Litigation Radio: Ten Tips for Building a Scalable and Sustainable Law Practice

Podcast Host: Dave Scriven-Young

The legal industry is constantly changing—client expectations have evolved, law firms are running remotely, and the use of legal technology has increased. So how can litigators keep up and continue to grow and improve their practice? In this episode of Litigation Radio, top legal experts discuss ideas and technology to help build a more scalable and sustainable law practice.

Joining this episode are:

  • Don Bivens (Chair, ABA Center for Innovation)
  • Kimberly Bennett (Lawyer, Strategist, and Tech Co-Founder for Social Impact Entrepreneurs)
  • Joseph Raczynski (Global Leader in Leveraging Emerging Technologies)
  • Joseph Gartner (Director, ABA Center for Innovation)

Discussed in this episode:

  • New AI-powered legal writing tools
  • Scheduling software for lawyers
  • Legal chatbots
  • Law firm sales customer relationship management
    (CRM)
  • Lawyer payment methods your clients want
  • Client portals and experience platforms for law
    firms

Buying the Constitution: The rise of DAOs in legal

Originally published on Thomson Reuters Institute on November 18, 2021.

Could Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) become the model for future business structures and transform the legal industry in the process?

Update: After this blog post was published, the ConstitutionDAO fell short in its bid to buy a rare copy of the US Constitution in an auction held by Sotheby’s. The crypto-consortium was edged out by another buyer with a winning bid of $43.2 million, a record price for a printed text and twice the price that had been predicted for the document. This post has been updated to reflect this event.


With the dropping of Sotheby’s hammer late Thursday, ConstitutionDAO fell just short of its bid to purchase one of the last remaining copies of the United States Constitution. It is one of two remaining copies still owned by private hands of the 13 in existence. Despite being beaten out at auction, this is a monumental moment in the recognition of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), which raises awareness of a system that will transform the legal industry.

A DAO is a blockchain structure (think of it as a safe database), that anyone can leverage to self-govern through participation, authored by rules, baked into code, and permitting voting through digital tokens (think cryptocurrency) — all while leveraging smart contracts. What does this mean? A DAO is a newer legal structure that humans (for now) are creating, which has a stated purpose and a plan to execute decisions via code. In this instance, the intended purpose is to win the Sotheby’s auction and retain a copy of the US Constitution. Also stipulated in the DAO is its governance — for example, where does the community want the document to be stored or displayed?

Had the ConstitutionDAO won the auction, these questions of governance would have been proposed, and the individuals who own these digital tokens in their wallets, could have then voted. Indeed, individuals now can create wallets to store tokens or cryptocurrency that not only allows them to own digital assets like cryptocurrency, digital art (NFTs), or land in the Metaverse, but also sign or vote on a topic that a DAO has offered. (They must own those specific DAO tokens in their wallet in order to vote.) These wallets are the future of identity, asset ownership, and your ability to prove something, vote, or sign agreements.

ConstitutionDAO started with the idea that the general population could own a copy of the Constitution. They gave themselves six days to raise the high end of the projected winning auction, $20 million; and at the time of this writing, 7,500 people had contributed to this DAO, at a sum of well over $40 million, blowing past the original goal. (Since ConstitutionDAO did not win the auction, all funds will be returned to those who donated them.)

DAOs
Day 1 of 6 for ConstitutionDAO

If anyone wishes to participate in a DAO, you first must purchase tokens, which typically gives voting rights that will allow the owner to guide what that organization does in conjunction with the rest of the community that also owns the tokens. We may also see DAOs using factional ownership of an asset — for example, a Picasso painting, London Bridge, or the Empire State Building. In this instance you have the ability to influence decisions, but you also have a partial ownership of the underlining asset as it appreciates or depreciates.

DAOs
Where it started (left), and where it went (right)

As I have written previously, DAOs may become the future of businesses or organizational structures not only in the Metaverse, but in the real world. At the Thomson Reuters Institute’s recent 2021 Emerging Legal Technology Forum, I sat on a panel discussing the evolution of blockchain and tossed out a prediction that a DAO will own a major sporting franchise within the next four years. My comment was received with a collective gasp in the room.

Imagine the ability for you and others to vote on which players the New York Giants pro football team acquires… yet, by owning tokens of the NYGiantsDAO or whatever it may come to be named, you in combination with others who own said tokens could vote to acquire the next greatest player or even possibly vote on who to bench in the next game. The implications are profound.

The sums of money that DAOs will raise likely will be staggering, such that they could overwhelm current ownership models with a flood of money from massive numbers of private individuals interested in participating. We have seen this with ConstitutionDAO now having raised more than $40 million and counting in just six days.

DAOs

Here is one simple example of a DAO translated into real life. Think about the interaction you have with a vending machine. In essence, it is a legal contract that you are entering. You approach the machine in your breakroom, and it takes your money via credit card. You choose your candy bar, and the machine dispenses the snack. As a DAO, it uses that money to re-order more Snickers bars, when it knows that that row is nearly empty. It can also order cleaning services and pay the rent all by itself. As you put money into that machine, you and its other users have a say in which snacks it will order and how often it should be cleaned. Ultimately, it has no managers, and all of those processes were pre-written into its code.

Most initial DAOs will have a board or controlling entity, of course, but they will use code and voting rights-governing models to establish equitable means of responsibility and decision-making. However, ultimately it is a system whereby the code could be fully autonomous, meaning a business could be established and run nearly or completely autonomously.

In the Decentralized Finance (DeFi) space, many of the exchanges are code-based executions of asset swapping or purchases of assets like cryptocurrency or synthetic assets that mirror stocks. These organizations are increasingly DAO-centric and will eventually not have much human intervention, because much of its operations should be programmed into the organizational structure, only needing tweaks of code voted on by the DAO members.

DAOs are the future of organizations. They will create an amazing world of possibilities, but simultaneously disrupt many structures we currently have in place now. On the legal side, there is incredible opportunity for lawyers in both transactional practice areas as well as the eventual litigation side of the business. When regulation comes, it will be fascinating to watch how we embrace and adapt to this decentralized model with our current lens.

Podcast: The Hearing – Houman Shadab, Professor of Law NYLS

From the producers… Bitcoin: bringing FOMO since 2013.

What would your scream sound like if you had dismissed Bitcoin as a joke in your law class in 2013 at $100 dollars – when it sits at $60,000 today? Joe’s guest this week is Houman Shadab, the Director of the Innovation Center for Law and Technology at New York Law School. He’s here to tell us how lawyers can navigate, benefit from and translate today’s new wave of rapid technological advances.

Houman talks us through the greenroom snacks at the US Capitol before he testified – what we really wanted to know. And, in a throwback to Mark Zuckerberg’s uncomfortable testimony before congress (“Sir, we run ads”), he tells Joe about his experience of sitting in front of the US government explaining the implications of various securities laws on hedge funds.

We’re a curious bunch at The Hearing, so we asked Houman to tell us what lawyers and legal students can do to better enable themselves for success. The answer seems to lie in no-code. Houman explains what the heck this is and why it matters to the legal ecosystem. So, get your notepad and digital wallet ready and press play!

Podcast:

Apple Podcasts https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ep-86-houman-shadab-new-york-law-school-icme/id1389813956?i=1000541095827

Spotifyhttps://open.spotify.com/episode/44txkHGm3JqLe3EKgewSCd

SoundCloud https://soundcloud.com/user-264672855/the-hearing-episode-86-houman-shadab-new-york-law-school-icme?si=1b56a97e30e5402397fb3bbca4c2b613

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): Asset ownership via blockchain rockets into legal

In a two-part series, we will look at Non-Fungible Tokens, explaining what they are and how they will impact numerous industries; and how decentralized finance (DeFi) is critical to understanding NFT’s importance within the legal industry.

Originally published on the Legal Executive Institute.

By Joseph Raczynski

Welcome to the early days of where blockchain goes mainstream, and the legal industry needs to take notice.

While Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have been around for several years — remember CryptoKitties or even the original NFT, called CryptoPunks? Even if you don’t, NFTs have officially exploded into popular culture, begging the question: So, what are they?

A Non-Fungible Token is a token stored on the blockchain, which itself is a secure distributed database with redundancy, immutability, and clarity into tracking data or ownership. A token proves ownership of an asset. For example, a deed to your house is a sign of ownership to that plot of land and building. In the case of the first digital token, Bitcoin, a single Bitcoin is the title of ownership to the underlying value of the Bitcoin.

The best part about a token on the blockchain is the ability to track ownership and therefore authenticity, undeniably proving ownership.

CryptoPunk #7129 Sold for $90,000 recently

Fungible refers to an asset that is easily exchangeable. In the classic example, a dollar is very fungible — you can hand a dollar to me in exchange for some gum, and I can then re-use that dollar for a can of soda. The physical dollar maybe different because I swapped with another in my wallet, but it is easily replaceable and exchangeable, so it is fungible.

Now, it gets interesting. A non-fungible token is a unique token that is not easily exchangeable or replaceable with another. With the mania that is occurring with NFTs, the best example is with art. Recently, Mike Winkelmann, known as @Beeple, a renowned artist who has worked with Nike and Apple, sold 20 pieces of his own work on the digital marketplace Nifty Gateway for a total of $3.5 million. And in the latest eye-opener, he sold a collection of many of his works combined into a masterpiece, titled EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS at Christie’s for $69 million. These transactions occurred on Ethereum, the primary blockchain platform of record for storing value, but Winkelmann’s art itself was simply digital images.

With the NFTs, we are proving that rare and scarce representation of things can create value, and that value can be captured on the blockchain. Let your imagination run wild for a moment: What this means is that nearly anything and everything that is represented digitally could also carry provable value.

Would you pay 2.5 million for ownership of Jack Dorsey’s first Tweet?

For example, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, is in the process of selling his first Tweet, the original Tweet of Twitter. It is, as of this writing, estimated at a value of $2.5 million and projected to go higher. Why might you ask? Well, it is feasible to collect royalties on that tweet once you own it; or, you could hopefully resell it in the future. Lastly — and again, I beg your imagination for this thought — in the not too distant future, with people living in virtual reality, these pieces of art will have a home inside those worlds, too. Other examples, the NBA has now gotten in on the action by leveraging NBA Top Shot, selling limited edition, finite numbers of virtual basketball cards, including a short clip of a LeBron James dunk, which recently sold for more than $200,000.

In the past, I discussed asset tokenization, which is the simple idea that nearly anything could be represented on the blockchain as having value. It this is now happening. This could be a painting, your car, a house, or even a Tweet. Essentially, if you have something original, that you can then prove is yours, that item can derive value.

Through the lens of the legal kaleidoscope, we are entering a complicated but colorful place, and there are an incredible number of areas this will touch. As technology push us to rethink what we know, NFTs shall do the same. In this nascent area, contemplation about the impact on both the practice and business of law will hit multiple fronts. Here are just a few:

  1. Intellectual property — NFTs carry a huge target on their virtual backs from the IP angle. At the heart of these tokens is uniqueness and ownership, and that means that eventually, litigation will follow.
  2. Trust & estates — Possession comes in the form of a digital wallet. Access to the private and public keys will need to be accounted for and administered for these sorts of new assets.
  3. Anti-money laundering — One worry, at the moment, is that the buying and selling of these digital assets could be a way to disguise or launder dirty money. Although the underlining technology of the blockchain is leveraged, a general misunderstanding of its complexity makes it a temporary safe haven for the scofflaw.
  4. Tax & accounting — Millions of dollars are being transferred, soon to be billions; and those in the tax & accounting field will need to better understand this space to assist their clients. How are sales treated? What does appreciation impact? And how can we account for the transactions?

NTFs are likely here to stay. They will continue to evolve, however, representing nearly every assets class going forward. Law firms, corporations, tax & accounting firms, and government agencies will need to pay attention to this space in order to account for how this new technology impacts their individual [digital] pictures of the law.

Podcast: The Hearing – Karim Sabbidine – Associate at Thompson Hine

From the producer: On The Hearing, we’ve talked to people at the top of their game about their experiences of lockdown. We’ve gained advice from experts on how businesses can best weather these unprecedented times. And this week Joe chats to Karim Sabbidine, an associate at Thompson Hine, about what COVID-19 means when you’re at the legal coalface.

Pre-pandemic, life as a New York litigator was a heady mix of high pressure and excitement – tiring yet fun. But for Karim it quickly transitioned to being cramped in a small apartment with two equally busy flatmates, while trying to navigate a virtual trial.

Karim has an international and multicultural background, and has an enviable résumé of on-the-job training. He talks to Joe about the realities of being a litigator, the benefits of writing every day, and why it’s important to always dress the part.

Apple:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-70-karim-sabbidine-thompson-hine/id1389813956?i=1000506479119

Google: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9wb3J0YWwtYXBpLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20veG1sL3RoZS1oZWFyaW5n/episode/aHR0cDovL2F1ZGlvLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20vcmVwb3NpdG9yeS9hdWRpby9lcGlzb2Rlcy9FcDcwX0thcmltX1NhYmJpZGluZV9taXhkb3duLTE2MTEzMzQwNTk5NzIyOTcyMjktTXpFNE56UXROekk1TURjek1UYz0ubXAz?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwiI15PG4LzuAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAg

Podcast: The Hearing – Doug Pepe – Partner – Joseph Hage Aaronson LLC

From the producer: You may have watched as Mark Zuckerberg explained the internet to Congress in a way that felt a bit unnecessary. Well, this episode is sort of the opposite of that. Joe Raczynski is joined by legal and mathematical macroeconomics genius Doug Pepe, to take us through blockchain, tokens and cryptocurrency in a way that’s genuinely enlightening.

The legal industry is sometimes accused of not keeping up, but we know that’s not true. Lawyers are occupying this space now. Their clients are very active and they have a crucial role to play in the serious policy issues being debated.

Doug, a partner at Joseph Hage Aaronson, started his blockchain journey by building gaming computers with his young children, and then teaching them how to mine bitcoin. Fast forward and Doug is now an expert on blockchain privacy, smart contracts and digital identity.

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-68-doug-pepe-jha/id1389813956?i=1000503066806

Google/Android: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9wb3J0YWwtYXBpLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20veG1sL3RoZS1oZWFyaW5n/episode/aHR0cDovL2F1ZGlvLnRoaXNpc2Rpc3RvcnRlZC5jb20vcmVwb3NpdG9yeS9hdWRpby9lcGlzb2Rlcy9FcDY4X0RvdWdfUGVwZV9taXhkb3duLTE2MDgzMDQxMDgzMzgzNDc3MDctTXpFMk9UVXROelF6TVRNME16WT0ubXAz?sa=X&ved=0CAUQkfYCahcKEwjo-ObCpN_tAhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAw

Find out more at tr.com/TheHearing

ILTA’s 2020 Annual Legal Technology Survey

It’s out! In a year unlike any of the 30 previous annual surveys, the 2020 International Legal Technology Association’s (ILTA’s) Annual Survey breaks down the technology transformation afoot resulting from the ongoing pandemic. With insightful data-driven industry trends, this year’s ILTA survey highlights the rapid pivots, swerves, and shifts happening in the legal technology marketplace.

All of us are intimately familiar with the chaos that impacted law firms, employees, clients, and the courts that followed the initial shutdowns in March. What has resulted is a robust renewed interest in tech tools that enable work to continue to flow and ultimately solve client needs. So, which trends floated to the top of legal tech?

Zooming to its zenith, the video conferencing tool Zoom made huge waves. It was the clear favorite for law firms that sought to bring internal and external people together immediately and without much ado. While Zoom struggled with capacity issues and some serious security concerns initially, those fears were allayed over time.

What will be fascinating, of course, is next year’s statistics. Zoom could be a bridge to the video conferencing world, where Microsoft is king. The interoperability suite that Microsoft provides would seem to indicate that Zoom has indeed hit their peak in the legal marketplace. Couple that with industry leaders creating a secure legal ecosystem with the courts that integrates video, calendaring, docketing, and case information all under a strict security blanket, and Zoom might have challenges in the legal marketplace going forward.

ILTA

Another trend brought up in the ILTA survey — one which is cited year after year but was accelerated in 2020 — was cloud adoption. If you have ever been in or seen a server room, you will know its brrrrr affect. Not only do they have a cacophonic hum of a dozen beehives, but they are more frigid than a Minneapolis January morning. If a firm can jettison a good percentage of that infrastructure in favor of an arguably more secure cloud environment, which doesn’t require thermals, it’s a win. To that end, cloud embracing extends to nearly every part of the business, including MS Office, email, VoIP (hosted phones), DMS, case management, eDiscovery, etc.

ILTA

Turning toward specifics of the work from home phenomenon and its impact on the survey, there are several interesting points to raise. Antidotally, I knew several firms that during the height of the pandemic still had their support staff in their office, while others adopted technology. One area of adoption that boomed was Remote Online Notarization (RON); and having recently used RON myself, I was thoroughly impressed. The hoops I jumped through to prove my identity was far greater than the in-person model. To that end, it seems many firms leapt through the rings as well with DocVerify and E-Notary leading the market. Fully 21% of law firms were using these tools, an impressive embrace of tech over in personal interaction.

Another tech tool getting a pandemic push was mobile. Steadily increasing over the years, people embraced their iPad and mobile device much more this year, unsurprisingly. With a broader push by content producers, application developers, and kids, the world is rapidly moving to mobile first. Meaning that at some point, the expectation will be that most work could or should be done via a mobile device.

The next iteration of this will be to jettison laptops and grab ahold of a plug to connect mobile devices to larger screens. Samsung is experimenting with this now via DEX. This could see your mobile device becoming your computer, one-in-the-same. Short of that, you see legal tech applications increasingly built and optimized for mobile devices. This trend will likely continue.

ILTA

Another interesting trend spotted this year was the drop of “security” from the top concerns cited by law firms. While security has long stood atop that list of concerns, it was replaced this year by two doggedly difficult ones: “Change: Users’ acceptance of change” followed by “Change: Managing expectations (users and management)”. That seems to boil down to communication, action plans, stakeholder buy-in, and disseminating information in order to get people on board. An easy task, right?

What does the future hold?

In the coming years, here are three areas that I might expect the ILTA survey to cover in greater detail:

Legal platforms — We are on the cusp of a major movement across the legal landscape in which thousands of legal startups and their well-established brethren have hit critical mass. How can these disparate apps and services be integrated along with appropriate data controls? The hope is to have these applications meet their users on an agnostic legal platform, open to all parties and integrated across both the business and practice of law.

Office impact — With people working remotely for the better part of 18 months, does it make sense to still have an office, and if so, how big? Do satellite offices come into vogue now, and, if so, how does that look technologically?

Virtual reality – What seemed laughable five years ago will be thrust into the spotlight soon. While little discussed, Apple will likely have a VR headset called “Apple Glass” in the next 12 to 18 months. As the bellwether of mobile technology, this will create new avenues to digest, interact with, and expand on legal applications. Imagine Zooming away through an Apple Glass headset and interacting with your avatar clients as if they were in the room, or leading a jury through a crime scene via 360-degree recorded video. This is right around the corner, and my expectation is that you will see this listed on an upcoming ILTA survey soon.

Clearly this has been a year of transformation. Faster than in any of the last few decades, we saw law firms confronted with an existential threat turning quickly toward technology. With this pivot, I would surmise that the future of technology is LED bright within the legal industry, and it will continue to become more invaluable.

ILTA-ON goes on: Biggest legal tech conference of the year presses onward

Originally published on the Legal Executive Institute.

By Joseph Raczynski

In a year like no other, the most prominent legal technology conference recently wrapped their weeklong virtual event as the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) morphed its annual ILTACON event into ILTA>ON.

After initially vacillating on a hybrid in-person and virtual event, before ILTA decided to go with a fully virtual event with more than 100 sessions and various virtual activities. According to the site, ILTA>ON (as it was known) had roughly 3,800 attendees and vendors compared to past years of around 5,000 — a very respectable haul given the circumstances.

As with the 12 other ILTA conferences in which I have partaken in the past, each day begins with a keynote speaker. One of the highlights from the daily keynotes was the first day presentation by Stephen Carver, a professor at Cranfield University in the U.K., titled Leadership Under Stress: Exploring Project Failure at NASA, which dissected the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster.

ILTA

Prof. Carver’s talk explored NASA’s failures in planning, procurement, leadership, and change management with the intent to help attendees apply the learning to law firm technology projects. “It’s all about a really small bunch of people not communicating and not learning from their mistakes,” Carver said, adding that sometimes from failure, you have to reimage the entire organization.

Another keynote highlight was provided by Jia Jiang, CEO and founder of Rejection Therapy, a social self-help game, who regaled participants with story after story of his own self-induced humiliation tests — done as experiments in 2012 — to overcome his own fear of rejection. His goal? To be rejected every day for 100 days.

Embarrassing examples included asking strangers on the street for $100 to see their reaction, requesting Krispy Kreme create him donuts in the shape and color of the Olympic rings, and asking a pilot at a rural airport if he could fly his plane, even though Jiang had no flying experience. His underlining theme — fear of rejection can hold you back. It is our natural tendency is to avoid rejection at all costs, which can be detrimental to our businesses, careers, and lives, he said. His goal was to teach the importance of becoming rejection-proof, the basic principles of turning a No into Yes, as well as how to get more Yes answers.

Lastly, another keynote speaker, Richard Punt, who leads legal strategy and market development at Thomson Reuters, offered his insights in a talk titled, After the Quake: Predictions for an Uncertain Legal Futurewhere he took the audience beyond the here and now to see what the future of the legal industry might look like.

Making a virtual event work

The monumental efforts of the ILTA community of volunteers fostered as close to an in-person event as possible. The numerous educational sessions were available via Zoom and ran the gamut from leadership, business development, company track updates, data science, knowledge management, legal services, legal operations, marketing, and finally finishing on the future of the legal tech space.

Intelligently sprinkled among sessions were activities and events facilitated in a networking fashion, with the Watercooler and Hallway as places to meet informally. People could simply jump into the Watercooler and connect with small groups, or one-on-ones via video. Often after a specific session, people were encouraged to meet with the speakers in the watercooler room. This compares to the often bum-rushing of speakers that occurs at typical live ILTACONs, post-session. Other events included wine tastings and comedy events.

Overall, the level of engagement and content delivered at ILTA>ON was impressive. Another highlight included a session that walked participants through how law firms can create workflow apps using a combination of web services and data to build a process on Microsoft Power Automate. In their example, participants learned how they could build a COVID-19 check-in app for firm employees. Another great set of sessions was on data science, unpacking internal data at firms and how it can be leveraged.

Finally, I had the privilege of being selected to report on how ILTA did on their Law Firm 2020 Predictions that were made seven years ago. With a Back to the Future movie theme in the background, I reviewed past predictions to see what came true and what industry sages got wrong with legal technology between 2013 and today. I also peered into the abyss of legal tech’s future over the next five years, before taking a 1.21 gigawatts ride and shooting into that future, focusing on technology in 2030, 2040, and into the Singularity.

It was a Great Scott! moment indeed.

LegalTech Report Card and Predictions 2020 to 2060 – ILTA Conference 2020

I had the privilege of being selected to report on how ILTA (International Legal Technology Association) did on their predictions from 2013 up to today, during their 2020 ILTA-ON Conference. Even more fun, predicting what technology and LegalTech will look like from 2020-2025, and then going out to 2060.

Remember back when we had ‘Law Firm 2020 predictions’? In the first part of my ILTA-ON presentation, we will go ‘Back to the Future’ reviewing past predictions to see what came true and what we got wrong. Then, we will blast into a journey of what LegalTech looks like in the next five years. Lastly, for those who get motion sickness, grab your Dramamine, because we will take a 1.21 gigawatts ride, shooting into the future. We will predict what the technological and legal landscape will look like in 2030, 2040, and into the Singularity! Great Scott!

Part 1 – Jump Ahead (9:17): Grading the Law Firm 2020 report from 2013: https://youtu.be/UgyDyBSJ3AA?t=558

Part 2 – Jump Ahead (22:55) Predictions for 2020-2025: https://youtu.be/UgyDyBSJ3AA?t=1377

Part 3 – Jump Ahead (40:17) Technology Predictions 2030, 2040, 2050, and 2060: https://youtu.be/UgyDyBSJ3AA?t=2419

Part 2: APIs: The cardiovascular system of the legal platform

Originally published on the Legal Executive Institute.

By Joseph Raczynski

Previously, we discussed how platforms create an ecosystem or environment that allow people and businesses to interact and accomplish tasks and ultimately create a network that can connect and benefit the entire community.

Within this environment, of course, interoperability flourishes – pushing early adopters and innovators to think boldly about workflow and connectivity. How can connecting various applications help attorneys do their job better?

One core component enabling a successful platform to help lawyers be more efficient is the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). These API services allow applications to call upon another computer server to retrieve information. For example, if you check the temperature on your phone and it instantly tells you, then what likely occurred is that your phone’s weather app, working on the phone’s platform or operating system, made a request called a post that asked for the temperature, then listened for a response called the get. Your phone then received this get — some small snippets of computer code in a format that the app could understand — and then displayed it on your phone.

How an API works: The App searches via a “post” and receives a “get” in the form of data from a remote server to display

Increasingly, we are seeing the legal community open large repositories of data so that applications on the platform can interact with it. The legal industry has know-how products that utilize APIs for both the search of that remote content as well as ingesting content into a firm repository. The latter, a data API, permits the legal know-how to be searchable using metadata or full text search.

In this way, a firm could leverage their universal search inside the firm to find answers from said remote data as well as their own internal repositories of information with APIs facilitating efficiency across the platform. Apps can connect with other apps and pass on information and usher in the ability for developers to build possibilities left only up to the imagination. No longer is software or data siloed, where people must swivel chair back-and-forth as the only path to solve problems and get answers.

Law firms can incorporate APIs into a platform that creates near infinite possibilities for more efficiency, access to data, and collaboration. For example, imagine that a law firm hopes to win a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) as its client. In this instance, the REIT owns and manages a collection of 100 office buildings around the US and the UK.

Promoting efficiencies in workflow

By using APIs throughout this process, we can see how the law firm can create efficiencies focusing on workflow and transactions. Let’s see how this process would work and how many APIs the law firms must employ.

First, the firm’s new client initiation begins in the legal platform through an automated form that is linked to multiple APIs so that each process can talk to the other. Each potential client will need a conflicts check, done as a Legal Entity Identifier Service (that’s one API), which affirms the proper and standardized name of the REIT is used. Simultaneously, the firm may want to run an automated docket scan (the second API) for any recent litigation the client has been involved in; thus, producing a risk score as well as creating possible business for the firm’s litigation practice. If legal action is necessary, after the conflicts check, the firm can send all filings electronically to a court via another API (that’s three).

Each one of these steps may trigger alerts to support staff or lawyers, adding tasks to their caseload and resulting in the use of yet another API on the Legal Case Management side (API #4). Additionally, a legal project manager or partner can see a dashboard view of hours spent, tasks completed, and gates remaining, as each task or portion of a task moves through its stages (API #5).

Once the firm confirms the client, the firm’s next step is to review all 1,500 leases the REIT has with its tenants. The firm would bulk load these leases to its cloud-based repository so it could then tap into a hypothetically huge number of APIs to review or analyze. First, the firm’s review would focus on contract anomalies that could put the REIT at risk; then, the firm would apply a Contract Review API to the 1,500 documents which automagically looks for specific words or phrases with a set of predetermined flags for concern (API #6).

From there, the system would automatically send relevant documents to attorneys to review using a document review tool for analysis (API #7). Noting that real estate laws or tax codes change frequently in both the US and UK, additional alerting and vetting tools could analyze the language in the contracts citing new or changed regulations and flag those documents for review (API #8). Another process could identify contracts with end-of-lease terms that could trigger a reminder for lease-renewal to tenants. Updating terms, the documents would be sent to tenants, requesting their digital signature via another API (and that’s #9). As you see in this simple example, nine APIs were utilized for a single client on-boarding.

The next iterative and logical shift within legal tech is now surfacing. The legal platform, an outgrowth of a burgeoning tech infusion from start-ups around the globe, is being built. At the same time, clients are pushing for legal automation, which can be an innate part of a platform. Indeed, automation baked into a platform, enable by connectivity, and buoyed by APIs, is a potent mixture.

The interoperability of applications and data, bolstered by the ability for these platforms to operate on a containerized security mechanism, is paramount going forward. Underpinning all of this, of course, is the user experience. Will the platform enable users — lawyers, paralegals, firm administers, and technologists — to have an easy intuitive experience? Further, can those users interact with applications with ease, just like consumers experience on the Apple App Store or Google Play?

The promise is there, and the stars, they are finally aligning.

A legal tech boom, automation explosion, and a desire for interoperability & security pushes the legal platform forward