There has been a noticeable trend in legal tech the past few years toward more AI, more machine learning and, perhaps as a result, more user friendly legal tech. More user friendly tech means more hands on tech usage by lawyers and legal professionals. Which is a good thing.
I just got back from 3 days at AALL (American Association of Law Librarians) 2022 conference where these trends—as well as others–were evident. (This was the first in-person conference for AALL in a couple of years). My fellow Legaltech Week panelist, Zach Warren summarized the conference very well in his recent article. But here are my impressions.
First, for the most part, the conference seemed to be a back to normal event. Like Zach, I don’t know the exact attendance numbers. But session attendance was about what you would expect. The exhibit hall looked pretty much normal, and the vendor parties were well attended and lavish.
I did notice that there seemed to be fewer smaller and start-up companies on the exhibit floor. Companies like Wolters Kluwer, Bloomberg, LexisNexis, and Thomson Reuters dominated the exhibit floor. Fewer smaller companies and start-ups were exhibiting, or at least, so it seemed. Maybe it appeared this way because the square footage occupied by the bigs was so significant. Perhaps this reflects a maturing of legal tech as the big players continue to gobble up smaller ones. We may see more of this kind of presence by more prominent players on the exhibit floor. Bigger players are getting bigger.
Another observation: people have pretty much given up on covid protections. Yes, we had to show proof of vaccination to get a badge. But beyond that, there were no restrictions. Very few masks were visible. No social distancing. Lots of people crowding together in indoor spaces, especially at parties. Caution has been thrown to the wind even as a new variant more contagious than the last (what else is new) engulfs us. I hope that the positivity rate from the show stays low.
As always, lots of interesting sessions and meetings. One key issue seemed to be percolating in sessions and hallways. As AI and machine learning become more widely used in legal, to what extent must we recognize and deal with bias and prejudice in the data and analytics. The issue was centered, of course, on computerized research and litigation analytics. Some think we need to recognize the bias, ferret it, and obliterate it. Others like Pablo Arredondo, founder of Casetext, a legal tech research provider, take a more nuanced view. We need to acknowledge the bias and let the practicing lawyer deal with it. After all, the argument goes, there is bias in case law and court decisions, and we need to recognize and deal with it, not eliminate it. I think the latter view makes some sense, especially in the legal context. Interesting argument.
Aided by AI and machine learning improvements, legal tech seems to be becoming more tech-friendly and easier to use.
Certainly, AI and machine learning were front and center at the Conference.I saw this in the sessions and in the products offered and announced. Another trend I noticed. Aided by AI and machine learning improvements, legal tech seems to be becoming more tech-friendly and easier to use. More like consumer technology. That’s also t’s a good trend since it will equate to more usage and a greater comfort level with tech in the legal profession.
LexisNexis Fact & Issue Finder
Emblematic of this dominance was the announcement by LexisNexis of a next-generation LexisNexis+. LexisNexis announced during the conference the upcoming availability of the Lexis+ Fact & Issue Finder. LexisNexis describes the tool as “a powerful, practice-specific feature that empowers legal professionals to build legal strategies centered around the facts, issues, and topics of their case.” Fact & Issue Finder offers analytics in six practice areas – Personal Injury, Labor & Employment, Insurance, Real Estate, Intellectual Property, and Business & Commercial. LexisNexis plans to expand the program into additional areas.
It seemed to me in seeing the product that LexisNexis aims to allow legal professionals to perform google like searches. LexisNexis claims that the Fact & Issue Finder can gather relevant content – case law, practical guidance, verdicts and settlements, expert witness analytics, and practice-specific content – all from a single and more natural language search. If true, then lawyers and legal professionals can do more hands-on searches. And they can worry less about getting tedious string bullion type searches right. The kind of searches that only a few of us are wired to do painlessly. The tool also focuses on allowing searching for specific facts in cases that provide more valuable results.
The LexisNexis representatives I chatted with told me the goal is to better manage through automation the “abyss of information” with which legal professionals are often faced. This abyss makes it so hard to often hard to know when enough searching is enough.
Another thing I thought was interesting. The LexisNexis reps say that they have given up trying to get lawyers and legal professionals to follow any sort of standard workflow like most of the rest professional world does. Instead, they claim to have created a product that automates many workflow steps and has those steps completed in the background.
Most lawyers consider themselves special snowflakes, and believe that their way of working is the best and only way
This “meet lawyers where you find them” idea is interesting since it assumes what we all know. Most lawyers consider themselves special snowflakes, and believe that their way of working is the best and only way. It’s a little humorous that some things have changed very little after all this time.
The Brief Analyzer
LexisNexis also introduced something called Brief Analyzer. According to LexisNexis, Brief Analyzer can provide more significant insights into an opponent’s brief or court opinions by a particular judge. It can also be used to analyze your own draft documents as well. As an added feature, Brief Analyzer will pull information from LexisNexis’ database about how successful–or unsuccessful–a particular argument may have been.
The focus of LexisNexis seems to be less about efficiency through tech and more about getting a better result. This focus may help overcome legal’s reluctance to use tech that it sees as merely reducing billable hours.
The LexisNexis reps also told me that LexisNexis is focusing on developing a library of short UTube-like videos. These videos will demonstrate how to do various tasks within the program. The goal is again to make research and data analytics more user-friendly friendly.
The notion that legal tech needs to be more like consumer tech has been getting more and more traction and was on full display at AALL this year. Yes, lawyers are slow to embrace tech. But they are even slower when the tech is complicated and hard to use.
Of course, this trend is aided by the development of more sophisticated AI and machine learning tools. These tools enable better and less complicated tech platforms like Fact & Issue Finer and Brief Analyzer. It’s a good trend that may finally mean better use of technology in the acknowledgment management and legal profession.
So all in all, AALL 2022 was a good show that felt back to normal in many ways. But a new normal in that legal tech is more focused on usability of tech tools. It made me feel optimistic about where we are.