EvolveLaw: Client Driven Tech Conference

After much anticipation the EvolveLaw Client Driven Technology Conference kicked off with a networking event, where the hot topic of technology in law was already circulating the room. Many attendees discussed breaking into new markets, new pricing models, and artificial intelligence over drinks and appetizers just before the expert panel began.

Legal Talk Network CEO Adam Camras welcomed the crowd to the event, discussing the importance of the future of technology. “Even at the top level of technology they struggle with understanding their customer’s tech needs and finding ways to streamline and incorporate new technologies,” he said. Camras said he cannot stress enough the importance of focusing on technology and finding new, strategic ways to get those who resist up to speed.


In the above Special Report, Executive Producer Laurence Colletti sits down to interview Evolve Law Co-Founder Mary Juetten and the Evolve Law Client Driven Technology Solutions panelists at the Legal Talk Network’s Denver studio. Lawbooth Project Manager Joe Burchard moderated the talks and the panel was comprised of Davis Wright Tremaine Client Engagement & Innovation Strategist Kate White, Intensity Analytics CEO John Rome, and Bryan Cave Chief Innovation Officer Kathryn DeBord.

You can listen to all Special Reports recorded from the event here: Legal Talk Network Special Reports.

Expert Panel: Client-Driven Technology Solutions

Panelists:

  • Frank Bruno (moderator), Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management Director
  • Kate White, Client Engagement & Innovation Strategist at Davis Wright Tremaine
  • John Rome, Intensity Analytics CEO
  • Kathryn DeBord, Bryan Cave CIO

The event’s expert panel kicked off with an important question: what are the biggest pain points for those who are practicing law?

“I think there’s a lot of disconnect between people who are viewing law from the outside and thinking about ways to make it more efficient, and then on the other hand you have the attorneys practicing pretty bespoke practices,” Kathryn Debord said. “They have clients who they’re advising on complex facts and complex litigations, and when they come up for a breath they’re told that technology can solve all of their problems.” Debord says that once we get lawyers understanding how technology can augment their practices and understanding those pain points we’ll see more success. “Right now there is no bridge right now between the lawyers who are sitting in this chair and the technologists who are sitting in that chair.”

Kate White agreed. “Change management is still such a huge issue, and a lot of it is that bridge between technologists saying they can build this solution and actually implementing that solution,” she said. “There’s a whole ecosystem around the change.”

The discussion turned to client driven tech, what it means, and how it applies.

“In our world [client driven technology] means technology solutions that are tailored to solve a specific client’s pain point,” White furthered. “A lot of the times the solution that solves the problem isn’t out of the box.”

What White touches on is the evolving demands for the clients. So, where exactly does that change come from?

“I think you have to look at what kind of law we’re talking about,” John Rome, who has dedicated his life to technology said. “If it’s a routine case I don’t think there’s any huge breakthrough coming for technology. But, on a larger scale some of the litigation and world events, that’s a game changer.” Rome was quick to point out that depending on the scenario the answer is different. “You have to pay attention to what’s happening in the industry,” he said. “We have to look at what’s going on with the world. It starts on the outside and comes in.”

Kathryn DeBord chimed in, with a point that there are different drivers for different sections of law. “Big law firms have far different challenges than a solo practicioner, and they have different practices. Their clients look different,,” she said. “From a big law perspective, what you’re looking at is a trend toward true business partnership with your clients where you’re going in and solving a systematic problem that has a tech component. With a smaller practice you’re going to be interacting with your clients on a much more personal level.”

Kate White describes two key opportunities: technology solutions that help lawyers do their jobs more efficiently, and collaboration opportunities with clients that help them solve their problems. “I see those as almost a bit different and requiring different techniques.”

But the panel was also quick to specify that it’s important to maintain balance between these two opportunities. “If you focus too much on externally facing technology for clients and you leave your attorneys behind you’re leaving your business model in the dark ages,” DeBord said.

The underlying theme here is that law firms have dual purpose in understanding advancing technology. “Law firms have a responsibility to invest in technology that is going to help them do better for their clients,” White said.

This all carries with the theme of technology and how far it has come for attorneys. John Rome gave some great insights into how technology in the practice of law has evolved, from the core advances that electricity brought to attorneys (something as simple as being able to work longer hours at night) to computer word processing and the amount of savings in labor it brought.

“Before 1970 automation might be a file cabinet,” he said. “Then along came electricity which had lights, telegraph, and telephone, and that changed technology in the law practice a lot. Someone at that era might have said, as we might say today, well what else could we need?”

Rome notes that lawyers use technology to make more money, provide better services to client, and to increase communication, and we’d be remiss to presume we’ve made it as far as we can. “Take time keeping and billing, keeping track of everything we do,” he said. “That took a lot of time, and now all of a sudden it’s automatic, and we don’t even have to think about it any more.”

The panel shifted from the history of legal technology to predictions of what we’ll see in the future.

“Technology is going to increasingly be used as a holistic package they are offering to their clients, and I think the next thing is that there’s a lot of opportunity for strategic partnerships between law firms and other technology companies,” Kathryn DeBord said. “We’re talking about technology internally within the firm, technology that firms like ours are building for clients to help them refine processes.”

Kate White furthered with some key specifics. “We are going to see a shift in Big Law becoming more like the Big 4 and focusing on consulting with our clients and risk management.” She noted that predictive analytics are going to be a core offering of law firms in the future. “The big challenge with that is how do we change our pricing model?”

The panelist had some encouraging words for those who are looking to get involved in the tech space.

“My view is that law firms should not be involved in inventing technology for several killer reasons,” John Rome said. “They put themselves in peril of losing the employees who built it. The problem is that somebody who works for a law firm who invents something cool is going to get bought away from that firm within six months.” Rome said that one of the surviving issues in technology is knowing where you’re going to be in the ten years.

“One of the opportunities is thinking about ways that you can partner with law firms, because we are looking at partners in the tech space for that reason,” Kathryn DeBord said. “I think that the law firms that identify strategic partnerships are the firms who are going to be able to play in this space without facing some of the perils.”

The last question had perhaps some surprisingly blunt answers: Lawyers are seeing technology improvements that are taking the attorney out of the picture. What’s your take on AI? Are the robots gonna take over?

“No.”
– John Rome

“Agree.”
– Kate White

“Ditto.”
– Kathryn DeBord

“AI is not going to replace legal thinking. It just isn’t,” Rome continued. White was also quick to point out that artificial intelligence will help lawyers provide more immediate, educated answers rather than legal analysis.

“Augmenting what lawyers do,” DeBord added. “As a lawyer is looking at a legal situation, you’re looking at a situation where you’re looking to change the law or refine the law. AI can expand your brain in terms of how you can approach a legal issue before the court. I don’t see AI going beyond an augmenting function.”

This provided a further question. Lawyers, in general, can sometimes be slow to adopt new technology. So, what are the costs of not using technology?

John Rome said it best. “Darwin. Death. That’s it. You don’t adopt you don’t eat. You don’t eat, you die.”

It was the perfect segue into an EvolveLaw Darwin Talk, a 5(ish) minute talk about technology in law.

Additional Discussion on the Panel

You can listen to an additional discussion of the panel below, or keep reading for a summary of the live panel.

Darwin Talk: Evolve or Face Extinction

Willy Ogorzaly, CEO of LawBooth

For the evening’s Darwin Talk, Willy Ogorzaly, the CEO of LawBooth, gave a quippy and smart presentation: “Evolve or Face Extinction.” Ogorzaly touched on the trends we’re seeing in the industry and how lawyers are evolving.

“We are living in the age of a technological revolution,” he said, “and it’s very similar to the industrial revolution, in that innovations are replacing humans.”

What does this come down to? Disruptions. What was once a toy is now the obvious choice for consumers, and those who fight it are displaced.

Ogorzaly shares a relatable story about Kodak, the film manufacturing company that once was the go to source in the film industry. “They created a toy. The digital camera,” he said. Kodak initially created the camera as a fun side project, knowing that people wouldn’t want to see their images on a computer screen and deal with memory cards. “But as time progressed,” he continues, “digital cameras took a chunk of the market share, eventually replacing film. 15 years later Kodak went bankrupt and 50,000 people lost their job.”

This disruption process is repeated across industries all the time, he notes, from the way we consume movies and television, order taxi services, and even how we practice law. Think Blockbuster > Netflix, Taxi Services > Uber, or file cabinets > hard drives.

The Darwin Talk wrapped up the presentation portion of the evening, and it was back to drinks, appetizers, and exciting discussions over the information presented. Attendees were busy analyzing the panel and talk, excitedly chatting with presenters, and taking down final notes before calling it an evening.

This was the 13th official EvolveLaw event and the first event in Denver, though not the last as Mary Juetton assured. “We are starting a little revolution,” she said. This revolution includes demo tables, showing rather than telling, and and featuring panels and Darwin Talks that inspire, rather than just reading about it and hearing about it.

We enjoyed the event and look forward to seeing how the predictions made tonight play out. Though there’s one thing we can all agree on: the robots are not going to take over the practice of law. Perhaps the world, yes, but not the practice of law. That much, we can assure each other, for now, is safe.

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As Director of Marketing and Multimedia, Kimberly helps set strategy for outreach, distribution, social media, and network growth, and manages multimedia production for the network. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Mount Ida College and has a background in design, marketing, production, editorial, and operations and strategy. Kimberly consults with the production and operation teams on a variety of projects and initiatives. You can follow her on Twitter at @kimberlyfaber.