Recently Clocktimizer launched our machine learning engine, the Data Lab. The Data Lab’s first mission? To automatically assign task or J-Codes to narratives. Because each lawyer spends approximately 20 minutes a week on codes, this could save the legal industry over 43 million hours each year! To coincide with this launch, we decided to host a second Twitter chat. This time, we decided to look at three new topics, causing the most buzz. First, we discussed whether AI is hype, or here to stay? Next we moved on to whether lawyers should be good at service delivery. Finally, we asked whether the death of the billable hour has led to the death of time recording.
While these topics (unsurprisingly) caused a lot of debate, there were still more who couldn’t join in at the time we had set. For all those, we have put together this wrap up. It contains our favorite tweets, a run down of the best debates, and one excellent pun. Hats off to @LawyerD11 for noticing a spelling error (cat not chat) and running with it. We’d also be lion if we said you didn’t make us laugh.
Is AI hype, or here to stay?
Our first topic was definitely also the most contentious. We saw some great viewpoints, from many different perspectives including developers, commentators and lawyers themselves. The debate was kicked off in a very meta way by Susan who pointed out that AI is by definition eternal hype. Mostly because machines are incapable of thinking for themselves. In turn, @alexgsmith led us towards an excellent blog on this very problem. Brian Inkster, of @thetimeblawg, discusses the seven deadly sins of legal tech AI. Many of the ideas set out in there were echoed on Twitter.
Clearly, AI is nothing without data. Discussion around AI and data looked at why firms are often so reticent about sharing data. While security concerns were raised, Ron Friedmann also believes it comes down to a question of value.
“Even with anonymization, I think some firms believe that their data has value + contributing it to pool is giving away value or competitive insight. Seems a reasonable concern” @ronfriedmann
Almost all attendees argued that much of the existing AI market consists of hype. However, many also agreed that AI does have value for the legal market. Joanna Goodman noted that when hype dies down, so too does funding. At that point, only the machine learning which provides value to firms will survive. Kenneth Grady also noted that much of AI has yet to expand beyond eDiscovery. Document interpretation, case law analysis and legal research are still almost untouched by machine learning.
Finally, there was much debate over how to identify which tools were hype, and which had value. Some stressed the importance of avoiding ‘rankings’. Previous forays into ratings have not led to reliable insights into the quality of a legal tech product. Mark leDuc suggested looking into an advisory service to help make an informed choice. However, as Joanna pointed out, AI will only be as good as the data you feed it. So much of the success of an AI tool will come down to the law firm using it.
Should lawyers be good at service delivery?
The short answer was definitely a resounding yes. The long answer was succinctly put by Chrissie Wolfe. Chrissie noted that there are two key reasons behind the push for better service delivery.
“The first is as a result of changing client behaviours and the increasing “more for less” attitude, augmented by increased competition from alternative service providers. Internal efficiency is being driven by law reform, amongst other things, particularly in relation to costs in a Civil Lit context, plus the overall pressure to provide more for less.” @CWolfe_LAB
However, while some argued that clients are pushing for better service delivery, some disagreed. Clients often do not incentivise service delivery. This makes driving change less urgent. It does seem that internal collaboration has financial benefits too. As we noted in our blog, collaboration across practice groups increases revenue. This increase in revenue is often larger than the sum of the individual practice group revenue.
If you are a lawyer looking for service delivery tips, there was also some advice on offer. Ron Friedmann advised having a separate team to ensure good service delivery. Ken Grady also advised getting into the ‘echo chamber’. All advised speaking to clients more. By understanding what your clients value, you can offer a tailored vision of service delivery. This means you have happier clients, who you retain better.
If the billable hour is dead, is time recording dead?
This was our final topic of the hour. Obviously, we have a vested interest here at Clocktimizer. After all, we use time card data to power our platform. However, the billable hour has come under fire in recent years. If lawyers no longer bill by the hour, should they keep recording time? As Lawyer_D pointed out, time recording is one of the only ways to determine the cost of services. Without this information, law firms could not hope to produce accurate fee quotes.
Michael raised an interesting counterpoint to this argument. He noted that:
“While the billable hour isn’t dead. We could begin to automate the process to a point where it is obfuscated away and we only see meaningful data” @Michael15126663
It seems that this links back to the original questions around AI. Law firms do not currently capitalise on all the data they generate. Either this data is unstructured or unrecorded. However, as firms capture more data, they will be able to find different ways of enriching the information they have about their practice.
We’d like to share a big thank you with all those who attended. Next edition we will be exploring using Linkedin to host our chat. Keep an eye on our social media and follow our company page to stay up to date.