Milena Higgins is the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Artificial Intelligence for Black Hills IP. With more than...
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business...
Lawyers may have already automated tasks in their firms without even realizing it. Try becoming self-aware and see how AI might just make your practice run smoother than ever. In this episode of Legal Toolkit, host Jared Correia talks to Milena Higgins about the ways automation and AI can help lawyers turn over cases with ease and efficiency. There is a lot of pressure from clients for lawyers to do things better, cheaper, & faster — and automating tasks in your practice can actually help you get there. They discuss how automation can take care of the mundane work and leave lawyers free to focus on higher level tasks.
Milena Higgins is the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Artificial Intelligence for Black Hills IP.
The Legal Toolkit
Robot Takeover: How Automation Makes Law Practice Easier
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm, with your host Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hey everybody. Welcome to a new episode of The Legal Toolkit here on Legal Talk Network. If you are looking for the New England Patriots’ defense, that makes two of us.
If you are a returning listener, welcome back; if you are a first-time listener, hopefully you will become a longtime listener. And if you are Gort from ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’, this is your kind of podcast.
As always, I am your show host, Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, Bar Associations, and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
You can also listen to my other podcast, because I love podcasting so much. That one is called The Lobby List, it’s a family travel show I host with my wife Jessica, that’s available on iTunes.
Right now, we are going island by island as part of our Hawaii boot camp, so subscribe, rate and comment.
Here on The Legal Toolkit however we provide you each month with a new tool to add to your own legal toolkit so that your practices will become more-and-more like best practices.
In this episode, we are going to talk about the Robot Takeover, the inevitable robot takeover about which lawyers seem inordinately concerned.
But before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors.
First, I’d like to thank our newest sponsor, TimeSolv. TimeSolv is the number one web-based time and billing software for lawyers. Providing solutions since 1999, TimeSolv provides the most comprehensive billing features for law firms big and small. To find out more, visit their website at www.timesolv.com.
Next, we would like to thank our sponsor, Thomson Reuters Firm Central, cloud-based legal practice management that streamlines your day and automates non-billable administrative tasks, so you can accomplish more with less.
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All right, my guest today is Milena Higgins. Milena is the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Artificial Intelligence at Black Hills IP, which provides automation and technology services to IP law firms. Clearly she is very busy.
Milena is a veteran legal technologist with extensive skill in legal service re-engineering and automation. With more than 20 years of experience in unconventional technology roles, she is an expert at translating between technical and non-technical people. She has a PhD in Physics, a Master’s in Management of Technology, and is a registered patent agent, not bad.
So, Milena Higgins, welcome to the big show.
Milena Higgins: Thank you very much, Jared. Happy to be here.
Jared Correia: Very impressive background, but let’s talk about one other thing about you. You’re from Poland, right?
Milena Higgins: Correct.
Jared Correia: See, I think that’s really cool. I don’t know a lot of people from Poland, so this is exciting for me. So, let’s start by talking about that.
So here’s, I’m going to reveal this to you as well. I think many of the listeners know, but I’m Portuguese, and when I grew up my family ate a lot of Portuguese food, which basically involves like lots of meat and eggs, so basically like heart attack on a plate. But I love Portuguese food, I just don’t eat it that much anymore because I don’t want to die.
So let me ask you what is your favorite Polish food, do you have any recommendations for people?
Milena Higgins: Well, Polish food is not much different from Portuguese food in the sense that it’s meat and potatoes.
Jared Correia: Yep.
Milena Higgins: Primarily.
Jared Correia: All right. Well, that’s less exciting, I was hoping for more exciting answer.
Milena Higgins: No, but my favorite are Pierogies. They are like dumplings basically.
Jared Correia: Yes. I think many people know what Pierogies are. So potato-based dumplings, and there’s cheese involved also, correct?
Milena Higgins: They are different fillings, so I think the potato and cheese are maybe the most commonly known here in the US, but in Poland you get them like the traditional ones are actually meat-filled.
Jared Correia: Oh, that sounds even better.
Milena Higgins: And the ones I like — I don’t eat meat. I’m a Pescetarian.
Jared Correia: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. No, I am just kidding. No animals were harmed in making this podcast.
Milena Higgins: But I love mushroom-filled ones, and in the summer blueberry ones.
Jared Correia: Oh, that sounds delightful; would that be considered like a dessert Pierogi, a blueberry filled one?
Milena Higgins: No for me, that’s dinner.
Jared Correia: Nice. All right, so that’s pretty good, so I learned something today. I did not know you could have a blueberry filled Pierogi, but now I’m going to grab one at some point.
All right, so I guess we should talk about some serious stuff, right? Let’s talk about the Robot Takeover, that’s a cheery topic, right?
Milena Higgins: Yes, always.
Jared Correia: So, there’s a lot of media speculation around this and there’s this notion that like robots are going to come in and take over legal jobs; but, I’ve always felt that that’s an oversimplification, because what we’re not looking at is like androids coming in lifting a lawyer off his or her desk and like sitting in the chair and actually doing work for the lawyer, that’s not what we’re talking about.
What this is more about is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning taking over legal processes, so can you explain a little bit about what a robot takeover could look like in legal?
Milena Higgins: Yeah, let me give it a try. So, it’s less about the robot coming and lifting you out of your chair and taking your job —
Jared Correia: Yeah, good.
Milena Higgins: — and more about combining the human with the machine in a sense to help you do your job better. I think of instead of Artificial Intelligence a term I’ve heard someone use is Augmented Intelligence.
Jared Correia: I like that.
Milena Higgins: So, you’re augmenting your skill-set with another tool, and so just like we used to use calculators back in the day and then we moved on to spreadsheets later and now we have hard core heavy-duty computing computer power —
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Milena Higgins: — now comes AI to help us do what we do even better.
Jared Correia: Oh, that’s good, okay. And so, because you are an expert in this like before we get too deep into this, can you give like a broad definition of what Artificial Intelligence is for lawyers who are listening who may not have much of an idea about what that is, but have heard it, used regularly?
Milena Higgins: Yeah, it’s actually a set of different technologies and you might ask ten different people in AI and get ten different answers. There’s no agreed-upon definition as far as I can discern, but it comes down to a lot of people kind of equate Machine Learning with AI and it’s basically a technology where the machine learns instead of being sort of explicitly programmed to do something, it learns based on the data it receives so you have a training data set, you train it with that data set and then you give it the real data that you want to analyze, and then it predicts for you what it thinks it wants to do.
And then as the more you train it, the more you use it, the better it becomes at doing that thing. So think about Siri on your iPhone. When you first got Siri she wasn’t that great, but today she probably does a lot better.
Jared Correia: Yes, good. Thinking robots. Now we’re back to the robot apocalypse. Okay, so let’s talk about this idea of Augmented Intelligence, same acronym, it’s great, makes it easy.
So, for lawyers in particular like how could the average attorney reform the way they practice to adapt to a new environment where they’re making technology work for them rather than working around technology, which is what I think a lot of lawyers try to do?
Milena Higgins: Yeah, so technology adoption is kind of the Achilles heel of the legal industry.
Jared Correia: Yes, I have heard.
Milena Higgins: My recommendation, my take on it is just start and you don’t have to start big, you can start small, but embrace it. Don’t be afraid of it, don’t turn away because it’s here and you may already be using it and not even know it.
Jared Correia: Yes.
Milena Higgins: So if you’re a litigator, for example, you’ve probably used Machine Learning in your eDiscovery, you’ve probably used predictive coding or technology assisted review depending on who you talk to, that is AI.
Jared Correia: Look at that, beautiful. So, your company, Black Hills IP, use the phrase which you’ve hashtagged called “Take the robot out of the human”, that sounds painful, what does that mean?
Milena Higgins: I didn’t invent that term. I heard someone else use it but we’ve kind of adopted it as our one of the things that we say around here at Black Hills IP, and what it means is every job has its kind of repetitive monotonous low value work that people don’t really enjoy, they’d rather do the fun stuff and so we focus on taking those repetitive monotonous things, tasks and automating them.
So we let the machine do what the machine is good at, repetitive monotonous work, so that the human can focus on the creative, strategic, high-value stuff that we really enjoy doing.
Jared Correia: I like that.
Milena Higgins: So that’s what that means, taking the robot out of the human, doesn’t involve surgery.
Jared Correia: Good, good, that’s good to know. I thought we were talking about like an alien situation, but this is much better. So I kind of refer this as pricing at the top of your law license for attorneys. The idea is that you —
Milena Higgins: Yeah, I like that.
Jared Correia: You can take that one if you want. I stole it from somebody else. The idea is you take the tasks, you automate the tasks, and then the lawyer does the high-level work that they can bill more money for incidentally.
Milena Higgins: Exactly.
Jared Correia: So see, technology can be very helpful if it’s augmenting rather than taking over.
All right, this is a good start. I am going to take the robot out of the podcast host however and we are going to take our first break. Hey, here are some things you should buy.
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Jared Correia: All right everybody, thanks for staying right here with us. I was thinking about leaving, but I didn’t get a better offer, so I am back here with Milena Higgins of Black Hills IP and we are talking about automation in legal as well as augmented intelligence, not artificial intelligence.
All right, so this is a good segue from the last part of our conversation Milena. So we were talking about automation as a subpart of legal technology and you talked a little bit about how that’s one way that lawyers can bring technology to bear on their practice, by automating mundane tasks.
So can you speak generally as to why automation is important to the legal field outside of that one consideration?
Milena Higgins: Yeah. So we are at a place in the legal industry where anyone who is doing work in this field feels the pressure from clients about the high price of legal services and the customer pressure is for things that are better, cheaper, faster, so doing things differently than what we are used to.
And a way to get there is through automation. It’s about moving the right work to the right resource. It’s like taking some of the tasks and having a legal assistant do it or a paralegal do it as opposed to the lawyer doing all of it. So this is yet another resource, you are moving that to the machine.
Jared Correia: Got you. So let’s follow up on that, aside from like task management and you can include specific practice areas too, but do you have a few good examples of how lawyers are using automation in their offices now and gaining benefit from that?
Milena Higgins: Well, I have a couple of examples that come to mind and maybe they are not specifically what you just asked.
Jared Correia: That’s okay, whatever you have got.
Milena Higgins: What came to mind was people — this is part of modern life, right, we as human beings are using our iPhones and our iPads and whatever other technology you have on your desk right now, and so we are used to doing things kind of as a self-service. And some prefer to do that to talking to a human being, getting on the phone or going in person to a bank, for example, you get out your phone and you bank online on your phone. So this is kind of an evolution of that into the legal world.
So I think of companies like Rocket Lawyer or another example is I recently had to draft an NDA for our company to talk to another company and I used, what do you think, something called Robot Lawyer LISA, it’s really just AI. I went online, I answered a bunch of questions and Robot Lawyer LISA drafted my NDA and I went and used it. And it was awesome.
So these are examples of things that are already out there today that lawyers have created to help us do things in a more modern way.
Jared Correia: Yeah, document automation is a good example, and I think since lawyers still draft freaking documents, there are so many places that lawyers could use document automation to supplement what they are doing. That’s exactly what you are talking about, just drafting a basic document and taking care of the more complex stuff on their own.
Milena Higgins: Absolutely.
Jared Correia: So let’s talk about how this changes what it’s like to work and what jobs exist now. So you are a company that focuses on augmented intelligence, so let’s start internally with your business. How have jobs changed in your company because of the influence of automation?
Milena Higgins: Yeah, really interesting question. So we have noticed a couple of things happening. We have created new positions altogether that didn’t exist before we kind of embraced and went down this journey.
So we, for example, have docketing automation specialists, people who essentially are programmers to code — and they are not necessarily sitting and coding in the traditional sense, but they are using tools to help define what we are doing when we automate certain tasks in the docketing sphere, that’s what our business is. And so these people are — they started out working at Black Hills as docketers, but are now today automation specialists, so they have evolved.
The other thing we are seeing is that the people who have remained in the docketing roles, it’s opened up their worlds too. Because they are not doing those mundane repetitive things as much, it’s allowed them to have more time to do other things.
So for example, we now have the more senior people, people with more experience who became team leads. It used to be that the docketing manager used to be the point of contact with our customers and now it’s the docketers who are team leads who serve as that point of contact and so they interact with our customers today, where they didn’t use to a few years ago. So it opens up those possibilities for people to grow professionally and develop skills that didn’t exist.
Jared Correia: Yeah, so that’s how it should work, right, like new jobs are created and people are doing more high-level work than they were doing before. So that’s a good example I think, I like that, and I think hopefully that that can come into the legal space as well.
So let’s talk about that, like the technology company and technology companies, frankly, are usually more forward-thinking than lawyers. So in terms of a law firm, how do you think a law firm could do something similar in terms of what you have done as a technology company, in terms of jobs and roles?
Milena Higgins: If you think of different jobs that people have within a law firm, whether that’s an associate or a paralegal or a partner, each one of those has tasks involved with it that people maybe don’t really like doing because they are kind of boring but they have to be done. If you think of looking for the technology and sometimes it doesn’t have to be super advanced technology, sometimes it’s the simple thing that you already have that you just need to repurpose. And just looking at your processes to shift that off of the people doing it to a different — either a different resource or the machine or some software or whatever it is, that’s how you start down this path and that leads you to increased efficiency.
It leads to faster turnaround time, because usually when you involve automation, robots typically work 24×7, they don’t take coffee breaks, they work Saturdays, Sundays. The work becomes more accurate because you eliminate the human error and that in turn translates to happier lawyers and happier clients and hopefully more clients because of that.
Jared Correia: Got you. That’s all good stuff. Lawyers, listen up.
Okay, we are going to take another break. I thought that was pretty good. So people, the future is now. While I look for my other shoe, listen to some more words from our sponsors.
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All right, we are break again. Break number two is over. We are going to finish strong. This podcast is so packed with legal technology talk, it’s like a double stuff for you.
Now let’s get back to our conversation with Milena Higgins of Black Hills IP, who is talking with me about the impending legal industry takeover by robots, maybe.
So, Milena, your company works specifically with law firms to build out automations and to implement technology, and we touched on this a little bit before, but I want to tease it out a little bit more.
So, what’s the biggest barrier, because we both understand the technology is a barrier for law firms — what’s the biggest barrier to law firms in terms of adopting and accepting new technologies?
Milena Higgins: I think the biggest barrier is the fear of the unknown, and it’s just human nature, it’s not really particular to lawyers, it’s all of us. So that’s the biggest barrier that we have to get past. People are typically afraid of automation but what we found is that once you try it and once you see that it actually works and it makes life better, you become a believer and you just go for it.
Jared Correia: So in terms of like people that lawyers work with, like part of this is translating this to the lawyer and then part of this is the lawyer translating this to their staff, do you have suggestions or input for lawyers in terms of what they might be able to do to get buy-in on things once they bought in themselves?
Milena Higgins: That’s an interesting question because usually I’ve struggled with it going the other way around, the staff are all foreign and is convincing the managing partner that it’s something that needs to be done.
Jared Correia: Oh, interesting. Okay, got you, that’s fair. So the staff doesn’t need much convincing at all? All right, good, that is step one.
Milena Higgins: The staff is usually the one pushing for it.
Jared Correia: So, what you’re telling me is this a mutiny that’s taking place usually.
Milena Higgins: Yeah.
Jared Correia: All right, so let’s take this out to a broader viewpoint and let’s talk about what a law firm or the future might look like. So what does a law firm that effectively implements automation look like generally speaking?
Milena Higgins: Oh gosh, I think my dream law firm that would use automation would literally have minimized the — as someone put it the soul-sucking mundane repetitive tasks.
Jared Correia: That sounds just delightful.
Milena Higgins: Like outsourcing them to the robots, and could we please get automated time entry, that’s someone can do that. We are going to be on such much better place, right?
Jared Correia: Yes. Automated time entry is a good idea. All right, so automated time entry, automated tasks is your perfect automated law firm. Any other things that you think are technology components that law firms should be thinking about adding?
Milena Higgins: Gosh, there’s just so many. It’s hard to pick just one. I guess, I’m one of these people that just looks at all the new shiny things and I try thinking about, oh, how could we use that in this environment or this kind of process? And I think it’s changing the culture a little bit and that’s the hard part, because lawyers are trained to kind of look backwards if you think of — you look to precedent, what’s been done before, whereas this requires a mind shift in thinking forward instead of thinking backward.
Jared Correia: Yes, that’s a good point.
Milena Higgins: Yeah, so you kind of need to look at the technology that’s out there around you that you’re already using in your everyday life outside of the law firm, and how can you apply that to your work life and how can you leverage that tool to help you do your job in a different better way.
Jared Correia: Yeah, I think those are some excellent points as well. So, all right, we’ve got the future law firm is automation-based. Now what about the next sets of technology because AI is hot right now, Machine Learning is hot right now, people love to talk about that stuff, but what technologies they are upcoming on the horizon? Do you have your eye on and are watching currently?
Milena Higgins: This is a really interesting question right now because I literally just — I don’t know within the last month or two have become a little more familiar with quantum computing and I’m just fascinated. I mean, I think that is the next hot thing. It’s not going to be tomorrow because it’s very early on, but that technology has the potential to really change the world.
If you think AI is going to change the world, quantum computing is going to change AI, so together those things are just going to completely revolutionize what we do and how we do it.
Jared Correia: Quantum computing sounds really dangerous, like you’re screwing with black holes or something, so what is quantum computing?
Milena Higgins: So, quantum computing is a different way of — it’s basically, if you think of a computer using ones and zeros, binary, it’s either one or a zero, a quantum computer uses quantum states which can be kind of an either one or the other or both.
I heard a woman explain at once as if you think of a penny. It has two sides, heads and tails, right? So that’s very binary. But if you spin that penny, which one is it?
Jared Correia: That’s a good question.
Milena Higgins: So, it’s kind of like thinking of quantum computing in that way that it does — it uses quantum properties to do things in a completely different way and we don’t yet know. I mean, it’s so early on in its evolution that we don’t know exactly what potential it has, but it’s literally a completely different way of computing, of making a computer work.
Jared Correia: That’s pretty cool.
Milena Higgins: It’s really cool.
Jared Correia: All right, let’s hope no one destroys the universe while doing this.
Milena Higgins: Exactly.
Jared Correia: So anything other than quantum computing that you’d like to discuss or let people know about in terms of upcoming technologies that you’re interested in?
Milena Higgins: Oh gosh, quantum computing was my, my —
Jared Correia: All right, let’s go with that. I got —
Milena Higgins: I didn’t prepare any others for today.
Jared Correia: I got another question for you.
Milena Higgins: Yeah.
Jared Correia: We’re talking about robots, right?
Milena Higgins: Yes.
Jared Correia: What’s your favorite movie robot of all time?
Milena Higgins: Oh, my favorite movie robot has —
Jared Correia: There’s a lot of choices.
Milena Higgins: There are, but I think I’ve got to go with ‘WALL-E’.
Jared Correia: ‘WALL-E’?
Milena Higgins: ‘WALL-E’ is my favorite.
Jared Correia: Very nice. You are a Pixar person?
Milena Higgins: Yes.
Jared Correia: Are you forced to watch Pixar movies as I am, because children want to watch them or do you watch Pixar movies on your own just because you find them to be delightful?
Milena Higgins: I watch them on my own. My kids are now too old for Pixar movies. I mean, they will still watch them, but —
Jared Correia: So, ‘WALL-E’ is a good flick, and hopefully the future for lawyers in the rest of America, don’t involve us weighing like 700 pounds and sitting in chairs.
Milena Higgins: Exactly.
Jared Correia: Let me also recommend if you have not seen it yet, ‘Coco’ is a really good movie.
Milena Higgins: Ooh, I have not seen that.
Jared Correia: And my children will not watch it, I keep asking them to watch it on Netflix because I really like it, but there’s not down. So, I say, let’s watch ‘Coco’ and everybody’s like boo.
So, all right, ‘WALL-E’, ‘Coco’, we’ve got our Pixar fixed, and now I think that will do it for this podcast. We are going to put a bow on this thing on another episode of The Legal Toolkit, and we’ve been talking with Milena Higgins of Black Hills IP about robots and the law, Pixar movies, Pierogi. It’s been like a wide-ranging show.
Now, I will be back on future shows with future insights into my soul, the soul of America and the legal market.
But if you are feeling nostalgic from my dulcet tones, you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com.
So, big thanks again to Milena Higgins of Black Hills IP for making an appearance as my guest today.
All right, Milena, can you tell everybody how they can find out more about you and about Black Hills IP?
Milena Higgins: Of course, you can learn more about Black Hills IP on our website at blackhillsip.com, and more about me, I guess you can find me on LinkedIn, that’s just Milena Higgins. I also tweet from time-to-time, so MilenaHiggins on Twitter.
Jared Correia: Two good options, you got the Black Hills IP website. Check it out. So, thanks Milena Higgins of Black Hills IP, this was really fun. And finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. I see what’s going on here. Proceed.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Legal Toolkit, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join host Jared Correia for his next podcast covering the current business trends for law firms.
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