Recently, Clocktimizer announced the launch of our machine learning engine. Initially, we will be using the engine to automatically assign task and J-Codes to timecard narratives. Why? Well, the legal industry wastes over 833,000 hours each week assigning codes. At a rate of $200 per hour, that’s $166 million in lost revenue. Clearly, this needs to change. In honour of the launch of our AI, we’ll be hosting another Twitter chat. We had such fun at our last chat in July, that we’ve decided to repeat the process with a whole new set of topics.

November’s edition will be looking at three debates we’ve been hearing a lot about recently. Is AI in the legal industry more than hype? Do lawyers need to be good at service delivery? Finally, we’ll be discussing whether the (supposed) end of the billable hour, also means the end of timekeeping. Tune in at 5pm CET on the 13th of November to share your opinion!

Are AI and machine learning just hype, or here to stay?

This debate has been rumbling on for some time now. However, recent months have seen it come to the fore. At Briefing Transformations and Legal Geek, many speakers argued that hype has become a serious problem in legal tech. Law firms are pushing for products which solve a problem, rather than just offering a cool solution. However, hype can be an important tool in increasing exposure to your product. So, how can we distinguish between good tech and hot air?

Furthermore, does AI really have something to offer the legal industry at the present moment? Good AI requires mountains of data to become effective. It’s why machine learning has taken so long to become truly useful to us. It required years of creation and collection of data, by companies like Google, before the algorithms could be effectively trained. Much of the data produced by the legal industry, like contracts, is still not stored as structured data. It remains either unreadable by programs, or left in silos. Until this data is categorised and analysed, can AI really help lawyers?

Do lawyers need to be good at service delivery?

Much has been written about the ways technology is affecting legal practice. Automation of repetitive tasks. Making pricing more predictable. However, less has been written about whether this is fundamentally changing the skills lawyers need to be successful. Legal work is becoming more collaborative between lawyers and clients; and the work itself more structured. With it, titles like ‘Legal Project Manager’ or ‘Service Delivery Manager’ are on the rise. But are these skills essential for the modern lawyer? Should lawyers need to be as good at running a matter, as they are at prosecuting it? Indeed, are lawyers who are not good at service delivery, dooming themselves to obsolescence?

If the billable hour is dead, does that mean time recording is too?

Clearly this is a question close to our hearts. After all, Clocktimizer relies on the data held in time cards to allow firms to budget, create fee quotes and target innovation. We’ve heard for some time now that billing by the hour is a dying practice. And rightfully so. Not only does it create uncertainty for the client, but it leaves firms with a poor picture of the cost of their own services. So far, so good. However, a recent Twitter thread shows that some believe that time recording should share the billable hour’s fate. Why? Debate rests on whether lawyers who still record time will be able to work without then billing by the hour? However, given the importance of data in making innovation decisions, what other data streams could firms use to determine how they spend their time?