Posted by: johnocunningham | September 30, 2016

What’s New in Law Firm Innovation

A recent survey by legal consulting firm Altman Weil revealed that 52 percent of firms with more than 50 lawyers are creating special projects or experiments to test innovative ideas or methods. Interestingly, the survey also revealed that the largest firms – those with 1,000 or more lawyers – are doing the most innovation, with 100 percent of those firms pursuing special projects or experiments in innovation. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of firms with less than 100 lawyers are doing so, despite the fact that smaller firms have less bureaucracy and hierarchy to impede innovation.

This survey inspired me to do a post on specific innovations that law firms have rolled out in very recent years, and here is my list:

  1. Littler Mendelson developed the CaseSmart system to provide clients with a management dashboard that tracks the status of every employment action in something close to real-time, while enabling managers to identify particular regions or managers affected by repeated workplace complaints and associated costs. It also facilitates the generation of reports that compare attorney performance on specific matters by hours, results and other metrics, facilitating the constant improvement of performance by the client and the law firm alike.
  2. Reed Smith developed the Periscope discovery system to analyze current and historical data related to e-discovery, discovery costs and the efficiency of various discovery reviewers. The end result is a dashboard of useful information that helps the firm manage discovery better, lowering costs and providing predictability of future costs and timelines for discovery based on past cases. The management tool reportedly can also access the demonstrated efficiency and accuracy of individual reviewers so that they can be put to work on critical cases. Interestingly, the tool has determined that efficiency is not at all related to a reviewer’s school “pedigrees” or even how long they have been in practice.
  3. Baker Hostetler announced that it is implementing a variant of IBM’s artificial intelligence, known as ROSS (a technological cousin of Watson) to assist the law firm’s bankruptcy practice. ROSS can understand questions, and respond with a hypothesis backed by references and citations. It improves on legal research by providing users with only the most highly relevant answers rather than thousands of results you would need to sift through. Additionally, it is constantly monitoring current litigation so that it can notify you about recent court decisions that may affect your case, and it will continue to learn from experience, gaining more knowledge and operating more quickly, the more you interact with it, just like Watson.
  4. Kirkland Ellis reportedly has adapted and implemented a version of Intapp Wall Builder to centrally control access to client confidential matters and track compliance across the firm. The Wall Builder replaced distributed, ad hoc approaches to information security with a centralized system that provides central control over user access to specific applications, documents and other information.
  5. Clifford Chance utilized process improvement and “LEAN” management techniques to develop better, more sustainable ways of doing commonly recurring projects. According to the firm, simpler, more manageable, transparent, predictable and faster delivery of projects and transactions were among the benefits brought to the firm’s clients.

You can also read about 100 innovations in law over the years in the ABA Journal online, but I respectfully submit that the list of 100 innovations is really about innovations developed OUTSIDE of legal practice that have impacted the way legal matters are handled. Law firms must do more innovating of the varieties described above in order to survive and thrive in the fast-changing times ahead.

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