The Next Legal Era: Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Computing

By Joseph Raczynski

We are on the cusp of a new era in computer technology.  What could possibly connect rapid automated legal decisions; systematized stack ranked medical diagnosis, and never created scrumptious food recipes?  At the IBM Cloud Innovation Forum in Dana Point CA, Mike Rhodin SVP of IBM Watson connected the three with a provocative overview of what our future in legal entails.

Here is some brief history.  The computer is entering its third era.  In the beginning we focused around the computation of numbers called the Tabulation Era.  Simple calculations ruled this phase.  After decades passed we moved into the use of magnetic tapes and programmed storage of information.  The central piece surrounding this period was programming and so is known as the Programmatic Era.  Currently we find ourselves in this phase but edging into the third known as the Learning Systems Era.

Our current era is in a troubled state.  In 2020 all data available will surpass 40 zettabytes (40 trillion GBs).  The slope on a graph which represents this change from today is nearly straight up.  For comparison, in 2009 the entire World Wide Web was estimated to contain close to 500 exabytes which is about one half a zettabyte.  Every electronic act, button pushed, video or picture taken, word written, is a magnification of significant proportion.  However, where data storage multiplies is as we create and store meta data and learned connections from the base data.

Why is data exploding?  When Watson competed against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on Jeopardy, IBM gave it a brain (offline hard drive) of all the information they thought was pertinent to win.  Initially they found it was about 10 gigs of information.  However when the engineers extracted the meta data from the 10 gigs using every algorithm imaginable, the storage ballooned 10 times to 100 gigs.  Lastly they applied other computer assisted cognitive learning against the data and the storage grew by 100 times.  This is one reason the amount of data is exploding as we move toward 2020.  The data we create about data is actually more voluminous than the original data set, and the learning’s from that are even greater.  The volume of data is at a tipping point.  We are nearly at capacity to understand it as humans.

Rhodin says we make decisions through four phases.  We observe, interpret, evaluate and then decide.  Watson now has the ability to tap into this same process.  This was made evident when doctors saw Watson on Jeopardy ranking top answers based on evidence and supporting hypotheses.  These data points can help form decisions.

Expertise matters more than ever before and with the amount of data coming online it is increasingly challenging for any one human in a field such as law to have mastery.  Cognitive computing enhances, accelerates and scales human expertise so that the attorney can wrap their head around the patterns and make intelligent decisions.  The attorney has to be especially aware of this as they are presented with much larger volumes of discovery data than ever conceived.

In a very unique example of Watson’s prowess, it digested all of Bon Appetite’s recipes.  The system was trained in underlining chemical combinations thus bringing never tried together favors with very different blends.  It connected the dots on things never created and spit out several recipes.  The food was launched in a food truck at the festival South By Southwest (SXSW).  The truck produced the biggest buzz with lines extending three blocks.  Chef Watson’s cookbook of 100 recipes is coming out in the coming months.

Ultimately what Watson is doing is exploring the whitespace, attempting to connect the dots into what has not been found.  As we are inundated by data, cognitive computing will help experts sift through the data and retain their expertise.  It is clear that this is the future of many industries including the legal sphere.  Watson is in beta trials for medical and life sciences, law enforcement, financial services and legal.

 

Law Firm Innovation: Do or Die

By Joseph Raczynski

The last five years have seen significant change in the legal marketplace.  According to this panel, delivering services to clients is chief among the transformations.  At this ILTA session, Ron Friedmann of Fireman & Company, Scott Rechtschaffen at  Littler Mendelson, P.C., and Andrew Perlman from Suffolk University Law School discussed “The Legal Industry Inflection Point: The Time for Innovation is Now!“.

In the first pass at uncovering how firms can adjust Scott Rechtschaffen mentioned it must start with preparing law students.  He went on to state that, “The technology and process lawyers use to deliver legal services to their clients must inevitably change”.  These were his three tenents:

–              Clients will no longer accept annual rate increases from outside counsel

–              Clients continue to prefer to bring more work in-house

–              Clients will look for alternatives to outside counsel for routine and repetitive tasks

In essence no client is going to pay top dollar for lower associates anymore.  They would rather hire their own attorney and teach them the basics for the more mundane routine tasks.

In one of the more interesting anecdote’s Scott Rechtschaffen at Littler Mendelson described a firm leadership meeting he ran with 450 shareholders in attendance.  He asked the following of his audience.  Would you bank with a firm that did not have online account access?  Would you buy tickets from StubHub if they did not disclose the location of your concert tickets?  Would you book a flight with an airline that did not display your seat location?  To each question it was a unanimous, “no”.  So he asked, “Then why are your clients denied that level of basic access?”  He mentioned that story resonated with everyone in the room.  Their firm began a rapid movement and adoption of innovation from that point onward.

From the scholastic perspective, Andrew Perlman from Suffolk University Law School stated “Traditionally Law Schools have done a dreadful job for their students.”  As he leads innovation for the institution, they have a new focus for their students.   The concept is for people to skate to where the puck is going, not where it currently is located.

This is a very unique take on reinventing law school.  This is the class list for Suffolk’s Legal Technology/Innovation Concentration:

–              Legal Project Management (LPM)

–              Lawyering in the Age of Smart Phones

–              21st Century Legal Profession

–              eDiscovery

–              Externships with a New Generation of Employers (think eDiscovery processors, KM companies)

–              Legal Tech Audit: Law School Edition

Some of the final thoughts from the panel echoing concepts from above were:

–              There will be a major LegalZoom type company which will serve large swathes of the public with quality legal documents

–              The biggest area to be disrupted at firms is with associates.  Currently they primarily focus on rudimentary tasks.  The twist is they will need to train the associates to be partners, i.e. sell, understand pricing structures; while others do eDiscovery, brief writing, or document review.  They will find their niche early and stick with it.

Lastly the panel summed up the entire conversation with the following quote, “Law Firm Innovation: If you don’t cannibalize your business someone else will.  Constant innovation is now paramount.”

 

On the Edge of Law Firm Technology

By Joseph Raczynski

Over the previous three years at ILTA, one of the most popular sessions has been “What’s That? New and Cool Technologies”.  This year was no different.  A capacity crowd of legal technologists listened to the witty foursome of Jeffrey Brandt of PinHawk LLC, Mark Manoukian of Kegler, Brown, Hill & Ritter, Beau Mersereau of Fish & Richardson P.C., and Ben Weinberger with Phoenix Business Solutions.  The cast injected levity into their dialog about predictions of where technology is headed.

They focused on several areas: Windows 8, Wearable Technology, Enterprise Content Management (ECM), Digital Currencies, and The Internet of Things (IoT).

Windows 8:

The panel mentioned that Windows 8 is lightning fast.  The difference between Windows 8 and 8.1 is that in the latter, a start button was added which is key for most users.  Previously people had to hunt out where to begin and it was less intuitive.  The other key takeaway, many firms have not implemented Windows 8 for a singular reason, many vendors do not support IE11 which comes standard on the OS.

Wearable Technology:

The group cited many examples of how wearable technology will start creeping into law firms.  Ben Weinberger stated that “The NFC ring could be used to unlock doors, mobile phones, transfer information and link people.”  This could be a nonintrusive way to acclimate users to this sort of technology.  It is easy and subtle.  Others weighed in with current examples.  Disney World uses Magic Bands worn by park goers.  They are easily able to tap down for food, gift shop purchases, and unlocking their hotel room door.  The goal with wearable said Jeffrey Brandt, is that the form will be small and help establish convergence.

Enterprise Content Management (ECM):

In a statement that seemed to shock the audience, several panelists stated that they thought law firms were on the cutting edge of ECM.  Where firms are typically more conservative to adopt new technology, this is an area firms have a precise focus on organizing data into scalable structural components.

Digital Currencies:

The panel was definitely split on this topic.  Some saw the true value of having an unregulated currency while others bluntly said this was a disaster without government control.  Bitcoin dominated the discussion as the crypto-currency of choice, but Mark Manoukian mentioned a new coin called Ripples which has the endorsement of MIT.  Ultimately the panel suggested that some sort of regulation would be important for true adoption.

Internet of Things (IoT):

The Internet of Things is very popular these days.  It is essentially applying an IP address to almost everything, e.g. each light at your home, doors, and appliances.  The panel saw a great deal of opportunity here and mentioned law firm books as a great way to incorporate this type of technology.  They spoke about placing RFID chips in books to keep track of inventories.

The fast paced discussion covered a wonderful array of topics that may have a major impact on the law firm of the future.  The wearable technology discussion specifically referring to the NFC ring, seemed to strike a chord with most as something very plausible in the near future.  Lastly, it does appear that ECM will continue to evolve within the firm to become more seamless and search dynamic.

 

Should Law Firms Build Apps?

By Joseph Raczynski

On the first day of ILTA’s 2014 convention I attended a rather fascinating session.   The title was “To App or Not To App?” and focused around if it makes sense for a law firm to produce their own Apps.  The following questions were posed: Do law firm apps really do the useful things they are intended?  Do clients use them?  Is now the time to get your firm on board with creating an app, and are they worth the investment?  We entered into a discussion with three firms and how they got from the drawing board to release and lessons they learned along the way.

The panel addressed these questions by talking about three different apps they had each built.

  • Mark McCreary of Fox Rothschild LLP led the discussion on an App that they built at the firm called Data Breach 411. It is an App that “Privacy and Data Practice attorneys created to inform businesses of these state laws so they can better understand their rights, obligations and potential liability.”
  • Marika DaPron of Bracewell & Giuliani LLP discussed The ShalePlay App, which is a comprehensive resource on news and information related to shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, including the latest industry trends and updates.
  • Elyse Lazaruk of Latham & Watkins LLP discussed The Book of Jargon which was a firm written book that they turned into an App. It covers corporate and bank finance slang and terminology.

The major thrust of this session was these three apps were extremely beneficial to the firm.  They cited several reasons for the success.  The number one reason to build an App was the exposure reaped from its creation.  The App simply demonstrated significant expertise by the firm in a specialty area.  They were able to leverage this with potential clients.  In addition, the firms saw a great deal of press from the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Legal Week and The American Lawyer.

Some of the major challenges that the firm’s faced with building the Apps were limited resources, having teams of attorneys collaborate with developers, and watching costs.

When asked by an attendee if the firm would consider building more Apps, the panel universally said “Absolutely!”  Based on this session and while we are in a more competitive legal landscape, it would seem to behoove firms which wish to distinguish themselves to delve into the possibility of creating their own App within their area of expertise.

Unlocking the Power of the Cloud

By Joseph Raczynski

Pressures are increasing for legal IT professionals to increase productivity and reduce costs.  Couple that with the demand for anytime and anywhere access to law firm data and the result is a multi-front push for cloud based solutions.  At the forefront of this struggle are core functions of a firm like content management, collaboration, search, eDiscovery and records management.  At ILTA 2014 HP Autonomy explored with a holistic approach the fundamental factors for unlocking the power of the Cloud.

The three primary factors that drive Cloud have a genesis with the new portrait of today’s attorney.  Neil Araujo of HP mentioned that fully 50% of practicing attorneys in middle to large law firms are 35 years of age and younger currently.  That ushers in a new attorney mindset bent on technology.  These individuals are mobile and connected; and so the panel identified “The New Attorney” as the first driver for Cloud adoption.  The second factor illustrated dealt with “The New Economy”.  Cloud can assist with finding new ways to deliver efficiency and cost savings.  The last factor mentioned was “The New Client”.  Clients are now expecting more for less and desire data in more rapid, easy, and secure platform.

Shawn Misquitta of HP Autonomy cited several major product bets across the industry going forward.   Shawn said, “A consistent, intuitive user experience is of the utmost importance.”  This will lead to clean, clear user interfaces that will display and function well on any device.  The Cloud will be a Hybrid Cloud consisting of both On-Prem and Private Cloud.  This delivers a secure accessible platform that allows for firm governance of data and processes more easily.

Ultimately the panel stated that while there is no simple Cloud solution, there is no question Cloud is here to stay.  The economies of scale, flexibility, scalability, and mobility all make it a rich solution, provided it is implemented and planned carefully.

Google Glass – Thoughts on Glass: Privacy, Security and Its Future

By Joseph Raczynski

This is part two in a series of video’s surrounding Google Glass. This is the Privacy, Security and future of Google Glass. In this video we get to see the complete Google Glass. Take a look at the Google Glass Explorer program.

Glass Series Includes:

1) Glass Unboxing

2) Thoughts on Glass: Privacy, Security and Its Future

3) Usability Demo

4) Law Firms and Glass

5) Full Demo

 

Google Glass – GPS Navigation

By Joseph Raczynski

This is part five in a series of video’s surrounding Google Glass. This is the GPS Navigation demo of Google Glass. In this video we get to see the complete navigation of Google Glass. Take a look at the Google Glass Explorer program.

Glass Series Includes:
1) Glass Unboxing
2) Thoughts on Glass: Privacy, Security and Its Future
3) GPS Navigation
4) Law Firms and Glass

5) Full Demo

Google Glass – Full Demo

By Joseph Raczynski

This is part five in a series of video’s surrounding Google Glass. This is the full demo of Google Glass. In this video we get to see the complete Google Glass. Take a look at the Google Glass Explorer program.

Glass Series Includes:

1) Glass Unboxing

2) Thoughts on Glass: Privacy, Security and Its Future

3) Usability Demo

4) Law Firms and Glass

5) Full Demo

Google Glass – Unboxing

By Joseph Raczynski

This is part one in a series of video’s surrounding Google Glass. This is the unboxing of Google Glass. In this video we get to see how Glass is packaged and what comes with the device. Take a look at the Google Glass Explorer program.

Glass Series Includes:

1) Glass Unboxing

2) Thoughts on Glass: Privacy, Security and Its Future

3) Usability Demo

4) Law Firms and Glass

5) Full Demo