Legal Technology and Productivity

A recently published report found that lawyers only spend 29% of their time on billable tasks. A staggering 48% of their time is spent on office administration, generating and sending bills, configuring technology, and collections. The remaining time is dedicated to business development.

Given these statistics, it is not surprising that another survey found that lawyers expect that efficiency will grow in importance and focus over the next two years. The best ways to increase efficiency are expected to be found in optimising technology tools and solutions, followed by talent management, and process and workflow improvement. Outsourcing legal work is considered the least promising option.

It seems obvious that legal technology can help increase efficiency and productivity, but its implementation must be done properly. It’s not because you start using technology, that you will automatically become more productive. To fully reap the benefits of legal technology, it must be implemented and used in a disciplined and well-planned way.

Optimizing legal technology goes hand in hand with process and workflow improvement, which in itself also contributes to optimizing efficiency. Analysing how you work and seeing how the process and workflow can be improved needs to be done on a regular basis.

One of the areas were legal technology has proven its value is Legal Case Management Software. Packages typically include modules or apps for contact management, case management, document management and assembly, billing, as well as calendaring. When these are properly organized, they help you save time.

In this context, it is useful to point out that moving to a cloud solution for Legal Case Management software can save additional time and resources. Cloud solution providers typically maximize their Internet security, use reliable physical security (biometric scans etc.), and have immediate disaster recovery plans. Using a cloud solution makes your IT budgeting more predictable, and eliminates IT hassle and distractions. Add to that, that cloud solutions offer inherent Remote Access, making your information accessible from anywhere, at any time. Finally, by now cloud solutions are often cheaper as you have to invest less in hardware infrastructure, additional software licenses (security, etc.), as well as in IT staff.

Analysing processes and the workflow for specific types of cases revealed that some of them lend themselves exceptionally well for automation. This is the case, e.g., for debt recovery / collections, e.g., where the vast majority of the process can be automated.

There are additional tools available that typically work as add-ons to Legal Case Management Software, which can help increase productivity. Take, e.g., dictation software: for the average user, dictating a text is three times faster than typing it. Using voice controlled apps, as well as working with two monitors also help you work faster. (Think, e.g., of writing a brief, where you have your word processor on one monitor, and the relevant information on the other).

Thus far, we mainly paid attention to Legal Case Management Software, which only offers part of the available solutions. A law firm is a firm, and has to be managed as such, and that is where Law Firm Management Software comes in. Typically, this consists of an accounting application, as well as different advanced reporting options that allow you, e.g., to get overviews of how much is spent on what, who owes you, who in the firm is most productive, etc. Some packages cater specifically for larger law firms, and offer HRM solutions as well.

The progress in the field of artificial intelligence has led to significant advances in software solutions for Legal Research, eDiscovery, and Knowledge Management. These, too, can make your more productive.

Talking about artificial intelligence: at present, up to 23 % of the tasks that a lawyer routinely performs can already be automated. We can expect an increase in the usage of intelligent bots that can take over those routinely performed tasks, which will offer lawyers the opportunity to focus more on billable work.

Finally, using a smart phone or tablet can also increase your productivity. In a previous article, we talked about different apps for mobile devices that allow you to work when you’re not at the office. When, e.g., you are waiting in a court room, or travelling, you can spend that time doing some work on your portable device, where that time would otherwise just be wasted.


Legal AI and Bias

Justice is blind, but legal AI may be biased.

Like many advanced technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Some of the potentially negative aspects of AI regularly make headlines. There is a fear that humans could be replaced by AI, and that AI might take our jobs. (As pointed out in a previous article, lawyers are less at risk of such a scenario: AI would perform certain tasks, but not take jobs, as only 23% of the work lawyers do can be automated at present). Others, like Elon Musk, predict doomsday scenarios if we start using AI in weapons or warfare. And there could indeed be a problem there: what if armed robotic soldiers are hacked, or have bad code and go rogue? Some predict that superintelligence (where AI systems become vastly more intelligent than human beings) and the singularity (i.e. the moment when AI systems become self-aware) are inevitable. The combination of both would lead to humans being the inferior species, and possibly being wiped out.

John Giannandrea, who leads AI at Google, does not believe these are the real problems with AI. He sees another problem, and it happens to be one that is very relevant to lawyers. He is worried about intelligent systems learning human prejudices. “The real safety question, if you want to call it that, is that if we give these systems biased data, they will be biased,” Giannandrea said.

The case that comes to mind is COMPAS, which is risk assessment software that is used to predict the likelihood of somebody being repeat offender. It is often used in criminal cases in the US by judges and parole boards. ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize winning non-profit news organization. It decided to analyse how correct COMPAS was in its predictions. They discovered that COMPAS’ algorithms correctly predicted recidivism for black and white defendants at roughly the same rate. But when the algorithms were wrong, they were wrong in different ways for each race. African American defendants were almost twice as likely to be labelled a higher risk where they did not actually re-offend. And for Caucasian defendants the opposite mistake was made: they were more likely to be labelled lower risk by the software, while in reality they did re-offend. In other words, ProPublica discovered a double bias in COMPAS, one in favour of white defendants, and one against black defendants. (Note that COMPAS disputes those findings and argues the data were misinterpreted).

The problem of bias in AI is real. AI is being used in more and more industries, like housing, education, employment, medicine and law. Some experts are warning that algorithmic bias is already pervasive in many industries, and that almost no one is making an effort to identify or correct it. “It’s important that we be transparent about the training data that we are using, and are looking for hidden biases in it, otherwise we are building biased systems,” Giannandrea added.

Giannandrea correctly points out that the underlying problem is a problem of lack of transparency in the algorithms that are being used. “Many of the most powerful emerging machine-learning techniques are so complex and opaque in their workings that they defy careful examination.”

Apart of all the ethical implications, the fact that it is unclear how the algorithms come to a specific conclusion could have legal implications. The U.S. Supreme Court might soon take up the case of a Wisconsin convict who claims his right to due process was violated when the judge who sentenced him consulted COMPAS. The argument used by the defence is that the workings of the system were opaque to the defendant, making it impossible to know for what arguments a defence had to be built.

To address these problems, a new institute, the AI Now Institute ( was founded. It produces interdisciplinary research on the social implications of artificial intelligence and acts as a hub for the emerging field focused on these issues. Their main mission consists of “Researching the social implications of artificial intelligence now to ensure a more equitable future.” They want to make sure that AI systems are sensitive and responsive to the complex social domains in which they are applied. To that end, we will need to develop new ways to measure, audit, analyse, and improve them.


Digital Marketing for Lawyers, part 2

This is a follow-up article to an article we published three months ago, which also dealt with digital marketing for lawyers. In it, we explained why digital marketing is important for lawyers and we also focused on some of the tools lawyers have at their disposal: websites, blogging, SEO, social media, reputation management and reviews.

Marketing often is something that lawyers see as a necessary evil. To make matters worse, online marketing is substantially different from traditional marketing. Some of this was discussed in our ‘Why Social Media Matter‘ article. In it, we explained that “the old ways of turning visitors into customers are not the most effective in an online paradigm. In the new online marketplace, everybody offering products or services must realise that they also are publishers, and that potential customers are content consumers. The way to turn website visitors into customers is to turn them into regular content consumers first.”

In this new marketplace, lawyers must publish websites and blogs, and engage with potential customers on social media. They must take things into account like user experience and website design; mobile functionality and local search presence. They have to focus on online intake of new clients, on customer service and client experience, as well as on reviews, reputation and authority. And most importantly, they have to work on how to turn website and blog visitors into regular content consumers, before they can be converted to clients.

So, practically speaking, where does one start? The first step is to know your audience and competitors. One of the advantages of the online marketplace is that we can have better access to all the pertinent data. We can learn who visits our website or blog, as well as who we are connected with on social media. This allows us to create visitor profiles, which then in turn allows us to better accommodate their wishes and expectations. It is important to keep the focus on potential customers, when determining what content to provide. At the same time, it is also important to keep track of what the competition is doing, so we can a) differentiate ourselves sufficiently, and b) remain competitive.

The next step is to then define an engagement strategy. The adage that content is king still applies. Know where your potential customers are on social media, and offer them relevant content. What has changed in 2017 is that the content people are looking for is no longer limited to quality text content. They also want visual content: infographics, e.g., are more popular than ever before, as is video content. So, make sure you use those. (In a future article, we’ll deal more in depth with content marketing specifically).

The way to further finetune your strategies and to find out what works for your law firm is, again, to diligently keep track of the relevant metrics. Find out what pages on your website and blog are popular. Discover how people found them. Learn what posts on social media led to visitors of your website and blog.

If you are familiar with some of the more traditional marketing techniques, then Teresa Matich’s article on “How to Take Your Old School Marketing Techniques Online” on the Wishpond blog can be useful. She illustrates how online marketing uses different tools, and that we have to move:

  • from business cards to websites: 96% of people with a legal issue turn to the Internet first, and nearly 40% of people needing a lawyer look on the Internet first to find one.
  • from public speaking to blogging: you build a reputation by publishing high quality articles on the Internet.
  • from the phone book to online ratings directories: people no longer just want to find a lawyer, they want to know whether he or she is any good, and they will look for online reviews.
  • from bus stop ads to Facebook ads: people looking for a lawyer spend just over a quarter of their time doing so on social media, so it makes sense to advertise on them.


Alex Barthet, a Miami based lawyer, gives some additional useful advice, based on his personal experiences with online marketing.

  • Claim your online profiles: online services like Google, Yelp, and Avvo let you create profiles. Often these are among the first places potential clients go looking.
  • Also claim your social profiles on sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  • Be careful with paid profiles: they usually offer very little extra value.
  • Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising carefully, and make sure to determine a maximum budget that cannot be exceeded.
  • Don’t fall for sales pitches from marketing companies that want to lock you into long-term contracts.