Welcome to your Law Tech briefing for Jun 23, 2023, covering what happened in legal tech recently.
A huge thanks to the readers/listeners in Mozambique 🇲🇿 - Law Tech Daily reached #3 on Apple Podcast chart in the Technology category.
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Have less than a 1 min? Three takeaways from yesterday
1. AI-powered tools (such as Visalaw and Henchman mentioned in the briefing today) can aid legal knowledge workers in research, contract review, and risk assessment, but their use should be complemented by traditional legal research tools. Understand where and how AI should be used, and ensure there is a process to fact-check the work.
2. The pandemic has challenged traditional beliefs about physical proximity in law offices, leading to an adaptation of workplaces that encourage personal strategies and solutions. Law firms are also transitioning to cost-effective cloud-based solutions like "PDF-as-a-Service," which eliminates the need for traditional desktop applications.
3. Tracking KPIs like net promoter score can help legal teams assess their performance and make changes accordingly, leverage metrics and models proven to work in other verticals and functions to increase the impact of the legal team.
Trends from yesterday
Visalaw.ai, the technology arm of US immigration law firm Siskind Susser and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), has unveiled Visalaw.ai Gen, a generative AI product for immigration lawyers. Meanwhile, legal tech company ECFX has secured a $7m growth investment. Lastly, LegalTech company HaystackID has launched its new ReviewRight Global Document Reviewer Marketplace, providing direct online access to qualified cybersecurity and legal discovery document reviewers.
The need to use generative AI tools like Visalaw.ai Gen, Google Bard, and Bing Chat in a limited capacity continues to grow, with software companies incorporating generative AI technology in their products. Lawyers must review any output for errors as a part of their ethical duty of competency. Meanwhile, Henchman, a contract drafting tool, has revealed a suite of capabilities to aid lawyers in reviewing and negotiating contracts. The AI-powered tool can assess contracts, identify risks, and recommend relevant precedents. Legal business management provider Aderant has launched an AI-powered virtual assistant called MADDI, designed to automate routine tasks and offer actionable insights and behavioral prompts to optimize complex activities in law firms.
Generative AI tools have caused controversy once again after two lawyers were fined $5,000 for using non-existent judicial opinions created by OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot. Although advocates of AI tools suggest their benefits, including creative inspiration and providing a summary of legal concepts, critics argue that they should not replace legal research tools. Our take, Generative AI tools will continue to be useful for legal professionals as long as they use them in a limited capacity and review output for errors.
In other news, the pandemic has challenged traditional beliefs about physical proximity in law offices, leading to an adaptation of workplaces that encourage personal strategies and solutions. Law firms are also adopting the "PDF-as-a-Service" model, offering popular PDF functionality through an integrated cloud service. This cost-effective and user-friendly technology is expected to eliminate the need for traditional desktop applications. Moreover, tracking a net promoter score can help legal teams assess their performance and make changes accordingly, as demonstrated by Commvault's pro bono program, which focuses on data protection and has partnered with organizations that operate online resources for legal needs. It's also great to see ECFX receiving additional investments to expand its platform and increase sales and marketing. This infusion of funds comes at a time when legal tech companies are experiencing a boom, with demand for automation, artificial intelligence, and other technological advances rising rapidly.
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Visalaw.ai Gen, a legal research and document summarization tool supported by generative AI, has been unveiled by Visalaw.ai, the technology branch of the immigration law firm Siskind Susser, at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference. The product allows lawyers to question a legal library composed of several significant books and resources, such as immigration law cases, government manuals, and federal agency materials, among others, using OpenAI's GPT-4 language model. It will provide comprehensive and reliable responses for legal research and documentation. The platform, comprising Visalaw.ai Engage, which guides client communications, and Visalaw.ai Draft, allowing for document processing, will be available alongside Visalaw.ai Gen. “We’re giving immigration lawyers the tools to navigate complex legal landscapes efficiently and accurately,” said Visalaw.ai co-founder Josh Waddell.
ECFX, the legal tech firm that automates the download and distribution of filings in federal and state court cases, has raised $7m in a minority growth investment led by Growth Street Partners. Other participants in the investment were The LegalTech Fund, Cove Fund, and existing investors. ECFX, which was founded in 2019, says it will use the funding to enlarge its platform, sales and marketing. The company provides services for law firms of all sizes, and says customers include Am Law 100 operators such as Cooley, DLA Piper, Dentons and Cole Scott & Kissane. ECFX CEO Dan O’Day said: “We are on a mission to help law firms reduce risk and increase efficiency,” while partner Nelson Quintero said: “Partnering with Growth Street positions us to continue building out our team, investing in our industry-leading product, and further expanding our leadership position in this growing category”.
The recent imposition of sanctions on two lawyers and their law firm by a US District Judge highlights the importance of gatekeeping for the accuracy of court filings. While using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for legal research is not inherently improper, existing rules require attorneys to ensure that their filings are accurate. In this case, the judge ordered the attorneys and their law firm to pay $5,000, inform their client and the false judges they had identified, and violated bad faith. The ordering of sanctions suggests that the attorneys acted with conscious ignorance and made false and misleading statements to the Court. The use of ChatGPT to generate non-existent case law opinions with fake quotes and citations undermined the accuracy of the filing and undermined the legitimacy of the judicial system. The ruling emphasizes the need for AI-based legal research to be used in good faith practices and with appropriate gatekeeping by attorneys.
A recent article suggests that lawyers and flight attendants often use redundant language to add emphasis, but it can be more effective to use precise word choice instead. The article recommends using the "necessity test" to determine if the emphatic language is necessary for clarity and meaning. It also cautions against using -self pronouns incorrectly and provides guidance on their proper use. The article concludes by promoting a new marketing journal specifically designed for lawyers.
Henchman, a contract drafting tool, has unveiled a new suite of capabilities to aid lawyers in efficiently reviewing and negotiating contracts. The AI-powered tool can quickly assess contracts, identify risks, and recommend relevant precedents. Additionally, it can make contracts fully searchable and convert contract styling to a fully interactive table of contents. The new offering is designed to expand Henchman's reach within the contract lifecycle and help lawyers become more efficient when negotiating complex contracts.
Legal business management solutions provider Aderant has launched an AI-powered virtual assistant called MADDI, which is designed to automate routine tasks and offer actionable insights and behavioural prompts to optimise complex activities in law firms. The tool is pre-trained on an extensive knowledge base from several Aderant applications and streamlines manual processes with minimal experiential training. It is currently powering Aderant's Onyx, which automates and unifies outside counsel guidelines compliance, iTimekeep and Expert Accounts Receivable, and will also fuel the development of new Aderant products and enhanced predictive features yet to be released.
HaystackID has launched direct online access to its ReviewRight Global Document Reviewer Marketplace, providing a platform for qualified cybersecurity and legal discovery document reviewers to connect with the industry's most comprehensive sourcing, selection, and staffing marketplace. The platform offers registered document reviewers a unique opportunity to become part of an unparalleled candidate screening, evaluation, and testing program. The ReviewRight Global Document Reviewer Marketplace is backed by a robust community of over 25,000 registered legal professionals, which solidifies its standing as an industry-leading platform.
Thomson Reuters has collaborated with Microsoft to incorporate its legal drafting capabilities into Microsoft 365 Copilot. The AI-driven tool will enable lawyers to draft contracts and seek assistance from Thomson Reuters' legal tools such as Practical Law and Westlaw to replace or verify clauses. The technology will also employ Thomson Reuters' Document Intelligence functionality to extract and provide a comparison of modified clauses. The new generative AI capabilities will be launched into Thomson Reuters' native platforms in the second half of 2023.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul is set to sign a bill that will ban noncompete agreements, following similar legislation in Minnesota. The federal government has also proposed a nationwide ban on noncompete agreements, which have been criticized for limiting the employment opportunities of low-wage workers. The New York bill will apply to agreements signed after the law takes effect, but existing agreements will remain in place. Non-disclosure and non-solicitation agreements will still be allowed to protect employers' competitive interests.
According to a report by LexisNexis, 70% of law firms are using legal analytics technology, but only a small percentage are using it to improve legal arguments or retain clients. Michael Sander, founder of Docket Alarm, suggests that legal analytics technologies encourage attorneys to approach litigation in new ways, but finding a platform that caters to every research need can be challenging. Companies like Courthouse News Service and Trellis offer daily filings reports to provide real-time notice of new civil court cases.
New York lawyers who used ChatGPT for legal research have been sanctioned by Judge Kevin Castel. They have been fined $5,000 and ordered to prepare a dossier for their client detailing their malpractice, as well as send letters of confession to the judges listed on their fake opinions. As a result, the court has dismissed the case against Avianca Airlines, bringing an end to a saga that made headlines in the New York Times.
Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Google Bard, and Bing Chat should not be used as substitutes for legal research tools, according to Nicole Black, Director of Business and Community Relations at MyCase. These tools can generate false case citations and provide full text of nonexistent cases to support the fictional citation. However, Black suggests that lawyers can use generative AI tools in limited, targeted ways to handle mundane work or provide creative inspiration, such as summarizing legal concepts, cases, transcripts, and drafting initial agreements.
ECFX, an electronic court notice management platform, has raised $7m in a funding round led by Growth Street Partners, along with participation from The LegalTech Fund, Cove Fund and other investors. The funds will be used to expand the platform and secure its position in the market. ECFX automates the processing, distribution and internal filing of state and federal ECF notices received by law firms and in-house counsel offices, reducing the risk of missed deadlines and repetitive administrative work. The platform was founded by attorneys Dan O’Day and Nelson Quintero.
The pandemic has challenged the traditional belief that physical proximity is necessary for a law office, leading to a reduction in office space and in-office work only a few days a week. The legal industry must adapt to this change and create workplaces that foster personal strategies and solutions. Analyst Jordan Furlong believes that the future of law offices will be social, with offices becoming more effective as they allow people to connect with each other through creative, community-building, and value-generating connections.
CARET, a software provider for legal and accounting professionals, has appointed Joanna Trimble as chief revenue officer and president of HotDocs, and Charlie Anderson as head of partnerships. Trimble has over 25 years of sales leadership experience in the legal and accounting industries, while Anderson has over a decade of experience in sales and partnership leadership in the small business tech space. The new appointments are expected to drive the company's growth and development of critical solutions for professional services firms.
Kim, a SaaS platform, has published an eBook titled "Streamlining Legal Workflows: How templates and automation can save time and boost productivity." The eBook highlights the advantages of automation and templates in enhancing efficiency, productivity, and profitability for law firms. It explains how automation can revolutionize routine tasks such as document creation, compliance management, and data collection. The eBook includes actual examples, best practices, and templates to assist law firms in optimizing workflows, providing better client service, and remaining competitive in the legal industry.
Law firms are embracing the "PDF-as-a-Service" (PDFaaS) model, which offers popular PDF functionality through an integrated cloud service. This allows for affordable, use-case specific, and user-friendly technology, eliminating the need for traditional desktop applications. Despite cloud adoption for document and practice management trending towards 90% within the next few years, PDF editing has seen no change in the last five years. PDFaaS offers cloud-based services that provide functionality and tools for working with PDF documents, eliminating the need to license and maintain traditional PDF processing functionalities in-house.
Women in eDiscovery, a non-profit organisation for women interested in legal technology, has appointed five new regional directors. The directors will oversee the organisation's regional chapters, which offer networking, mentoring and educational opportunities for women in the legal industry. The new appointments include Gina Anders as mid-Atlantic regional director, Erin Tomine as western regional director, Laura Anne Day as south-central regional director, Emma Kelly as southeastern regional director, and Samantha Mather as international regional director.
Onit has introduced a new task management feature in its SimpleLegal product line, which is designed to simplify matter management processes, track deadlines, and prioritize workloads. The feature is integrated with e-billing and spend management, providing a centralized system to monitor and manage legal spending. SimpleLegal's task management feature aims to enhance efficiency and productivity by simplifying the organization, assignment, and follow-up of all matter-related tasks. The feature is available to all SimpleLegal customers and included in new matter management product plans.
Tracking a net promoter score (NPS) can help general counsel transform their legal operations, according to Mo Zain Ajaz, founder of Lex360. By adopting the metric, general counsel can assess how the legal team is perceived by the broader organisation and make changes to operations accordingly. Ajaz recommends that general counsel examine the wider organisation's vision and mission statements before identifying high-value legal work and outsourcing lower-value tasks.
Danielle Sheer, Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Commvault, has proposed a two-part solution to support a pro bono program while meeting the demands of a growing in-house legal department. She suggests aligning the pro bono work with the company's core mission and blocking out any distractions that can make it difficult for the team to participate. Commvault's pro bono program focuses on data protection and has partnered with organizations that operate online resources for legal needs. The company has been working with Freeze.com, a startup that helps consumers protect their data privacy and identity.
Two lawyers from Levidow, Levidow & Oberman have been fined $5,000 for using AI-generated cases in a lawsuit against Colombian airline Avianca. The lawyers cited non-existent judicial opinions created by OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot and continued to stand by them even after they were called into question. The fine is intended to act as a reminder to others not to do something similar. The lawyers must also send the judge's opinion to the judges to whom the generative AI tool attributed the fake decisions.