Howard Kennedy continues major new tech drive

This article first appeared in the Legal IT Insider March newsletter

As part of Howard Kennedy’s roadmap to overhaul and improve its existing technology, the top 65 law firm is to roll out RAVN Connect Enterprise and Tikit Carpe Diem as it enters the last stages of a proof of concept with Salesforce-based CRM solution OnePlace and Introhive.

Howard Kennedy, which is also working on discrete projects with AI-backed contract review startup Purple Frog, has only just finalised it decision to roll out Carpe Diem in place of Elite WebView. Led by IT director Clive Knott and chief technology officer Jonathan Freedman, the firm also reviewed Intapp, which it found to be more expensive than Tikit’s rival solution.

Howard Kennedy will shortly roll out RAVN Connect, having conducted a proof of concept over the enterprise search solution. Knott said: “We’re aiming to combine our precedent library with online legal research services from PLC so fee-earners have a single point of search.”

Howard Kennedy began talking to RAVN at the end of 2016 and has started rolling out RAVN Connect to the real estate team, with plans to shortly roll it out to the rest of the firm. Knott said: “We’ve seen a huge improvement in the way we can find precedents and search for documents.”

However, the 169-lawyer firm has turned to Purple Frog for machine learning-based document review and analysis, having reviewed software from RAVN, Kira Systems and Neota Logic.

Purple Frog was founded in 2009 and last year launched SynAPPS DMS Cleanser Elite on top of existing search and data extraction and analysis software that was formally released in 2015 and 2016. Freedman said: “We’re still in the very early stages but we’re working with Purple Frog to automate the completion of lease templates, extracting that information from larger documents.”

Knott added: “We were looking for a small supplier that we can develop a close partnership with. For us it was about finding a partner that gets our business and goes the extra mile.”

The firm was also looking for an AI offering in order to drum up interest and engagement among its lawyers and clients. Freedman said: “We were looking for the right small task to apply this technology to so we can demonstrate it to the business and that will spark more ideas and engage people.”

Knott added: “It’s important for IT to be seen as enabler. There are some very obvious things we can progress, starting small but aiming to move forward.”

Howard Kennedy at the start of 2017 set up an AI working group consisting of representatives from across the business. Freedman said: “People are really keen and there’s been quite a lot of excitement around it.”

“We’d like to get to the stage where we can begin testing with representatives from various departments. We’ve talked in the abstract about AI but what we’re trying to do now is get concrete small examples that are working, that they can test and feed back to us how it works.”

The pilots come as Howard Kennedy enters the final stages of a six-month proof of concept with CRM system OnePlace, which, subject to board approval, the firm plans to populate using relationship management intelligence software Introhive.

OnePlace, which has been in a POC among 20 Howard Kennedy staff, is being looked at in place of Thomson Reuters Elite’s solution ContactNet, which failed to gain traction within the firm. Knott and Freedman conducted a full review of CRM systems, including LexisNexis Interaction.

A business development run project, the firm will make a final decision on OnePlace at the end of April.

Howard Kennedy set out its IT 2020 Vision a couple of years ago after Knott arrived in 2014. It upgraded to Elite Enterprise and last year rolled out Mattersphere, but will next year decide whether to select 3E or another practice management system as Enterprise was last year sunsetted by Elite.