ILTACON 2016: Re-Imagining Legal Technology for the 21st Century

By Joseph Raczynski

“The story of disruption was just the first act of 21st century business, now begins the tale of total transformation.”

— Mike Walsh

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — So reverberated the words of Mike Walsh a Futurist/CEO of Tomorrow, across an audience of more than 3,000 legal professionals at ILTACON 2016, a four-day conference that centers on the intersection of technology and the legal industry.

Walsh gave the keynote on the opening day of the annual conference, and the lens he cast enlightened the onlookers to a futuristic view of our current world. He then bridged that technological vision to the 21st Century Legal realm and focused on several thought provoking questions.

Can you think like an 8-year-old?

The key to transformation is to be ahead of it. Through the optics of an eight-year-old we can view the direction that technology is shifting. They embrace mobile — why? Because parents have pacified their kids for years with iPads and mobile phones. Their learnings began on those platforms which became almost intuitive to them and will now dictate our future.

When will we be a truly data-driven world?

Now! The biggest social shifts are shaped by the data-driven world. Disney World offers the most advanced of data collection and use. Their MagicBands are linked to a credit card and function as a park entry pass as well as a room key. They know who you are, where you are, and increasingly know what you want — predictively. Food can be delivered to you without you ever specifying a location. All of this is using data and machine learning to better understand consumer, and thus human behavior.

disney

WeChat, an app primarily used in China, was also offered as a good example of where we are going. With this app, people in China can play games, pay for things and buy insurance — the whole time interacting with a bot that is constantly gathering data and learning. This is what we will begin to see in all businesses in the near future.

In preparation for his transition into a discussion around legal, Walsh offered another thought. The children of today will be the first generation to be raised partly by artificial intelligence (AI). If you think about the platforms that are prevalent now, kids are interacting with them increasingly — Alexa, Google and Siri. Law firms have to start thinking about how these eventual employees will work and interact with each other both inside and outside of the firm.

How will a 21st century law firm differ from a 20th century firm?

The world is now global. The largest corporations and law firms have back office and operations support overseas. As an example, Walsh talked about something he saw in India which illustrated where we are headed. An AI machine (physical computer) is situated alongside other staff in a cubical at an office center in India. It is fully embraced and accepted as a highly efficient employee — and continues to improve rapidly with its own productivity.

Speaking of actual human employees, recruiting people will transform, Walsh noted. The next generation of hiring future lawyers, and collaborating with clients should focus on rethinking how we hire. Offer a prospect a clean sheet of paper and ask them to come up with a solution to a problem. Another idea, after a month on the job, ask what processes the newbie might change based on what they are seeing.

int-about-mike

What kind of mental software are you new hires running?

Going forward, the operating system of a 21st century lawyer is as much about the culture as it is about the code. All firms will have to be agile, and firms will have to hire people that think that way. Everything around our traditional culture and space is changing. People will increasingly be working from other locations, so this concept has to be reimagined. Walsh’s suggestion was to think about the person you are hiring — are they energized by solving problems? Additionally, environments have to be reconsidered. How do you design an office for people that do not need one?

Lastly, are you leveraging all of your data?

Law firms are rife with all sorts of data. One question that Walsh suggested was worth posing is how are firms using that data? Increased productivity can be gained by applying analytics to the whole.

In closing, Walsh pleaded for the legal space to adjust their mindsets, how we see and use data, which people are hired, and what technological processes are in place. We need to think like an eight-year-old to see how the world will change and adapt now, he explained.

The data inside law firms has to be better leveraged and analyzed with new tools. When hiring, do so by unearthing agile people and creating more social workspaces. One of the best ways to do that is by rethinking your communities, picking some high-profile projects and challenging those new teams to experiment.

In conclusion, Walsh noted: “When preparing for this new future, embrace that the future means challenging everything we know to be true.”

ILTACON – “Watson, I Need You!” Augmented Intelligence for Legal

By Joseph Raczynski

If you were to imagine the researching aspect of a law firm of the future, what would that look like? Kyla Moran from the IBM Watson Group led a discussion down the path of what we could expect. In what seemed like a shock to many in the room, Moran described an office similar to today, with one difference: Watson will work in tandem with lawyers, listening to queries and providing natural language feedback with an enhanced ability to understand the tone of the question or conversation. Moran termed this augmented knowledge or intelligence, noting this service will be your personal savant, ever-ready to assist with a wealth of knowledge.

What started as a million dollar investment, IBM Watson now has the ability to process 700 million pages of data in one second. As the system continues to develop, it is likely that in the future many, if not all decisions, will be influenced by cognitive computing.

Moran also spoke about the pivotal moment that shifted the cognitive computing industry. The game show Jeopardy thrust IBM onto center stage with the computer beating the best two players of all time. Moran said that the company learned some valuable lessons from that experience. First was the importance of memory. Watson had a treasure trove of information and metadata, but new in this sphere was the ability to enhance and understand contextual information. Watson could interpret Jeopardy’s tricky language like, “Chicks Can Dig Me,” a category about female archaeologist on the show. Lastly, Watson could see more than black or white, but rather an array of a thousand shades of gray. This important nuance allows the system to rank possible answers rather than a single answer. Ultimately these learnings have allowed augmented intelligence to now aid in human decision making.

While Watson has made much hay outside of legal market, medical, financial and now cooking; where does Moran see it helping law firms?

Moran said that one-third of an associate’s time is typically spent on research with 52 percent of associates conducting a free web search as the first step in their research process. She insinuated that this is one huge area that she expects augmented intelligence assisting. She also mentioned that this will accelerate the vacuums of law where 80 percent of Americans who need legal services are unable to acquire or afford it, while large numbers of lawyers are unable to find clients. This mixture is primed for the use of augmented intelligence to assist.

While the current state of legal adoption of IBM Watson is relatively low, there is no question that such technologies are set to explode over the coming years. With the rapid expansion of both structured and unstructured data, these tools will have to be utilized to better understand the enormous data surrounding legal professionals.

Exponential Growth—The Data Explosion and Resulting Challenges and Opportunities for Law Firms, Part 2

By Joseph Raczynski

Over the course of the next several years I predict that many law firms will begin hiring data scientist. In my previous post Exponential Growth – The Data Explosion and Resulting Challenges and Opportunities for Law Firms, Part 1 I discussed how our current data explosion threatens experts at law firms but could yield vast opportunities. Recently Robin Grosset, Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect at IBM Watson Analytics, described the importance of having a data scientist in your business. Underlining this point, he stated that in the United States there will be three-times the positions available in this field than can be filled.

How firms turn the big data challenge into opportunity

Why should law firms invest in a data scientist? Firms sit atop of massive quantities of very important specialized and typically siloed data. Grosset mentioned that a recent Mckinsey & Company report showed a firm could increase its operating margins by 60% by using the data they have currently. With the exponential growth of data, law firms will need to decipher it into understandable bits so they can make actionable decisions and find opportunity.

How could this be accomplished? In the past we know that eDiscovery practices utilized computer learning and analytics to create efficiency for large cases. As law firms continue to utilize flat fees as they seek out business, they will increasingly need to take advantage of analytics-based tools with a layer of human interaction. The human interaction is a piece that allows you, the expert, to ask simple or insightful questions for which the tool will serve up answers. Those intuitive results rest upon the underlining data which can be drilled into for greater understanding. The core piece to this human-level interaction is Semantic Analysis. In essence it adds meaning to data. That is, it creates data clues like data type, patterns, range density, sample values, and correlations. You essentially have a massive set of rules that are bundled together and sift through the data, eventually learning on its own and creating new interpretations of what lies within the data.

Why would a law firm use this? Business development, client retention, analysis of lawyer productivity, assessing resource allocation and a myriad of other untapped areas will be explored using a data scientist. With the ability to process massive quantities of information and find the white space, real opportunity will be found by those that go down this road. In fact, the analysis that IBM Watson puts forth states that most firms estimate that they only analyze 12% of their data currently and that 88% is left on the on the dark-grained, bamboo-laden law firm floor.

Ultimately, the exponential growth of data is currently creating challenges for some law firms. What will be fascinating over the years ahead is who will seize on this evolving opportunity and how will they approach it.

Exponential Growth – The Data Explosion and Resulting Challenges and Opportunities for Law Firms, Part 1

By Joseph Raczynski

We are currently living in the hockey stick portion of explosive data growth. That is, 90% of data humans amassed has been collected during the past two years. According to IBM Watson, this is gathering speed exponentially such that 2.5 billion gigabytes of new data is generated every day and the majority of this is unstructured. Simply stated, the numbers are massive and the data is not organized—and this impacts all businesses, but increasingly is a challenge to law firms.

True expertise is fading without computer learning tools

Recently I had the opportunity to watch Robin Grosset, Distinguished Engineer and Lead Architect at IBM Watson Analytics steer an entertaining and provocative discuss around data analytics. His focus was on how big data can impact expertise and how cognitive analysis or computer learning can meet this massive data challenge and build abundant opportunity.

True human expertise is at a crossroads. No one person can possibly absorb the vast quantity of data that is being produced in various disciplines. Traditionally in the eDiscovery space, firms hired first-years out of law school to review and classify thousands of documents for a case. Now, in many instances, data has ballooned well beyond what a team of attorneys can handle. Expertise is lost among the data. Audio, video, pictures, database information and social media are increasingly in profusion around cases to be analyzed. The ability to be an expert with a complete understanding of a case is nearly impossible now without the proper tools.

The solution to this dilemma of data and expertise is to wrap instruments that interpret and understand this data around the information. With cognitive computing it begins by dealing with the volume, variety and velocity of the data. Once that is understood, the real key is adding a human intuitive interface on top of that massive data-crunching, cloud-processing power. This aspect is the edge of where this field is headed currently. It then allows an expert to unearth the data through analytics and their own analysis. Firms can then sort through the mountain of information to understand and interpret trends and more importantly find white space. Now the expert can reclaim their seat, and from this challenge start to seek out opportunities for their firm.

In the next part of this series I will focus on how law firms can turn the big data challenge into opportunity.

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.