#Legaltech event says every law firm “needs a data strategy”

On September 20th, lawyers, startups, and legal tech enthusiasts gathered at the MaRS Discovery District for the Emerging Legal Technology Forum to discuss how technology is changing the legal industry.

The forum, which was co-organized by Thomson Reuters and MaRS LegalX, brought together leaders in the legal tech industry who presented a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which technology, data collection, and data analysis can be used to change and improve legal practice.

“We’ve actually pulled together some of the best minds in legal innovation in the entire world to come to the event here in Toronto,” said Aron Solomon, a co-founder of LegalX and organizer of the event. “Given the fact that we have such an amazing audience of people from big law and new law, and the entire industry, and the speakers are really from all over the map, I think there’s something for everybody here.”

Daniel Martin Katz, an associate professor of law at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law, kicked off the forum with a keynote addressing the future of legal technology. He highlighted that as legal industry becomes more complex and law firms face greater challenges in their practices, law firms can become better predictors of their services if they capture and analyze data.

“We care about data because we want to be able to predict things. Every organization in law needs a data strategy.”

“We care about data because we want to be able to predict things. Every organization in law needs a data strategy. You need to capture, clean, regularize data to support a wide range of tasks,” said Katz. “As you collect data, you find that there’s steps in the process that you haven’t reflected on. You can’t say how great your services are with no real measure of what you’ve actually accomplished.”

The conference also featured a panel where founders of legal tech companies like LegalZoom and Riverview Law discussed what their companies do, what current technologies are available to legal practitioners, and how current law firms can become more innovative. Jason Moyse, the moderator of the panel and a co-founder of LegalX, mentioned that the legal industry will see more innovation when law firms start better assessing the needs of their clients.

“Clients take us very seriously. All the change is going to be driven by clients. Increasingly, you’ll see professionalization of legal operations. Increasingly, they’re bringing accountability and metrics and tangible measures. That’s what will be a key driver of change for their providers,” said Moyse, the industry lead at LegalX.

While other panels covered topics including how design-thinking and technology-generated contracts are impacting legal practice, the final panel looked further at legal analytics systems that are mining data both within and outside of firms and how this data can be useful for both clients and law professionals.

Jennifer Roberts, a data scientist at Intapp, a California-based company that provides technology services to law firms, said that lawyers are often hesitant to work with large amounts of data but analysis of data related to document management, e-mail, and time capture can help law firms shift the way problems in legal practice are handled.

“There’s a lot you can do with data existing in the firm,” said Roberts. “You realize that lawyers are not going to input more data than required. But there are metrics out there that law firms are capturing.” Roberts added that “systemizing data and turning it into predictive models prior to being too late” can help mitigate risks and concerns with clients.

David Curle, the director of market intelligence at Thomson Reuters, emphasized that before law firms perform data analytics, it is vital for them to collect data and better understand different processes used in law firms.

“I think that as you get closer to the practice of law, you get into solutions where the actual activity of practicing law, case management, document management, and various ways legal information is delivered between clients and their lawyers, is itself all sorts of data about processes,” said Curle. “Before you can do data analytics, you need data, and before that, you need processes that kick off the right kind of data.”

In addition to looking at legal analytics systems, a major point driven home at the conference was that professionals within the legal industry need to become more open towards using and integrating available technologies into their practices, as well as working with specialists from the tech industry to improve their practices. While some long-time established firms and legal practitioners are apprehensive towards technical innovation, others see it as a way to make processes more efficient. Curle says assessing the ways other industries use technology to solve problems might be a source of inspiration for the legal industry.

“They have this mindset about their work that is different from the ‘let me just work on the matter in front of me’ that a lawyer has.”

“One obvious place to look is the big four and the way they approach not just data, but everything,” said Curle. “They look for opportunities to build businesses around large scale processes and large data sets. They have this mindset about their work that is different from the ‘let me just work on the matter in front of me’ that a lawyer has. Their industries are better at seeing systematic problems rather than just solving problems on a one-off basis.”

Although there was general agreement among panelists that Canada can do better when it comes to legal innovation, Solomon said that with 60 legal tech startups growing in Canada, especially in Toronto, law firms are becoming more innovative as they discover the technologies that are available to them.

With the conference looking at various aspects of the legal tech industry, attendees were able to gain a better understanding on where Canada stands when it comes to legal innovation, as well as take back ideas about how they can use technology and legal analytics to improve their legal practices and services.

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.