Archive: August, 2009

10 technologies that will disrupt traditional legal practice

At ILTA ’09 yesterday, Ron Friedmann ‘live blogged‘ (no, I didn’t just invent that term) a panel discussion on Technologies That Will Disrupt Traditional Legal Practice, lead by Richard Susskind. By all accounts, the session was very well received. Below is my take on some of Susskind’s key points. (If you’re interested in the future of legal practice I urge you to read Ron’s full post.)

What is disruptive technology?

In contrast to sustaining technology, disruptive technology seems to come from nowhere and disrupts the market. It’s not the technology itself that’s interesting, but rather its potential impact on existing business models (such as the billable hour).

Is it a threat or opportunity?

That, of course, depends on who you are. It provides an opportunity for innovators and customers, but is a threat for those that want to maintain the status quo. Susskind notes that law firms tend to be in the latter camp.

What is the role of document assembly?

Susskind’s view is that document assembly, along with other technologies, will transform the legal market over the coming years.

However, rather than internal document assembly (which many firms have had 20+ years’ experience with), he sees the real opportunity in external (i.e. client-facing) online services. It’s here that the economics are stronger as the volume of documents produced can be much higher.

And it’s disruptive because 1) it requires an upfront investment of time and money, and 2) when a document is produced by the system its value isn’t tied to the time required to generate it. [As noted by another attendee, David Hobbie, “it takes the lawyers out of the business of producing documents.“]

To learn about the other nine disruptive technologies mentioned by Susskind, and the law firm case studies presented by John Alber of Bryan Cave and Gerard Neiditsch of Mallesons, read the full posts from Ron and David.

To find out how document assembly can help strengthen your firm’s market position contact Exari.

The Assault on the Billable Hour Back in the News

The Billable Hour is still under attack in the nation’s press and real change seems to be taking hold. According to several recent blog posts and the Wall Street Journal, corporations are using the recession to structurally change the way they acquire legal services.

Document Assembly is one technology amongst many that can increase the efficiency and productivity of a corporation by automating high volume documents such as sales contracts, services agreements, licensing agreements, etc, AND of a law firm by accelerating the speed of complex document creation. This increased efficiency drives lower and more predictable costs that can then allow law firms to remain profitable in a fixed price environment.

In the Wall Street Journal Nathan Koppel and Ashby Jones wrote about U.S. corporations pushing their outside counsels for flat fee contracts.

“The companies are ditching the hourly structure — which critics complain offers law firms an incentive to rack up bigger bills — in favor of flat-fee contracts. One survey found an increase of more than 50% this year in corporate spending on alternatives to the traditional hourly-fee model.” Pfizer, American Express and Cisco are all cited in the article has having done very creative fixed price deals with the outside law firms they use.

Five Document Assembly/Legal Technology Blogs to Follow

If you are interested in document assembly and other legal technologies, which you probably are since you are reading this, here are some other blogs you may want to check out:

Basha Blog
Seth Rowland is a nationally recognized industry expert on document assembly. He runs a technology consulting practice that helps clients use software to redesign the legal document drafting process. He writes about document assembly and case management.

Ken Adams is a leading authority on modern and effective contract drafting. He is the author of “A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting.”
Dennis Kennedy is a well-known lawyer, consultant, speaker and writer who is considered among the most influential authority on the application of technology in the practice of law.

Law Department Management
Rees Morrison, Esq., has consulted to more than 275 law departments over 22 years to help them better manage themselves and their law firms. Rees does include, though is not limited to technology issues.

Does it Compute?
John Heckman has worked in the legal industry for nearly 25 years. He consults with firms from solo practitioners to AmLaw 100 firms, and he specializes in Document Management issues.

What blogs would you add to this list?

MS Word is dead, long live MS Word

Exari CTO Justin Lipton recently wrote about the potential demise of MS Word on the CIO blog after reading this article. In case you missed it, we are reposting it here.

Sure Word is bloated and many of the features are difficult to use or are never used, but it’s hard to be beat for producing ad-hoc documents.

The article argues that where collaboration is required, web based authoring tools such as wikis and deal rooms provide much better solutions.But there’s a part of the argument missing that applies as much to a wiki as it does to any unstructured document.

Most documents that contains useful information should be able to be separated into a data payload component, a text component and a style component.The data component consists of the dates, amounts, milestones, names, places, conditions, exceptions, etc that the document relates to. This is the key to tracking, reporting and analyzing a document.

The text is the specific wording that goes around the data – this generally requires a human to completely understand the meaning.

Finally, the style is the way the document looks.

XML based document assembly/automation technologies allow for a distinct separation of these three facets. There’s really no excuse with the technologies available today to be writing commonly used documents from scratch or cutting and pasting from various sources. Important documents should be available as single sourced, marked up templates that require very little effort to produce, are beautifully formatted and are able to be easily analyzed and reported on.