Not many litigators would leave Big Law to start the grueling journey of a legal tech entrepreneur, but our Founder, Alma Asay saw an industry at a tipping point and knew she had the solution to a growing problem. At the Janders Dean & Chicago-Kent College of Law Legal Horizons Conference, Asay was invited to share her insights on the future of litigation and what drove her to build Allegory's litigation management platform.
When most people think about litigation technology, E-Discovery software comes to mind. When practicing at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Asay was frustrated that few vendors and technologists support the traditional practice of litigation:
"We would work with vendors and they would get us to production and their website would say "we're end to end," but the last bullet point would be production. I'm sitting there thinking that's no help to me at all! I'm focused on traditional litigation activities like filing motions, preparing for depositions, preparing for trial, and those tools weren't built for those activities. We would create complex spreadsheets to track of all the documents in the case, the key portions of those documents and how they were being used throughout the case, but it just seemed so impractical that Excel was our best solution."
Software that improves the traditional practice of litigation
Many conflate litigation with the EDRM, so Asay finds it useful to flip the EDRM on its side to distinguish litigation activities, creating the "Upside-Down T of Litigation":
"What we focus on is not E-Discovery, but everything that comes both before and after E-Discovery, as well during E-Discovery that really brings us back to the traditional litigation practice."
Electronic data and the tipping point of litigation
Lawyers have always had their hands full, but once upon a time, it was possible to manage a case with a supply of manila folders and file boxes. With the explosion of electronic data, paring down terabytes of information to find what was relevant to a dispute became unmanageable without technology. Even with the help of E-Discovery software, the number of documents that are responsive in a complex litigation can be overwhelming. To Asay, this became her calling:
"This is what really drove me to leave Gibson Dunn - this feeling that we were reaching this tipping point, where we had thousands of exhibits that we not only needed to keep track of or know that they were important. We actually needed to know what specifically about each document was important, and how it had been used through-out the case, and what our witnesses had testified about it. And we had to have that information at our fingertips! It was just getting more and more impossible as the original data set grew bigger, and what trickled down to actually be important to the case got bigger."
Building a more efficient tool for litigation management
Technology is increasingly used in discovery and is even gaining traction in the traditional practice of litigation. These tools help litigation teams keep track of their important documents, the key evidence in the case, and how all those pieces relate. Asay knew there was a better way to work:
"One of the things we're doing at Allegory is trying to take these processes that lawyers and paralegals are working on every day and making them more efficient."
Asay sat down with a longtime Gibson Dunn paralegal to better understand the work put into supporting a litigation team. One of the tasks discussed was creating binders. The two figured out what it takes to create a binder "the old way" to figure out how to do it "the new way" with technology. To create a binder using E-Discovery tools you would typically need a Bates-begin. Attorney's though, tend to just scribble down the individual Bates. It's often the paralegal's job to then find the document to identify the Bates begin in order to assemble a binder. With Allegory, you simply upload a list of Bates numbers and our software automatically creates the binder and pulls in the associated documents.
After going through this exercise with a number of rote tasks, even with conservative estimates, technology allowed the two to complete tasks at least 12x faster.
As a litigator herself, Asay knows that it's not enough just to make teams more efficient, they must also be effective:
"If you think about having the answers at your fingertips, its no longer a manila folder with all the documents you need going into court - it may be thousands of exhibits. And when a witness testifies to something that you're not expecting, you'd better be able to find testimony from some other witness that negates it as quickly as possible."
Asay has felt this pain - even at the Gibson Dunn where the team had a system and resources in place to stay on top of the facts. When a surprise document was pulled up during a deposition, they couldn't do anything but email the team back at the office for help understanding how it could be used. By the time they understood where it had come from and how it might be relevant to the case, hours - and more importantly, the opportunity - had passed.
The trouble with legal tech
When she began pitching Allegory to law firms, Asay was dumbfounded by the answer she got from some firms: "we're worried it might make us too efficient." Concerned about their billable hours, they failed to see the advantage of litigation technology. Undeterred, Asay knew she just hadn't found the right kind of attorney.
"Our best clients are the ones who are passionate about litigation, who are passionate about getting out there and winning their cases. They know that there's always more work to do at 3 a.m., but they'd rather be lawyering, not trying to find documents."
In addition to overcoming the legal industry's resistance, Asay also had to carve her own path when it came to funding. She spent seven months in Silicon Valley trying to raise capital before deciding to go ahead and try to sell directly to customers. Investors would tell her "the sales cycle is slow" or "lawyers are resistant to change," but she knew that the right technology designed to suit their needs was needed.
After wrangling together funds from friends, family, and private investors, Allegory launched a stable and secure app and has since found partners amongst some of the leading legal services providers who similarly saw a tipping point on the horizon.
To learn more about Allegory and about Asay's legal tech journey, watch the video below, or here on the Law Lab Channel.