcast “The Geek in Review”, which she hosts with fellow librarian and Fastcase 50 honoree Greg Lambert.

Combining Innovation & Technology for Real Change

As director of practice services at Baker & Hostetler LLP, Katherine Lowry reports to the CIO and provides strategic leadership and governance of the firm’s information technology deliverables and services to five core practice areas. While her role oversees knowledge management, training, and integration of business applications, business process improvement solutions, and the delivery of information and research services, it also includes management of the newest legal innovation group, IncuBaker, focused on the integration of three major advancements: blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and advanced analytics. Katherine obtained her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Stetson University and her law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law.

The below article “Combining Innovation & Technology for Real Change” by Katherine Lowry was reposted with permission from AALL Spectrum, Volume 23, Number 3 (January/February 2019), pgs. 30-32.

Setting the Foundation 
Technology is often referred to as an innovation, but most agree that just buying technology, such as new AI-enabled software, may only serve as a Band-Aid to a problem or make matters worse. Real innovation happens when the underlying processes are examined and transformative new ways of solving a problem or creating a new service are identified. Either way, selecting technology as a solution comes later in the process.

Innovation appears to be all the rage these days, but many already believe it is an overused term. Arguably, many are getting lost in the semantics. The real question is whether the legal industry is a legacy industry so addicted to the benefits of its legacy
that it inhibits its ability to innovate and adapt. In examining the role of innovation, there is no better place to start than to reflect on the teachings of economist Joseph Schumpeter. He promoted the term “creative destruction” to describe a theory of economic innovation in which technology and innovation replace older means of production/services—one where innovation can replace or completely displace
existing companies or entire markets. Thus, either innovate on a daily basis or run the risk of becoming obsolete. In his book Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Schumpeter declares:

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from craft shop and factory to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation … that incessantly revolutionizes the economic
structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.

Schumpeter placed a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurs and their ability to create a new good or service, a new production technique, or open a completely new market. Entrepreneurs are a main catalyst for change that causes the most disruption by modifying our current process for delivering goods and services or by creating entirely new services. Change is constant under the creative destruction model and culture is a main component to change. Both are viewed as being critical to economic growth. Continue reading

AALL Annual Meeting Session Recap: Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library

By Kristen M. Hallows, Bricker & Eckler LLP

Fastcase CEO Ed Walters has had enough with the magic and the unicorns and the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, or AI.  He urged attendees at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) session, “Powered by AI, Built in the Law Library,” to think of AI like pivot tables in Excel:  they’re just tools.  They’re not magic, but they can be to those who don’t understand them.

He began by sharing a few hilarious examples of the limitations of AI.  Is it a Shar-Pei, or is it soft serve?  AI doesn’t know!  It can’t differentiate between the two.  And, whatever you do, don’t expect appealing names for paint colors from AI.  Stoner Blue might seem appropriate for your teenager’s room, but can you imagine taking home a color sample by the name of Bank Butt?  How about a light brown named Turdly?

So, AI is good at some things and not good at others.  When it works, we stop calling it AI.  You may not identify it as such, but AI is “baked into” some very common tools law firms and libraries probably use every day, such as spellcheck and Google Translate.

Ed refers to the first wave of AI, where we are currently, as “read only” AI.  What’s coming is the second wave, which he calls “read/write” AI.  It’s a much cooler phase in which we get to go from consumer AI to maker AI.  Maker AI presents a new suite of tools that information professionals can use to provide more customized and actionable information to attorneys and firm administrators.  Whereas traditional legal research services offer the same data to all users, maker AI lets information professionals create their own datasets and extract results unique to them.  These results can provide insights to help structure alternative fee arrangements or to help inform litigation strategy or settlement decisions.

Take the Fastcase AI Sandbox.  The AI Sandbox was designed to empower people.  It’s a set of secure servers with datasets and metadata from Fastcase, coupled with an extensive suite of AI tools.  Law firms or law schools can combine the Fastcase data with in-house data.  Once you have your desired dataset, you can query it and get results out.  For example, you can load a set of judicial opinions and get personality insights out–a judge’s preferences or tendencies.  Using Docket Alarm’s new tool, you can create your own analytics on a subset of documents, such as mandamus petitions in Texas.  Upload your own data and crunch it!  And you can build your own apps with Neota Logic, rules-driven software with built-in decision tree logic.

Legal information professionals can drive this new read/write AI.  Law librarians can build things with AI now, not just create reports, and some librarians are already doing it.  Continue reading

Law Librarians: Keeping The Industry Honest

Reposted with permission from Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites

By Robert Ambrogi

I’ve just returned from a much-too-brief visit to the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries in Baltimore. Although the conference started Saturday, family obligations kept me away until Monday. Then yesterday, flight cancellations along the east coast had me scrambling for a route home, forcing me to leave much earlier than I’d planned to catch the Amtrak to Boston.

Pretty much all I managed to do, therefore, was explore the exhibit hall and speak with vendors there.  From my vantage point, that’s a good thing. As I wrote after last year’s conference, AALL’s annual convention has evolved into one of the leading conferences for legal technology.

The reason for this is partly due to the evolving role of the law librarian. Back in 2014, I wrote about the changing role of law librarians, concluding, “To my mind, there has never been a more exciting or important time to be a legal information professional.” Four years later, that is even more true. As I said in last year’s post, law librarians wear an increasing number of hats these days, and a major one is legal technologist.

Hand in hand with the changing role of law librarians is the fact that information science itself is being radically transformed by technology. The buzzwords permeating this conference were the same you’ll hear at any legal technology conference — artificial intelligence, analytics, blockchain. But this is buzz with real substance behind it. Advances in technology are driving advances in legal research and even redefining the meaning and scope of what we’ve traditionally considered legal research to be.

In this regard, it says something about the state of innovation in law that prominent among those showing off leading-edge technologies at AALL were two of the industry’s most-established companies — Thomson Reuters with its AI-powered Westlaw Edge and LexisNexis with its new Lexis Analytics suite.

I was able to catch up with both companies at AALL and also see more of two new LexisNexis products, Context, which rolls out in September and will help lawyers understand what language judges find most persuasive, and Lexis Search Advantage | Transactional Powered by Intelligize, which is now available and allows firms to mine rich information out of internal document collections. (See this post for more.)

I also got the chance to see a demo of another new product I recently wrote about, the Analytics Workbench from Fastcase and its recently acquired docket-tracking company Docket Alarm. The idea of the Workbench is to allow legal professionals to build their own bespoke litigation analytics across any court, practice area or litigation event.

Visually, the analytics you create in Workbench look like Docket Alarm’s existing analytics product, PTAB Predictive Analytics. The difference is that these same analytics can be applied to virtually any court or type of docket activity. (Docket Alarm includes all federal dockets but is limited in its coverage of state dockets.) Michael Sander, Docket Alarm’s founder and CEO, said the goal is to make it easy for attorneys to create custom analytics, without requiring sophisticated tech expertise.

Wandering the exhibit hall, I was able to get updates from several companies I’m familiar with and make introductions with several I had not seen before. There will be more to come on this blog about some of those companies.

But something I heard over and over again from the vendors at AALL mirrors what I said above about the changing role of law librarians. Law librarians get it, the vendors said. They understand the importance of technology in advancing the legal profession, and they are more likely than other legal professionals to understand the mechanics of technology, to be able to get under the hood and size up whether a product is what it claims to be.

We see this at law firms, where law librarians are often the gatekeepers for new technology, helping to vet and evaluate products before their firms plunk down precious dollars. We see this at law schools, where law librarians are often at the forefront of pushing for teaching and program initiatives in technology innovation and competence. We see this in court systems and government agencies, where law librarians are often helping to lead the charge for expanding access to justice. Continue reading