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Colin S. Levy

Notes From The Front Lines of Legal Innovation

Sterling Miller

Sterling Miller is a highly experienced General Counsel, Corporate Secretary, and in-house attorney. He is currently General Counsel of Marketo, a marketing automation firm. Sterling is also the author of the highly-regarded Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel blog and author of the book Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel: Practical Advice and Successful StrategiesContinue Reading

Adi Prakash

Adi Prakash is an experienced leader in the transformation space, having spent many years working with C-level organizational leaders defining and executing transformation initiatives spanning the gamut from Business Process Re-Engineering to Machine Learning and Analytics. His previous roles have included CTO and Head of Legal, eDiscovery & Corporate Responsibility technology at JP Morgan Chase, Head of Controls Functions technology at Och-Ziff Capital Management and Head of Anti-Money Laundering and Trade Surveillance Technology at UBS amongst others. He now is the Chief Innovation Officer for Yerra Solutions tasked with running their Global Client Services and Innovation division.

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Catherine Bamford

Catherine Bamford is in her words a “Legal Engineer.” She is working at the intersection of legal practice and legal technology helping both law firms and law departments improve the delivery of legal service through the smart application of legal technology. She is the co-founder and CEO of the legal tech consultancy firm BamLegal. I had the pleasure of speaking with her about her career path, her views of legal technology, and about her current work.  Continue Reading

Gerald Glover III

Gerald Glover III  “discovered his passion for legal technology at Suffolk Law School while researching how to increase access to justice. After earning his degree, he went on to work at a company specializing in document automation, where he developed project management, data analytics, and software-building skills. Since joining DWT De Novo, he has sharpened the team’s ability to engage with and evaluate vendors. Gerald’s dedication to improving solution adoption supports DWT De Novo’s ongoing work to transform legal service delivery.” (https://denovo.dwt.com/gerald-glover/)
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Bruce MacEwen

I recently spoke with Bruce MacEwen to get his take on a number of issues facing the legal industry and the practice of law. Bruce MacEwen is a leader in the legal consultant industry, having published nearly 2,000 articles on topics relevant to the field. He also founded Adam Smith, Esq. in 2003. Bruce has also written several books including most recently Tomorrowland: Scenarios for law firms beyond the horizon (2017).  Continue Reading

Chad Burton

Chad Burton is a former litigator and now a leader in the legal industry, especially in the areas of legal tech and developing new models of legal service delivery. As a big advocate of legal tech, he has been quoted in numerous publications and was named to the Fastcase 50 list of global legal innovators in 2014. As he puts it, Chad has “an unhealthy obsession with experimenting with the latest legal and productivity technologies. If there’s a possibility it can be leveraged to better practice and serve clients…” I spoke with him about his company, CuroLegal, his views on legal tech, and ideas about where the practice of law is heading over the next few years.  Continue Reading

Professor Daniel Martin Katz

I had the pleasure of having a wide-ranging conversation with Professor Daniel Martin Katz. Professor Katz is a leader in the legal innovation and legal analytics space. He also is a leader in training lawyers to operate with 21st-century technology and systems and, to that point, is a strong proponent of teaching law from a multidisciplinary perspective, incorporating science, math, and technology into the teaching of law.  Continue Reading

Lucy Bassli

Lucy Bassli likely needs little introduction. For those who do not know her or her work, you should. She spent a little over 13 years at Microsoft, most recently as Assistant General Counsel, Legal Operations and Contracting. She made news recently by leaving that role to start her own business www.innolegalservices.com and to become Chief Legal Strategist at LawGeex. She is a renowned expert on contracting and what is now known as legal operations. She also has a clear and evident passion for “moving legal services into the modern era by focusing in legal department efficiencies, alternative legal service providers, metrics and data-driven process improvements.” She has spoken extensively on these topics and, on a personal note, she has been someone I have long admired. I had the pleasure of recently speaking with her about her work.

How would you define legal operations?

Right now, it is being defined very broadly and rightfully includes a long list of functions, capabilities, professions and skillsets. In short, I’d say legal operations is running a legal department like a business. Typical business practices include data-driven decisions, tracking and measuring progress, setting goals and timelines, workforce planning and resourcing, budgeting and forecasting, to name a few. All of those common principles are now being more commonly applied to law departments in corporations.

What was the impetus behind your implementation of legal operations at Microsoft? How did you go about implementing such a department?

At Microsoft, we had legal operations in various parts of the department, and they were quite robust. For example, my contracting operation grew out my commercial transaction practice. My regular lawyer job morphed into an operation sort of organically. Then we thought that perhaps that sort of operational experience can be leveraged more broadly across the department, so I moved groups to a place where I could influence other legal teams to consider process optimization, outsourcing tasks, automation, etc. Once my role was solidified, we worked on creating a virtual team of operations professionals who would engage more frequently to share best practices. So, even though we were still in different parts of the department, we began to create recurring opportunities to share ideas and leverage resources, like vendor management, technology solutions, information management solutions, etc.
You have said that with “the right process optimization and resource stratification, technology can amplify efficiencies to an unimaginable level.” How would you define process optimization and resource stratification?

Any review of the current way in which work is done and subsequent improvement in that process is a step towards optimization. Reaching a truly optimized process is hard, and nearly impossible. Business changes so fast, it is necessary to continuously reevaluate and change processes. As part of the process review, often a natural outcome is the question of whether the right people are doing the work, and if that is the best use of their time. Part of the process review forces the discussion about aligning the right work with the right people. The first step is really to appreciate and accept that the work of lawyers can also be reduced to some basic process flows. The analysis and creative thinking cannot, but the steps that an attorney takes to gather information, request more details, review documentation, engage other experts, etc, are all steps in their daily process, which can be mapped and reviewed for efficiencies. Having the right experienced project managers engage with attorneys on assessing their processes can result in an eye-opening outcome that quickly identifies opportunities for quick wins. Some of those quick wins can be to move certain tasks performed by an attorney to others in the department, like searching for documentation, or summarizing certain data points. Once a process is mapped, it is easy to ask questions like “Why would an attorney spend time researching online for {fill in the blank}?” If that is a step in the daily work of an attorney, that is one that can easily be moved to someone else. Seems very basic, but until the process is mapped it is hard to make these objective decisions.

How has legal tech played a role in legal operations?

Technology in the back office of legal operations (infrastructure and foundational) has been quite successful in taking tasks off of legal professionals that were administrative and tedious. Those technology solutions, like information sharing, collaboration, knowledge management, spend management, and almost any other type of {fill in the blank} management system has enabled attorneys and other legal professionals to spend less time on certain tasks. Now, legal tech is beginning to really impact the work lawyers do related to their legal training and experience: contract review, risk analysis, pleadings, legal research, and other areas. In either place, the one thing legal tech has done well is force the conversation of innovation. Even when legal tech is not the right answer, it’s the catalyst for discussion about change and improvement.

What would be the first piece of advice you would give to someone who wanted to implement their own legal operations department?

Figure out a pain point for the department and identify a champion for change. Start there. A department starts with one person.

Shruti Ajitsaria

Shruti Ajitsaria is Counsel and Head of Fuse at Allen & Overy LLP.  The firm is a major leading international law firm. It also has managed to successfully embrace legal technology and legal innovation. Shruti heads up Fuse, which is the firm’s legal technology and legal innovation. I spoke with her to learn more about her work, Fuse, and how legal technology has impacted the practice of law at the firm.  Continue Reading

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