Dan Katz talks Legalweek 18, open-source, and why the DMS should be software agnostic

Professor Daniel Katz (pictured) is a co-founder and chief strategy officer at legal tech analytics company LexPredict, prolific speaker and author, on the board of Dentons’ innovation investment arm NextLaw Labs, and a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. We caught up with him for a few minutes at Legalweek 2018 to discuss what’s new at the show, and how the legal industry needs to catch up with the thinking and approach to tech being adopted by Silicon Valley.
What’s interesting about Legalweek this year?
If you look over the last five years, there’s been a change in the contour of the show itself and the portfolio of companies now looks more like the industry. Five years ago, you’d have thought litigation was the only thing in law: eDiscovery seemed like 80% of the event. Now it looks more like the broader spectrum of work that lawyers do – there’s certainly still an emphasis on eDiscovery but it’s more balanced and reflects that the market has got beyond that.
eDiscovery retrospectively was the first thing through the wall. If you said we need to review 10 million emails, just as an example, the existing business model and economics around that weren’t rational. It was a problem created by and solved through technology.
Now one of the big areas of focus is contract analytics and management, so you had Kira and eBrevia first and now there are others – even beyond those who are displaying, analytics is a big space: people want to manage but also want to be able to derive value from their data.
Where do you see legal tech still trailing the wider tech market?
Open-source software. We have some difficulty validating that solutions can do what they say they do but with open-source, you can go onto GitHub and see the evidence or base repo. We can take that base and reconfigure it or customise it to solve problems and it derisks it because we can see the real code and get a demo of its use cases. We can say ‘here is a project using this exact repo and we just have to engineer the last 25%.’ That is what is really lacking in legal tech and what is being done outside of the industry. People in legal tech think there has to be a catch or that maybe it’s a gimmick.
Is it a negative thing that there is still so much focus by us and by law firms on back end systems?
No but the thing we‘re working on is, you’ve got your base infrastructure and the DMS has to exist but the question is how do you link to analytics apps? We’re working on that integration. Every law firm has a different technology landscape and linking these systems together and trying to make the integration more seamless is something that every AI company is working on.
The interesting thing is that the document management system is likely to become the platform and the mistake in my personal view is to limit it to certain apps, why not be agnostic? The better business is to open up the platform and say ‘let the flower bloom’ and they make money on every app that’s bought, becoming a garden of solutions rather than taking a command and control stance, which doesn’t work outside the industry.