Legal Innovation Forum – Key Takeaways

On October 3, 2023, ClearyX analysts Kaitland Goulet and Egi Troka attended the Legal Innovation Forum in Calgary, Alberta. This year’s theme focused on how leadership and collaboration are driving change and delivering value in the evolving legal ecosystem. The following are key takeaways from the panels.  

Driving Alberta’s Economic Innovation: Alberta has a culture of enterprise, having one of the highest number of new businesses in Canada. Legal leaders play a significant role in driving innovation as advisors and connectors who apply a business lens to risk tolerance. Innovation is driven by highly engaged, multi-disciplinary teams that complement each other’s skills and operate in a safe environment where opinions can be freely expressed. Innovative lawyers are collaborative and optimistic for change, having empathy for people’s problems and a passion to solve problems.

Future of the Legal Ecosystem: In 2023, lawyers can take control of their practices and increase their productivity as GenAI tools are embedded in products and workflows. Companies like Simplex Legal and Goodlawyer are leveraging these tools to improve service delivery, with a focus on efficiency, accuracy, and cost-effectiveness. These tools can handle repetitive and tedious work, reducing errors and distilling buried insights. Use cases include the summarization, extraction and interrogation of a full suite of documents. The best legal tech tools are being created by people who are deeply embedded in the area of practice being targeted, as they know the area, pain points and where to look for inefficiencies.

The structure of the legal industry is changing. Investors are pouring more money into legal tech as the demand is driven by clients who request responsiveness and immediate results at a cheaper price. Law firms are feeding Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) work. It is estimated that approximately 80% of ALSP’s revenue is coming from law firms, while the rest is from the Big4 and other sources. Meanwhile, law societies are using “sandboxes” to foster innovation, allowing for rule exemptions in regions like Arizona, Utah, and several Canadian provinces.

Mastering Change Management: The reality is that individuals are either inspired or forced to change. Stakeholders in the legal industry have taken an entrepreneurial approach to change management. They encourage ongoing discourse and follow market demand to understand problems and craft appropriate solutions. Law firms have found that incremental change, rather than fundamental change is a more realistic and successful approach. When faced with resistance to change, the best approach is to ask why this resistance exists to help improve the change process and obtain better adoption. Regardless of the approach taken to innovation, lawyers’ duty of competence includes technological skills.

Solving for the people puzzle: There is a disconnect between law school and legal practice due to generational and situational differences. Law students and young lawyers have different career aspirations and perspectives. Lawyers are moving to in-house opportunities much earlier in their careers than what is traditionally expected, largely due to beliefs of improved work-life balance, value alignment and flexibility with an in-house career. Millennials and GenZ employees tend to desire increased transparency and communication from leadership, as they were raised by families who included them in “grown-up” discussions. The pandemic has also transformed physical workplaces, adding another layer of complexity. Yet retention issues are often dismissed as a cost of doing business in big law firms, leading to a lack of motivation to foster a positive work culture. Ultimately, lawyers should focus on the impact they want to make, rather than chasing a dream job at a specific workplace, to have greater career satisfaction.

In conclusion, the forum highlighted that technology will not replace lawyers but will equip them to deliver better value. As the saying goes, “Technology will not take your job away, but a lawyer who is better equipped to use technology will.”

This article was prepared jointly by Egi Troka and Kaitland Goulet.

Alternative Legal Careers

The traditional assumption has been that an individual graduating from law school will almost always enter private practice, climb the law firm hierarchy and reach the coveted status of equity partner. Why else would you go through the trouble of attending all those early morning constitutional classes, and the effort of being called to the bar? By many accounts, a sizeable number of lawyers are currently unhappy with private practice. Surveys conducted by the American Bar Association indicated that 24% of lawyers who passed the Bar in 2000 were no longer practicing law in 2012[1]. Surveys conducted by the International Bar Association indicated that 33% of lawyers under 40 were considering pursuing a different area of the law, while 20% were considering leaving the legal field altogether[2]. Fortunately, many lawyers can increasingly leverage their legal training to pursue alternative legal employment, including quasi-legal positions, alternative service providers including legal tech, ADR/mediation, policy work and education to name a few areas.

The first evolution in the shift away from private practice can be credited to the proliferation of ‘in-house’ counsel positions in the early 1990’s, created largely by banks and insurance companies to try and manage legal costs. Companies have continuously scaled up their in-house legal departments to manage many of the tasks that would otherwise be outsourced to private firms, leading to large in-house legal teams now being  the norm and not the exception. Departing the world of climbing the law-firm ladder, and the immutable law of billable hours, is a change many lawyers are happy to make.

The second evolution came with the growth of ‘quasi-legal’ positions in the mid 2000’s, most notably the creation of specialist positions in the e-Discovery space. With law firms looking to control litigations costs and employ processes to manage the potential thousands of documents that would eventually be turned over in the discovery process. Legally trained specialists were needed in this rapidly evolving e-Discovery space. This specialization allowed lawyers to focus on one key part of the litigation journey, in turn developing novel processes to increase efficiency and reduce client costs. Since this adoption, almost every large international law firm now has a dedicated e-Discovery department.

The legal profession is evolving, and the latest leap forward is the use of AI. Legal technology is advancing at an exponential rate and law firms will need to adapt to stay competitive. This growth in technology will also lead to a simultaneous growth in roles for people who have legal knowledge and the ability to embrace the growth of new technology and processes. ClearyX is at the heart of this evolution! For example, Due Diligence Analysts specialize in all aspects of transactional diligence, while Transaction Managers manage multiple projects simultaneously, both utilizing innovative processes and the use of technology.

It is clear that the profession will continue to grow and change, in turn will creating new alternative legal positions and new ways to leverage the power of a law degree. The future of law has never looked so bright!



A “day in the life” at ClearyX

“What do you do at ClearyX exactly?” is a question I’ve been frequently asked since joining as a Due Diligence Analyst earlier this year and I thought the easiest way to answer that question would be to give you a sneak peek into a regular day here at ClearyX.

On a typical day, I begin my day looking through my outlook calendar to orient myself for the day and refresh my memory of my meetings and to-do list for the day. Then I’m off to get my toddler ready for daycare. By 9:30am, I’m back home and ready to begin my work day.

Most work days begin with an email notification with detailed client instructions on a project for M&A due diligence from one of the Directors or Transaction Managers. While we work on diverse legal projects that span across various industries and specializations, we mainly collaborate with M&A teams and support purchase and sale transactions requiring due diligence review and analysis. We understand that the volume of documents to be reviewed in these large-scale corporate transactions can be overwhelming for the M&A teams to manage and we are called upon for our highly efficient and specialized service offering.

For example, as is often the case in this area of law, many of these projects have a quick turnaround time which the team and I are able to meet by leveraging technology and artificial intelligence to enhance our subject matter expertise. It is important to note, however, that while we embrace technology and maximize use of language processing software, our review is ultimately led by humans. The technology we utilize improves our review capability, however us analysts always draw on our legal training to verify the output for correctness and our Directors and Transaction Managers provide a final quality check to ensure our high standard for value creation is always met. The outcome is that our team delivers a comprehensive due diligence report quicker than traditional law firms would, yet without compromising quality as our process for review reduces errors and focuses on value creation.

Throughout the day, I am constantly connecting with my colleagues via Teams and Zoom to discuss projects, ask questions, or just to socialize. We are a fully remote team with team members based all across North America, and we are expanding into Europe as well, so at any given time one team member may be ending their day when another is just starting theirs. You see, one of the ways ClearyX is reimagining how legal services are provided is by operating and growing strategically across different time zones so that we can be available to our clients when they need us without the expectation that one person be available 24/7. Did I mention we have an advanced project management system that allows the deal teams to view the progress of the review in real time and enhances our team’s collaboration on the transactions?

There are quiet days too. On these days, I work on my side projects targeted towards innovation and process improvement. In fact, every ClearyX team member is involved in the development of improvements of our processes and we are empowered to regularly present and execute on our ideas. We have a management team that is relentless about reimagining how our legal services can be delivered and actively foster and encourage our involvement. These projects keep me engaged before my toddler returns from daycare at 4:30pm.
My work with ClearyX provides me with so much flexibility that I’m able to balance my mom life and work life. I am also challenged by my work, get to be creative, and feel supported by my team.

The value creation and exceptional team here at ClearyX is better experienced than described.

Time for More AI and Automation in Legal Services

Automation and software technology has advanced leaps and bounds since the late 1990’s. This is most evident in the widespread use of software in the workplace and automation in the manufacturing process. However, professional service providers including law firms, accounting firms, banks and health care providers have been slow to innovate. In the past several years however, there has been a greater push for the use of advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (machine learning in particular) to assist with tasks normally handled by a professional service provider.

Automation through the use of AI is slowing becoming widespread in the accounting field. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is now being used to complete repeated high volume tasks, allowing accountants more time for analysis and interpretation. AI is also being used as a tool for automatic auditing. A user can set items that need to be flagged, and the system will review large amounts of financial records and highlight areas of concern. As AI becomes more accurate and accountants become more accustomed to their use, we can expect greater use of AI and machine learning in the near future.

In the finance industry, AI technology is gradually being introduced to create predictive modelling which can, for example, automatically measure profitability and risk. As the technology advances, AI will be used to create more complex models, with less requirement for user feedback and greater accuracy.

The potential for the use of AI in medicine is immense. From early detection of diseases to managing patient data, AI can be implemented in a versatile manner, for use by different treatment providers or administrators. Currently, AI is being used to great effect in the field of diagnostic radiology, where AI is particularly suited for recognizing visual patterns. More hospitals are now using AI to aid in the interpretation of MRI and CAT scans, to detect tumors that could be missed by humans. For example, AI can be used to review mammography scans, reducing false positives which would otherwise require unnecessary biopsies. Algorithms can also be used to detect potentially fatal abdominal aneurisms, with enough accuracy for use in clinical practice. AI will only get smarter, faster and more accurate in the coming years. While not a replacement for radiologists who are trained medical doctors, AI will simply be a tool for more efficient analysis.

Automation in the legal field is long overdue. AI and machine learning can readily assist with high volume tasks, such as transactional due diligence, in a more accurate and efficient manner. A culture shift is coming, where law firms will need to innovate to offer greater value to clients and manage costs. As more clients become accustomed to the use of AI in transactions, there will be greater pressure on law firms to provide these services to their corporate clients.

AI & Due Diligence, the Perfect Match

Being asked to “do more with less” is now a common feature of the modern workplace. This has become especially true for attorneys in private practice, where efficiency is now a top priority. A 2019 survey by the management consulting firm Altman Weil highlights that 96% of 362 responding law firms reported a focus on improved practice efficiency as a permanent industry trend. This heavy emphasis on efficiency has motivated lawyers to turn to sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) tools to reduce duplicative work and cut hours off the time they must devote to contract review and monitoring. Cleary Gottlieb, and more specifically it’s recently founded legal tech incubator ClearyX, are similarly ahead of the curve.

These AI review tools use patented machine learning to identify, extract, and analyze content in commercial contracts, often increasing accuracy and efficiency and allowing attorneys to more easily find trusted information and uncover risks. The benefits are often most evident during M&A transactions, one of the many work streams that ClearyX supports. On the sell side, when the target company prepares to share its contracts with the buyer, these tools can automatically identify potentially problematic provisions so the target company has a better understanding of the risks of entering into an M&A transaction in its own contracts (for example, the target company’s customers may have an option to terminate their contracts if there is a change of control of the target company). And on the buyer side, it can help eliminate the major pain point of manually downloading documents from a virtual data room since users can connect directly and securely log in to import documents.

Where these tools can be most impactful though, is when identifying potentially problematic provisions within the typical tight timeframes. Accurate provision identification is essential throughout the due diligence process. For example, most attorneys know that the change of control and assignment provisions are not always heavily negotiated, but the importance of reviewing and analyzing them carefully during due diligence cannot be overstated. Early identification of critical target company contracts and careful analysis of these clauses are essential so that the parties can develop effective strategies for addressing any issues that could put at risk the intended value or timing of a transaction. It is through the use of AI driven contract analysis tool that the reviewers can uncover these provisions and determine the implications in a fraction of time, relaying the relevant information to clients in an actionable manner and reducing their overall risk exposure. In the world of M&A, where hundreds of thousands of contracts are at play, relying on manual review is asking for trouble.

That is why at ClearyX we deploy a full suite of cutting edge legal technologies to drive our alternative legal services, with AI powered contact review software being central to our due diligence offering. Our goals and those of our client are made all the more achievable through the use of these tools, increasing efficiency and costs savings, producing high quality work product, and mitigating client risk. We hope you’ll let us show you how it’s done…