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[fa icon="calendar"] May 25, 2017 8:00:00 AM / by Lily Bruns

Technology tools can make you more efficient, but the number of tools needed to successfully manage a litigation can be overwhelming - segmenting your workflow and distracting you from the bigger picture. Allegory Founder & CEO, Alma Asay, co-hosted a CLE with Anna McGrane of PacerPro and Chad Main of Percipient to discuss trends in legal services and ways in which litigation software can work together to improve your workflow.

Why should lawyers care about technology?

The practice of law is changing, driven by a combination of policy, industry shifts, and technological innovation. Despite the ABA's update of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 to include a requirement for technology competence, many lawyers still struggle to integrate technology into the practice of law. Front of mind for most law firms, however, is pressure from clients to "do more with less."

This CLE focused on how litigators who embrace technology can deliver better outcomes to clients, and gain the edge they need to win the case.

Building better litigation tools

While practicing at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Allegory's Alma Asay witnessed the exponential growth in digital evidence managed by litigation teams. As part of an award-winning litigation practice, Asay's teams worked hard to stay on top of their cases by hacking Excel and shared-drives to track documents and evidence. Even when it worked, however, this was a painfully manual process, and clients complained about the cost, asking if there was a better way. Having tried and failed to use legacy systems that no longer met the needs of modern litigation, she knew the answer was no, but eventually tiring of disappointing clients, she left the practice to create a better way to litigate.

When building Allegory, Asay designed the features she'd always dreamed of and worked closely with her favorite paralegal to understand the processes that underpinned successful litigation management. The essence of Allegory's knowledge management platform is that information goes in once, and from then it is linked and reference-able in any number of ways, allowing teams to handle their evidence in ways that were never before possible. Common tasks like creating and organizing binders that used to require hours of paralegal time can now be completed in seconds.

Beyond time-savings, Allegory also allows litigators to do things never before possible - such as responding to a surprise document while in a deposition. Previously, the best option in this scenario was to email the team back at the office to initiate an hours long paper-chase. With technology, litigators can plug in the Bates and not only find the document but immediately see that document in context to understand how it's been used throughout the case.

Delivering value through technology

Allegory is only one of many available tools built for litigators, by litigators, so why aren't more law firms embracing legal innovation? Asay has explored the forces driving adoption of technology in the legal industry and identified a tension between law firms and in-house counsel: corporate counsel expect efficiency and transparency from their law firms, but they don't want to tell law firms how to do their work. 

Conflating value with price, the most common response from law firms prompted to "do more with less" is to reduce rates, but this results in unhealthy competition and drives a "race to the bottom." If clients aren't happy with law firm results, no matter how reduced the rate, they will move on to another firm. To break the cycle, Asay suggests that law firms focus not on price, but on the service delivery model:

"So how do we get to a point where law firms can use technology to give clients everything that they want, without slashing their rates and getting the full value of their time?" - Alma Asay

The answer, of course, is to use technology and work with alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) to improve workflows. If clients are unwilling to pay for the necessary administrative work, law firms now have better options than to eat the cost. Beyond the cost savings, the time gained back allows litigators to actually focus on the value added practice of law and delivering better outcomes for clients.

Transparency and understanding ROI

Anna McGrane of PacerPro noted that the emerging class of litigation tools are built with a lawyer's workflow in mind. Litigation technology allows lawyers to spend less time finding and organizing data, and instead focus on practicing law.

Systems like Pacer hold valuable information but are not built in an accessible way. A tool like PacerPro unlocks that value by making data usable. Their bread-and-butter feature automatically downloads docket information and sends it to case teams as a PDF. While courts have digitized notices of electronic filing and documents can be accessed through a hyperlink, lawyers are often on the go and are not necessarily reading through documents thoroughly or even in a position to download them. This common occurrence can lead to unfortunate mistakes such as one case where 18 different lawyers misinterpreted the heading of an important filing and missed a critical deadline.

Unlike some legacy providers, PacerPro's goal is to let law firm clients access their own data so there is no need to hide things away behind paywalls and black-box algorithms. For example, PacerPro has a live feed of filings with associated meta-data. While publishers like Lexis and Westlaw charge you for content, PacerPro and many other vendors work to fit into a litigator's workflow, not force them to sign in to yet another system, so whatever data lawyers want, they will deliver.

This transparency also allows law firms to understand the return on investment in technology. When firms can see how many documents they've accessed through PacerPro, or how many binders they've created through Allegory, they can better communicate to clients how they add value.

Tools and services for all stages of litigation

"With more and more platforms that come in at different points in the litigation process, lawyers need tools that are immediately understandable... Larger law firms want to centralize their software tools so that you as a lawyer don't need to remember where your information is and log in to one of 15 tech products." - Anna McGrane

To this end tools like Allegory were designed so that these programs could "talk to each other," whether through a technology integration or through the collaboration of real life people at these companies - the result is seamless for the end user. Key documents, for example, show up in Allegory whether pushed from an e-discovery provider or Allegory's services arm can add files delivered through PacerPro's service.

"Sometimes people say "I just want a tool that does everything," but that's just not true. You want tools that are specialized, but work together. That way, you're getting the best for each particular area." - Alma Asay

Main emphasized how ALSPs can, not also save time and money, but provide access to expertise that law firms may not possess, similar to the way law firms will bring in expert witnesses:

"There are certain cases where you wouldn't want to rely on your own legal team to do the research or help prep lay-witnesses to get a point across... I think if you extrapolate that thinking, that there are areas you might need specialized technology to help you win your case." - Chad Main

When it comes to processing large, custom data-bases, or a class action case requiring complex analysis, law firms may get better value by looking outside the firm. More common applications of ALSPs are also for rote tasks, such as in-house contract review or due diligence. The biggest category of such services, of course, are in document review and e-discovery.

At any stage in a litigation, legal technology and services providers can bring in their experience with data and automation to help law firms refine their processes and lessen their workload - giving them the time and tools they need to focus on strategy and the value-added that that helps win the case, at a better price for the client.

 

Topics: Alma Asay, LegalTech, Litigation Management, Education, Events, Insights, PacerPro, Anna McGrane, Chad Main, Percipient, CLE

Lily Bruns

Written by Lily Bruns

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