Law Firm Profitability Drops and Harbor Acquires Stout Legal Consulting: Here's Your Weekly Recap

This week we discuss the strategic use of AI, acquisitions in legal tech, and measures to boost law firm profitability. Key updates involve advanced AI applications, leadership changes in legal tech firms, and heightened data privacy concerns.

Law Firm Profitability Drops and Harbor Acquires Stout Legal Consulting: Here's Your Weekly Recap

Welcome to your Law Tech weekly briefing covering what happened in legal tech last week.

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Core briefing

Takeaways from the key stories

Last week, the conversation around the use of Artificial intelligence (AI) in corporate legal departments gained traction. The focus was on its strategic implementation, ways of measuring its effectiveness and setting realistic expectations around its use. The week also saw Harbor, a global legal tech services provider, expanding its capabilities by acquiring Stout's legal management consulting business. In the annual law firm profitability survey, there was a decrease in profitability satisfaction, with law firms looking at various measures to boost profitability.

Trends

The macro trends we're seeing involve a greater appreciation for the value AI can bring to legal operations. The strategic implementation of AI in legal departments is becoming a popular topic, emphasizing the need to showcase its speed and accuracy, along with the value of using process mining software. Corporate acquisitions in the legal tech sector indicate a growing interest in expanding capabilities, emphasizing specific areas such as data management and eDiscovery. Lastly, the profitability survey suggests law firms are acutely aware of the need to improve profitability, employing metrics and novel tools to achieve that goal.

Analysis

For legal professionals, these developments indicate a period of significant change brought about by technology. AI has the potential to streamline legal operations, offer automated assistance, and reduce human error. However, its integration should be strategic to maximize its advantages. It is important for legal professionals to understand AI's probabilistic nature - it is not a perfect solution but a tool to enhance efficiency and accuracy. The acquisition of Stout by Harbor emphasizes the increasing value placed on technological capability within the legal profession. This could lead to more diverse service offerings for clients and open up new avenues for legal consulting. The decreasing profitability satisfaction indicates a need for law firms to adapt their strategies. To stay competitive, firms are turning to enhanced billing practices, profit education, and utilization levels. This focus on operational effectiveness likely means an increased demand for advanced analytical tools to measure practice and timekeeper profitability, suggesting a growing niche for tech providers. In conclusion, legal professionals need to stay abreast of these trends, adapt to technological changes, and continually strive for operational effectiveness to maintain profitability.

You'll find original sources and summaries of all key stories below.

Supplemental

This update covers a wide array of industry news, touching on advancements in AI in the context of the UK and global legal landscape. Noteworthy news includes Ben Mitchell becoming the Chief Operating Officer of Novaplex, Allen & Overy adopting Zero Systems' automated email filing tool, Athena, and Linklaters using generative AI for streamlining tasks. The launch of an advanced version of vLex's AI legal research assistant, Vincent AI, is also of note. Atticus appointing prominent figures to boost growth demonstrates expansion in the legal technology sector. The cloud-based law practice management company ZenCase appointed a new president and COO, Olivia Mockel.

Trends

The most discernible trend in this update is the expanding deployment of cutting-edge AI in legal firms worldwide. From Allen & Overy improving billing accuracy using AI-powered tools to Linklaters applying GenAI for document review, due diligence, and content drafting, and the launch of Vincent AI, a ground-breaking AI legal research assistant by vLex, the legal world is capitalizing on AI to revolutionize traditional workload and processes. A second emergent trend is the significant movements in leadership positions within the legal technology arena, such as at Novaplex, Atticus, and ZenCase. These changes signal a strategic emphasis on growth, expansion, and product management in the sector. Last, the changing landscape of data privacy and the repercussions of non-compliant practices is another key narrative. With companies shifting away from cookies to alternatives such as pixels, privacy risks have increased, resulting in advice for companies to disclose data collection and usage practices to avoid lawsuits.

Analysis

The surge in AI implementation has the potential to increase the efficiency and accuracy of many legal processes. This wave of digital transformation offers time-saving capabilities that can ultimately help support better client relationships and open up new business opportunities. Legal professionals should stay abreast of these developments, as adopting AI can be a valuable strategic move to stay competitive. On the leadership front, these high-profile changes do not just signal growth within individual companies but indicate a broader industry trend of prioritizing innovation and expansion within the legal tech sector. Legal firms should note this direction and consider their own positions within this growing market. For data privacy, the growth of alternative tracking technologies like pixels means that privacy management practice should be an ongoing focus within law firms, particularly those advising tech clients. Protecting client data is paramount to establishing trust and ensuring survival in an increasingly stringent regulatory environment. Overall, these updates confirm that the legal industry is becoming more dynamic, technologically driven, and complex. Legal professionals should strive to adapt to these trends to harness new opportunities and guard against potential threats.


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Key stories

3 ways to test your AI’s effectiveness (Legal Dive - Latest News)

Jitendra Gupta, director of Ops Decision Science at Wolters Kluwer, offers three ways to test the effectiveness of AI within corporate legal departments. Firstly, he suggested gamifying adoption - this ensures employees make the most use of new AI systems, thus improving the AI's functional capacity. Secondly, Gupta recommended running AI tools 'behind the scenes', comparing the speed and accuracy of AI-driven processes against manual processes. This approach can help with overcoming skepticism and highlight the AI's effectiveness. Finally, he advocated for the use of process mining software to identify improvements in efficiency following the implementation of AI solutions. While AI has significant potential, Gupta emphasizes that its implementation needs to be intentional and outcomes actively monitored for effectiveness, not simply adopted for the mere sake of being trendy.

Exclusive: Harbor acquires Stout’s Legal Management Consulting Practice (Legal IT Insider)

Global legal technology services provider Harbor has acquired the legal management consulting business Stout. This is the first acquisition by Harbor since its rebranding following the combination of HBR Consulting, LAC Group and Wilson Allen. Jim Mitchell and Stacie Neeter, both formerly of Arthur Anderson, Huron Consulting Group, and Stout, will lead the entire Stout LMC team expected to expand Harbor into areas such as legal hold, data preservation, and eDiscovery technology implementation. The acquisition will allow Harbor to deepen its work in contract and enterprise lifecycle management, along with general corporate strategy. Mitchell and Neeter's track record of assisting major corporations with legal technology makes them valuable additions to Harbor's team.

5th Annual Law Firm Survey Finds 24% Drop in Profitability Satisfaction (Legal Technology News - Legal IT Professionals | Everything legal technology)

The fifth annual law firm profitability survey conducted by LawVision and BigHand revealed a 24% drop in profitability satisfaction among law firm leaders since last year. This correlates with continuous stagnant growth in the industry. Now, there's an increased emphasis on improving profitability measures. Findings indicated that law firms are focusing on enhancing billing hygiene, conducting profit management education, and lifting utilization levels to improve profitability. About 43% of respondents are in the process of introducing new profit metrics as profit-centric mindsets in firms continue to expand. The survey shows that law firms are taking steps toward understanding profitability better and relying on data to drive decisions about firm growth.

All stories

Ben Mitchell returns to the document production space with move to Novaplex (Legal IT Insider)

Ben Mitchell, former head of DocsCorp, has been named the new Chief Operating Officer of UK software vendor, Novaplex. With previous experience at Tessaract and DocsCorp, Mitchell will manage sales and product management at Novaplex, which specializes in document production tools. His goal is to reintroduce choice in a market that has experienced substantial consolidation recently.

ICYMI: Allen & Overy to capture “millions of dollars in additional revenue” with Zero email filing tool (Legal IT Insider)

International law firm Allen & Overy is adopting Zero Systems' automated email filing tool, Athena, to improve billing accuracy across jurisdictions. The AI-powered tool identifies and shares key data such as client and matter numbers, author data, and document types, addressing the issue of unbilled work due to inaccurate time tracking. This technology aims to capture additional revenue for the firm.

Linklaters on GenAI: ‘When It Works, It’s Amazing’ (Artificial Lawyer)

Linklaters, a global law firm, is using generative AI (GenAI) to streamline tasks like document review, due diligence, and content drafting. The initiative, led by the firm's legal tech group, CreateiQ, aims to enhance efficiency and provide economic benefits to the firm and its clients. Despite some technological challenges, the firm is testing GenAI in different applications due to its potential benefits.

Lawsuits show GCs must understand the privacy risk of pixels (Legal Dive - Latest News)

As internet browsers eliminate cookies, companies are adopting alternative tracking technologies like pixels, potentially exposing them to privacy risks. Legal experts advise companies to clearly disclose their data collection and usage practices, including pixel use, in their privacy policies to avoid potential lawsuits. This advice comes in light of The Boston Globe's recent $4 million settlement over unauthorized use of Meta pixels.

vLex releases suite of global LLM legal research tools in beta (Legal IT Insider)

vLex, a legal intelligence firm, has launched an advanced version of its AI legal research assistant, Vincent AI. The tool uses OpenAI’s GPT-4, 3.5, and vLex's proprietary technology to conduct legal research, build cases, summarise documents, and compare laws across jurisdictions. Vincent AI pulls data from vLex’s database that includes laws from over 100 countries and a billion cases. It is currently accessible in the UK, US, Ireland, and Spain, with plans for further expansion.

Atticus hires Sam Spivack and James Quaile to accelerate growth in the UK and Europe (Legal IT Insider)

Australian software firm Atticus, which aids law firms and corporate legal teams in fact-checking official documents, has hired Sam Spivack and James Quaile from Bryter to boost its growth in the UK, Europe, and the corporate legal sector. Spivack will guide the company's next growth stage, while Quaile will focus on expanding its corporate legal market. The company has gained new corporate clients including John Lewis, Kingfisher, and Rentokil.

LawNext Podcast: Clio CEO Jack Newton On Why It’s More Important Than Ever for Lawyers to Leverage Tech (LawSites)

At the 2023 Clio Cloud Conference, CEO Jack Newton underlined the critical role of technology in the legal sector. He stated that technology empowers lawyers to significantly enhance their impact. The conference celebrated Clio's 15th business anniversary, a leading company in legal tech. Newton also presented the latest Clio Legal Trends Report, offering insights into the legal profession's current landscape.

New Filevine Feature Uses AI to Summarize Incoming Leads and Predict the Best Matches for A Firm (LawSites)

Filevine, a legal practice management platform, has introduced LeadsAI, an AI-powered addition to its Lead Docket tool. The feature uses AI to summarize important information from incoming leads and assess their suitability for a law firm. Initially focused on motor vehicle accident cases, the tool will be expanded to include personal injury, mass tort, and class action litigation. LeadsAI is a paid add-on for Lead Docket customers.

vLex (Fastcase) Unveils Beta Version Of Its Global, Multi-Language Generative AI Legal Research Tool (LawSites)

Legal research firms vLex and Fastcase have launched the beta version of Vincent AI, a generative AI-powered legal research platform. The platform, built on an enhanced version of vLex's Vincent AI, extends the use of generative AI across different jurisdictions and languages. Leveraging one of the world's largest online law libraries, the new Vincent AI can answer legal questions, build arguments, compare jurisdictions, and analyze documents, marking a significant advancement in AI-powered legal analysis.

Criminals’ AI adoption intensifies scam threat (Legal Dive - Latest News)

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in criminal activities is escalating payment fraud scams, with tactics like "vishing" where AI tools mimic trusted voices over the phone. The creation of audio or video deepfakes has grown due to improved computational power and deep learning. In 2021, vishing attacks increased, affecting 69% of companies, up from 54% in 2020. Experts advise investing in technology and employee training to identify potential fraudulent payments.

At the Inaugural KM and Innovation for Legal Conference, Knowledge Is Power (LawSites)

The inaugural Knowledge Management & Innovation for Legal Conference (KM&I) in New York, organized by Patrick DiDomenico and Joshua Fireman, was a success with sold-out exhibits and attendance. The event focused on value, innovation, and knowledge management for legal professionals, featuring practical sessions led by industry experts. It attracted approximately 150 attendees, primarily from larger law firms and corporate legal departments.

Xperate Responds to Growing Demand by establishing Xperate Data Services (Legal Technology News - Legal IT Professionals | Everything legal technology)

Xperate has created a dedicated team, Xperate Data Services (XDS), to meet the growing demand for data services in the legal industry. Led by Hrishikesh Toro, the team will concentrate on data-related projects for law firms and legal tech suppliers, such as data migration and PowerBI initiatives. The move demonstrates Xperate's dedication to delivering innovative data solutions, while also capitalizing on the cost advantages of offshore resources.

Helm360 Launches Digital Eye Data Discovery Tool, Integrates with Termi Chatbot (Legal Technology News - Legal IT Professionals | Everything legal technology)

Helm360 has introduced Digital Eye, a data discovery tool that augments the capabilities of its Termi chatbot. The tool can scan large volumes of unstructured content, such as PDFs and images, and provide accurate results, enhancing Termi's response accuracy. Digital Eye also links to a law firm's existing knowledge database to minimize AI errors. The integration aims to offer law firms dependable data access, boosting efficiency and client satisfaction.

vLex Launches Major Upgrade to Vincent AI, Creating the World’s Most Comprehensive AI Legal Research Assistant (Legal Technology News - Legal IT Professionals | Everything legal technology)

vLex has enhanced its AI assistant, Vincent AI, positioning it as the most exhaustive AI legal research platform globally. The updated features enable users to ask questions, construct arguments, compare laws across jurisdictions, identify legal issues, and access related precedents and authorities. The tool, which utilizes vLex's library of over 1 billion cases, statutes, and regulations, is accessible directly from Microsoft Word. The upgrade aims to offer unparalleled insights for legal tasks, promoting efficiency, accuracy, and comprehensive legal knowledge.

HSBC disables texting on work phones: report (Legal Dive - Latest News)

HSBC has halted text messaging on company phones in response to regulatory scrutiny over unauthorised communication methods. The decision follows the imposition of fines on banks for using applications such as WhatsApp, causing recordkeeping violations. Earlier this year, HSBC received a $30 million fine from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and a $15 million fine from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The ban does not extend to personal devices, with a small number of employees retaining texting privileges on work phones.

Wolters Kluwer launches Legal Services Portal for corporate customers (Legal IT Insider)

Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, UK has unveiled a Legal Services Portal for users of Legisway Enterprise and Legisway Essentials. The portal aims to simplify the legal intake process for businesses, enhancing task assignment and tracking within legal departments. Currently, the software is used by more than 1,000 legal departments and 130,000 users across Europe.

Productivity: Use your limited energy and time wisely (Legal IT Insider)

Chris Baréz-Brown, a renowned author and adviser, spoke at BigHand's conference about understanding peak productivity times and the role of subconscious in daily tasks. He suggested that tasks requiring deep concentration should be done during peak productivity periods and experimenting with new ideas can enhance energy and engagement. His theory has been applied successfully, like Adam Moskowitz, who transformed his family cheese business using unconventional methods.

Former PCLaw CEO Olivia Mockel Named President and COO of Practice Management Company ZenCase (LawSites)

Legal technology executive, Olivia Mockel, has been appointed as president and COO of cloud-based law practice management firm ZenCase. Mockel, who formerly served as CEO of PCLaw | Time Matters, a joint venture of LEAP Legal Software and LexisNexis, is expected to drive growth and product enhancement at ZenCase. Her appointment is anticipated to further boost ZenCase's success in the legal software industry.

2023 Technology, privacy and cybersecurity summit | 1 November 2023 (Inside Tech Law)

Norton Rose Fulbright Canada is hosting a virtual summit on technology, privacy, and cybersecurity. The event will focus on AI, company records management, privacy issues, and cybersecurity breaches. It will provide insight into minimizing legal risks, regulatory updates, and compliance practices, aiming to arm legal professionals, business leaders, and IT specialists with the knowledge to handle legal challenges and maintain compliance with evolving laws and regulations.

Leveraging Technology for Building Authentic Relationships (Attorney at Work)

The article emphasizes the importance of using technology to establish and maintain authentic professional relationships within the legal industry. It recommends using platforms such as LinkedIn, Zoom, and Slack, and strategies like video and audio communication, and CRM tools. It also highlights the need for intentionality, active listening, and vulnerability in building connections. The article warns about managing expectations to ensure the efficiency of technology does not compromise the depth of relationships.

Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory UK introduces Legal Services Portal to Streamline Legal Intake, Enable Self-Service, and Track Outcomes (Legal Technology News - Legal IT Professionals | Everything legal technology)

Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory UK has introduced a new Legal Services Portal module for Legisway Enterprise and Legisway Essentials users. The portal simplifies the legal intake process using AI-driven software to streamline requests for legal support from non-legal teams, improve tracking, reporting, and internal communication. It also enables businesses to handle all legal requests through one channel, allowing legal departments to focus on more high-value tasks.

ICYMI: Teams overtakes email for almost a third of legal sector users (Legal IT Insider)

A survey by Legal IT Insider shows Microsoft Teams is becoming a popular communication method within the legal industry. Of 250 respondents, 28% use Teams as their main platform, and 29% said it competes closely with email. However, 30% disagreed. The survey indicated a need for Teams to incorporate email-like features, such as saving conversations for records. Most respondents still prefer email for external communication.

CLM Company SpotDraft Unveils Generative AI Contract Review Add-In for Word (and For A Time It’s Free) (LawSites)

Contract lifecycle management firm, SpotDraft, has introduced VerifAI, an AI add-on for Microsoft Word aimed at simplifying contract reviews for legal professionals. The tool checks contracts against guidelines specified by the user, offers suggestions for clause modifications, and explains the rationale behind the changes. VerifAI, which requires no training, also allows users to establish their own guidelines or utilize industry-standard ones. The add-on is available for free until the end of December.

The Future of Legal Services: GenAI, Drills and Holes? (The Time Blawg)

The text discusses a talk given by Professor Richard Susskind on the future of legal services, focusing on the use of GenAI. The author expresses skepticism about the potential of GenAI in the legal field, pointing out limitations and potential pitfalls. They argue that the high-level predictions and hype surrounding GenAI may mislead those who are not familiar with the realities of the legal profession or the capabilities of the technology.