Unexpected Results of Using Legal Tech Software
One of the most interesting parts about my job as a legal technologist leading groups that create legal tech software is seeing the unexpected results that accrue to lawyers who use the software that my teams build. In many cases, these unexpected results are as valuable or even more valuable than the benefit that the user had hoped to achieve from using the software in the first place.
For example, when our team at my last company created the Table of Authorities product that is now included in Lexis for Microsoft Office, we expected it to create a high-quality table of authorities and to create it substantially more quickly than the manual process that we were replacing. That was why we built the product, that is why customers bought the product, and that is why it has won Legal Product of the Year for five years in a row (and counting!).
Building a high-quality table of authorities faster than it could be done by hand is a modest goal and one could reasonably expect modest results. Despite what you might think from seeing how lawyers actually spend time, copying, cutting, pasting, and font-twiddling are not why most people went to law school. Anything that reduces the time spent on tedious tasks is a welcome addition to one’s set of practice tools, and automating ToA generation does save time. However, reducing time on the drudgery of creating a ToA is a modest result and one can hardly expect to win a case based on having a better ToA than one’s opponent.
That’s right, isn’t it? I mean, really… it’s just a table of authorities… it’s nice for all of the components of a brief to have good quality, and the quality of a lawyer’s work product reflects positively or negatively directly on that lawyer, but, um, a ToA can’t actually win a case… right? That’s got to be right, doesn’t it?
That’s right. You cannot win a case based on having a better ToA than your opponent. You can make a poor impression on the reader, whether a judge, clerk, or someone else, and a ToA is at the start of the brief where first impressions are formed. You can get a reputation as a sloppy writer by having poor quality components in your legal work product, but you cannot win a case because you had a higher quality ToA than opposing counsel.
Having said that, our users told us that our ToA product does do something that does contribute to winning cases. They told us that without our product, a talented paralegal (or a low-level associate who was being punished for some unspecified transgression by having to do ToAs for a week 😏) could do a high-quality ToA for a large brief in about half a day. However, court filing deadlines are absolute and nobody wanted to stake the quality or timeliness of a brief on the availability of the exceptional paralegal, so all of the lawyers had to assume that their ToAs would be done by the average paralegal and it would take twice as long or more. That meant that everyone had to stop writing in time to leave a full day for the average paralegal to do the work and have it checked.
That is the thing that our ToA product (now the LexisNexis ToA product) does to help win cases. It extends deadlines. Lawyers knew that the ToA would get done in under an hour regardless of who was available to do it. Knowing that, they were able to keep writing past the point at which they would usually need to stop. Their deadlines were effectively extended by several hours and they could use that time for just a bit more research, a bit more analysis, a bit more law, and a bit more polished writing. Not a lot, admittedly. We do software, not magic. But our users told us that it was noticeable and they felt better about their work product.
With the ToA story as prologue, I’m excited to see some of the side-effects that Clause Logic is bringing to legal document drafting. In many ways, the story is the same. We save time. We save that time by reducing the most-detested and least-lawyerly tasks in legal document drafting. We raise quality. We raise the quality of legal work product not by requiring users to hope that some unknowable AI algorithm is practicing law better than they can, but by eliminating tedium. We add legal and business value. We add value by making it easier to incorporate the expertise of the most skilled subject matter experts of a law firm into every brief without adding editing and review tasks for those experts.
We know that our legal document generation can save time, raise quality, and add legal and business value. We’ve done that before and we are doing it again. These things are hardly boring, but they are also no more than what users expect from a document drafting tool. What interests me as a legal technologist is to see some of the unexpected side-effects that come out of delivering these benefits into the legal document drafting process by using the novel approach that we're taking with Clause Logic. We’re seeing some early interesting results, and I look forward to posting individual success stories in posts over the next few days.