By Neil Cameron, Legal IT Insider lead analyst
Legalweek 2024 started with a gung-ho exhortation from the star of Breaking Bad and finished with one from the protagonist of Molly’s Game; which – to be fair – were both high quality and very well received.
The buzzword this year at Legalweek was most certainly ‘AI’. I was going to award a Blue Riband to the first exhibition stall that did not feature the words AI or Artificial Intelligence – but I gave up looking. It even appeared on stands for software that you couldn’t imagine could possibly have any relevance to AI.
As for the workshop sessions, there were so many dealing with AI that you couldn’t possibly see them all, as on many occasions there was more than one AI session at once. Half the AI sessions were about what you should be afraid of, and the other half were about how you get the best out of an AI investment.
We will be covering AI for sure, but I wanted to start with the winner of the Legalweek 2024 award in the category of Enabling Hybrid/Remote Work: Maptician. I have to admit that I nearly walked past the stand because I assumed it was something to do with, well, maps. But it really isn’t. it is an application to deal with managing a hybrid working environment. ‘Working from home’ was a small trend (especially in law firms) that started some 10 years ago, but which was massively fuelled by Covid. Since then, firms have struggled to work out how to deal with WFH on a policy basis. One the one hand they want to encourage it – bearing in mind that accommodation is a law firm’s second highest cost category, after staff; on the other hand – older partners have trust issues with people they can’t actually see working at a desk.
Some firms seem to have vacillated on this issue by encouraging staff to work from home, only to change that policy several months later and institute a minimum number of days that staff must work in the office. One thing is for sure, hybrid working has a lot more moving parts than simple normal space management; there are desks to book, storage modules for remaining physical work product to manage, personal staff hardware / belongings storage modules to manage, more complex meeting room and AV arrangements, and additional difficulties in arranging for actual teams to be physically proximate when they need to be.
…and this where Maptician steps in. Once a firm has ‘mapped’ all its office space into Maptician, and it has been loaded with all staff and resource details, workers can then plan and manage all of these moving parts. Current ‘presence’ data utilizes several software tools, including Microsoft Exchange, Outlook, and Office to determine who is in the office and who is working remotely without the need to install any hardware devices.
This means that staff can find out what spaces are going to available when, where any of their work colleagues will be on any given day (so they can ensure they are nearby), book and manage their desk space, as well as meetings rooms, AV resources and catering etc etc.
They key to any such sophisticated functionality is always not ‘what it does’, but ‘how it does it’. Maptician has a mobile App with excellent, if not gorgeous, visual imagery and all its booking data is continuously bi-directionally synchronised with Outlook. There is also a Visitor Module that allows visitors to sign in for meetings, interviews, and to sign and agree to firms’ NDAs or other terms required for visitors. It also provides immediate email and SMS notification(s) to staff about their prospective visitors, as well as delivering analytics to the firm to track and report on all visitors.
Apart from AI, yes, we will return to that I promise, the exhibition halls had a high representation from the ‘all in one’ systems for smaller to medium-sized firms that offer a single integrated system with time recording accounting and billing, case management / workflow, document management, document automation, CRM etc etc. These vendors include:
These contenders just keep getting better and better, along with a few other key vendors who were not present at the show, such as matters.cloud and PageLightPrime. As they advance their functionality, they are starting to ‘nibble’ their way up the value chain to slightly larger and larger firms. When you consider the alternative cost of buying, implementing and (even worse) continuously integrating the various four or five best-of-breed products that a firm would otherwise have to spend money on, it becomes an attractive prospect for any firm.
I expect to see some of these vendors starting to appear at the bottom end of the US and UK Top 200 software tables over the next year or so. If I am right, then I also expect them to migrate slowly upwards in the years following.
Turning to AI, as noted previously, it is being applied like snake oil to a wide range of other applications such as drafting (Spellbook, Henchman), document analysis (Humata, LegalOn Technologies), case management / workflow (Filevine, InfoTrack, SurePoint, Kavayah LawBotica), compliance (Fileforms, HaystackID) and, of course, eDiscovery (Onna, Fronteo, Inovitech, KLDiscovery, Z Legal Data Resources, QuikData, Veritone).
I want to pick out two AI assisted applications which I find particularly interesting, for a closer look.
One is DeepJudge, from a Swiss company, which is a knowledge retrieval tool that you point at your various enterprise document repositories and let it find stuff you want. Developed by people with experience at Google, Recommind and Kira it uses proprietary ‘Colinear Technology’ to find information using a combination of semantic and keyword searching. Claiming to be able to run straight out of the box, without any ‘training’ DeepJudge is said to uses advanced Artificial Intelligence models to understand the content within each document regardless of document type, and enables lawyers to search using natural language, without having to find the ‘right’ keywords. Each document is automatically classified into the firm taxonomy for easy filtering, and it also uses additional automated AI-predicted tags to enrich existing metadata.
It uses secure single sign-on the integrate with SharePoint and iManage – no mention of NetDocuments – and it demonstrates well and is pretty fast. One would need to do a lot of due diligence and digging to get a really good understanding of what is going on under this potentially very powerful ‘hood’, but given the potential utility of such a tool, that work might be worth it.
Now, if they could point it at Outlook as well, then, that could be a game changer…
As an aside, Legal IT Insider noted in July last year that Litera (who acquired Kira) filed an injunction against Kira’s former vice president of global product sales, Kennan Samman and DeepJudge, which he joined that month, alleging that the defendants have breached a non-compete agreement and non-disclosure clause prohibiting Kennan from sharing any proprietary information. However, DeepJudge argued that the technologies were significantly different, and in October it was announced that the two sides had agreed a settlement over this issue. Samman notably no longer works at DeepJudge.
The other particularly interesting use of AI is the enterprise sensitive data redacting software called iDox.ai. Taking a similar approach to DeepJudge, but for entirely different purposes, their software is primarily designed to support content compliance and data redaction. It can find ad identify, and – optionally – automatically redact, sensitive corporate and/or personal data throughout the firm’s document repositories.
The compliance engine simplifies the process of self-assessment for specific regulations without the hard manual effort of digging through dense legal language or struggling with complex regulations. Rather, it helps users navigates compliance requirements by answering user-friendly questions tailored to the specific regulations in question; thus promising, both increased efficiency and accuracy. It has modules for health (HIPAA) and California privacy (CPRA) and is working on applicability for the EU AI Act, FISMA (Federal information security), SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) and EU GDPR.
The trend here that I find interesting, is the emergence of embryonic AI driven technologies that are starting to learn how to ‘crawl’ throughout all the data of a law firm. At the moment this is primarily document data, but when we can develop AI agents to search through the entirety of all kinds of different data sources, such as time sheets, incoming bills, outgoing invoices, email, WhatsApp, text messages, data warehouse and BI analysis then these tools will be able to alert us to the potential utility of answers to questions that, hitherto, we do not even think of asking.
Interestingly, despite the current vogue for No Code Low Code, there were no NCLC vendors in the exhibition halls – just as there were very few CRM stalls. They were there at LegalWeek, or at least some of them were, but they were adopting the view that some other vendors have taken recently, that the people they want to meet are also there, but that they know them already. As a result, they either have a suite on the 42nd floor (like Fulcrum and others), or a larger room, or access to the Executive Lounge, and arrange to meet people there. Of course, there is always the Bridge Bar – although it gets very noisy, they were – as usual – doing very good business.
Even if a vendor doesn’t have a stand at the exhibition, apparently this is the place, and this was the time, for some significant announcements – here are some choice examples:
- Harbor, which itself was only formed last August by way of the merger of HBR, LAC and Wilson Allen, and which then acquired Stout’s legal management consulting practice in October, announced the further expansion of its empire by the acquisition of UK’s Pinnacle. This makes perfect sense, as apart from plugging a hole geographically, Pinnacle as the largest remaining competitive outfit – I did wonder the day before the announcement whether it was a coincidence that the Harbor and Pinnacle senior management were staying the same hotel. The hotel shall remain anonymous, but suffice to say that it has a self-service Moēt & Chandon vending machine in the lobby, which also makes sense if you know Harbor’s Chief Revenue Officer – one of my favourite people in legal IT
- Oddr (not to be confused with Onna – mind you, it’s a major miracle that it is still possible for vendors to come up with hitherto unknown four-letter words) is the legal industry’s first AI-powered (of course!) invoice-to-cash platform. You may remember the days when the worst bit of any major PMS system was the ‘collections’ module, usually a third-party product, and always awful. Well, if you invigorate ‘collections’ and sprinkle a little bit of Unicorn AI-dust over it, apparently, you get Oddr. Law firms have always leaked a large element of profitability in WIP and debtor ‘lock-up’. It’s got better over the years, but there is still a little but of gold dust in “them that hills”, and Oddr wants to help firms squeeze it out. Interfering, in the nicest possible AI-assisted way, at billing, bill despatch, collections and reconciliation (in the accounting as opposed to relationship sense) Oddr thinks it can realise the potential impact of revenue identified by Thomson Reuters, that a 1% increase in collections equates to $900k in additional revenue for a 100-attorney firm.
- there’s a new CRM kid on the block, TRĒ (hats off to them, they only had three letters to play with) – the first new CRM entrant on the market since the LITI Report on CRM systems last February. They say theirs is a ‘just add water’ “simple & easy CRM for law firms with first-of-kind data cleaning included” – boldly claiming a new ‘super-lean’ approach to implementation. “TRĒ is a revolution in CRM,” says TRĒ founder, Chris Fritsch. “It’s contact and relationship management reimagined, eliminating common points of failure and removing system management and data entry and data quality headaches. We are excited to bring this to market to help firms finally achieve success with CRM.”
Finally, for those that will be heading to LegalWeek 2025, and might be looking nearby for a quieter and less crowded convivial location for a meeting than the Bridge Bar, my top suggestions would be:
- La Grande Boucherie, 145 W 53rd St, in the passageway just behind the hotel – excellent food and even better Martinis
- Aldo Sohm Wine Bar, 151 W 51st St, down the same passageway two blocks, usually quiet – interesting wine list and good snacks
- the sling bar, 135 W 50th St, another block south
- The Bar at Baccarat Hotel, 28 W 53rd St, one block East, impressively styled cocktail bar with excellent food