I just got back from LegalWeek 2024 in New York City. LegalWeek is the annual legal tech conference put on by ALM and directed at big law firms and clients. There were lots of exhibitors, lots of parties, and fancy dinners. It’s glitzy and sales and marketing oriented.
This year, as expected, the educational sessions, discussions, and marketing were dominated by generative AI. There were ample predictions about how it will transform the legal profession. The standard refrain was that Gen AI will enable lawyers to spend more time on high level thinking.
Gen AI, like ordinary AI, needs to be focused on what problems it can solve
Many of the pitches were aimed at showing how the vendors had adopted their own Gen AI. Many vendors did little more than tout the enormous (and often ill defined) upside of Gen AI. Many speakers droned on about how Gen Ai would revolutionize the legal world like never before. But just like I saw at CES, there were some vendors and attendees who were beginning to see that Gen AI, like ordinary AI, needs to be focused on what problems it can solve rather than convincing customers to buy Gen AI products for the sake of saying they got ’em.
As always, after the Show, I like to talk about who I saw among the vendors focused on solving problems and customer service. Recognizing a paid point and working to eradicate it by whatever means available. These will be the vendors that survive and thrive. Their products and services will be where Gen AI, like the cloud and TAR before it, goes in the future.
Who were some of these vendors with whom I visited?
Best of Show
1. ModeOne-Modeone is a relatively newcomer to the legal tech field, having been around for about two years. Its founder, Matthew Rasmussen, is a bright, energetic young man who practiced law at a big firm for a few years. He saw a problem. In responding to Ediscovery demands, lawyers or legal professionals had to have access to their clients employees’ smartphones. Often, this required taking physical possession of the phone, extracting all the data, and then sifting through all the irrelevant and highly personal materials to find what was relevant. Matthew devised a solution: develop an app that would remotely extract the data from a phone. And have the app define what was relevant on the front end so that relevant and only relevant data would be extracted and reviewed. This app solves a proverbial pain point between lawyers and their clients. None of us want to part with our cell phones, and no one wants strangers pawing through our stuff.
After I talked to Rasmussan, several vendors told me they already had such a tool. Whether they do or not, I don’t think you could be anyone more enthusiastic about developing a product that helps lawyers and legal professionals do what they do. In my experience, people with that passion are also deeply committed to customer service, which Matt seemed to be. Solving problems and serving customers ought to be what vendors are all about.
2. NetDocs–NetDocs is best in class when it comes to cloud-based storage of the documents law firms and in-house counsel generate. I chattered with Dan Hauck and Josh Baxter of NetDocs in a crowded New York Hilton Executive Lounge. NetDocs introduced its Gen AI tool some time ago. The beauty of its tool lies mainly in the data it can access.
Firms that use NetDocs place virtually all their documents in its cloud-based platform. As a result, with the proper prompts, a Gen AI tool can derive its responses from this private data. It can be used to generate things like best practices. It can give meat to the claim that a law firm consistently does things like discovery responses in a certain way.
The thing I like about NetDocs is the classy way it does things. It doesn’t oversell, stays in its lane, and looks after its customers’ needs. True to form, the NetDocs announcements are always subdued. It tends to do things in studied increments, not grand splashes.
3. Opus 2-I have written about Opus 2’s remote and hybrid trial and litigation proceedings before. Its approach is interesting. Again, it doesn’t try to oversell what its products could do. It’s honest about what their products can— and can not— do.
Opus 2 has expanded its offerings of late. Opus 2 is still in the remote proceeding business. But it now offers a comprehensive case management tool that helps litigators understand a litigation matter, its status, and what needs to be done. It has an intuitive desktop that allows lawyers to drill down and better manage significant litigation matters.
See a problem, offer a solution, and provide great customer service.
Some of the ediscovery providers offer desktops designed to show the status of ediscovery that could be relevant to a matter or investigation. Opus 2 case management does the same, only with the entire matter. As a litigator of some very large, complex cases, I understand the difficulty of case management. These matters have multiple moving parts, overlapping discovery needs, and demanding clients. At times, I found myself having to devote all my attention to case management and little to the substantive aspects of the case. With Opus 2 case management, that process gets easier. Once again, see a problem, offer a solution, and provide great customer service.
Seeber and his company are thought of as e-discovery providers with an insane emphasis on customer service. His guiding principle is not only that the customer is always right but that the customer should come away with its experience with Level Legal with a feeling of delight. Like NetDocs, Level Legal eschews grandiose announcements that over-promise. In fact, it took me a while in talking to him to determine that Level Legal had recently added a forensic component to its arsenal to respond to customer needs
Casepoint recently looked around and found a customer’s problem to be solved: governmental responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. It’s often hard to have sympathy for the government. But the truth is that responding to FOIA requests is extraordinarily difficult and time consuming. The government employees working on these responses are often overworked as it is. Casepoint saw a problem many would have ignored and devised an AI-powered solution. Based on what I know about Casepoint, I’m not surprised
6. Onna-I talked with Shannon Smith, Onna’s Chief Technology Officer, at some length. Onna takes a customer’s data, turns it into structured data, and allows the customer to deal with it efficiently and effectively. Primarily but perhaps too narrowly thought of as a ediscovery provider, Onna looked at the Gen AI tools and first set about making them usable on its internal data. It created a model that its employees could then quiz about any number of things. Smith told me, for example, about how he asked the tool to find the most current Onna logo for a PowerPoint he had created. The tool found the logo among several the company had historically used. It got the answer in seconds, eliminating a search that otherwise have been a pain in the ass. Smith seemed to recognize that the future may be to allow customers to use any Gen AI tool to answer all sorts of inquiries from the data. Inquires that may not necessarily be related to a litigation matter. Onna thinks outside the box and solves problems.
7. Redgrave Data-Redgrave is a little different. It doesn’t sell a product. It sells its expertise. It’s a consulting service that helps customers understand their data. It advises customers on how to deal with problems associated with data, among other things. Like some of the others, I have written about this provider before as well.
I learned a lot from my meeting with Redgrave representitives Molly Nichols and Jeremy Pickens. Mollie and Jeremy look through the hype and “shiny new object” hysteria of Gen AI. They urge thoughtful and deliberate adoption that, again, gets to customer real needs.
Redgrave helps customers identify needs and begin to ask the right questions. In all the conflicting and loud claims being bandied about, theirs is a voice of reason. And it may be having an impact. Nichols and Pickens told me they are starting to see potential customers of Gen AI products asking more perceptive and intelligent questions.
We also discussed lots of stuff from law firm management, client centered direction and demands, flat fees, to how to measure lawyer value. I could have spent the day with them. These guys understand that customers can and should drive the boat and want to empower them to do so.
Seven vendors, seven different products and services. But they all have a few things in common: They are customer centric, they scrupulously think through customer needs, and then, to paraphrase Seeber, they delight in elegant solutions. Kudos to them all.