Last week I attended my 17th Legaltech New York conference and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Many familiar faces (some who have once again switched booths since last year’s conference) and lots of discussions about what’s trending in the legal profession and the legal technology supporting it.
Corporate E-Discovery Hero Award
I was honored to be invited to present the Corporate E-Discovery Hero Award for Technology at the Zapproved Corporate E-Discovery Hero Awards event which included an interview of NPR’s Nina Totenberg by my friend and, like me, former Chair of the State Bar of Texas Computer & Technology Section, Craig Ball.
Among the hundreds of vendors, thousands of legal operations and IT professionals, nightly dinners, extravagant receptions and amazing gyros from the Halal Guys across the street, was the familiar discussions of emerging technologies and how they were going to change the game in legal technology. As I mentioned in one interview, the industry and legal profession has seen a shift over the years from on-premises solutions driven by IT departments to cloud-based solutions driven by self-service components for legal professionals.
AI + Contract Management
Seventeen years ago, topics like Artificial Intelligence and Consumerization would likely only have been discussed in the back corners of the exhibit halls by programmers and engineers in between standard, scripted product demos. This year, those topics were front and center in keynote sessions. In terms of functionality, what used to be cutting edge is now standard. And what used to be considered big data is now the norm. With several decades of technology under our belt, the amount of data collected has provided a base for innovation.
Keynote speakers talked about the potential for AI to reduce the amount of time spent on administrative tasks and searching large amounts of data. Sure, some of the panelists wondered aloud if this was signaling the rise of the machines that would soon take over the legal world with Lawbots and sci-fi scenarios. But others pointed to the parallels between the Internet of Things in our personal lives and the crossover of such concepts into our professional lives.
For example, while the keynote sessions and panel presentations were discussing the rise of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Cognitive Computing and Smart Machines, Apttus was launching a set of solutions built on some familiar home automation concepts as a way to reduce corporate risk while increasing efficiency simultaneously. One such solution, Apttus Intelligent Import, is a technology solution that automatically scans, loads, and analyzes contracts, both physical and digital, to a contract repository using award-winning e-discovery technology that includes optical character recognition (OCR), natural language processing and machine learning technology that has been trusted by millions of users in companies across the globe to process billions of pages. The system brings the world of unstructured data into a structured environment by ensuring that every contract is imported with full parsing of all critical data points. Once loaded, this data can provide the fuel for complex analytics and even predictive contracting. This will replace the need to hire armies of document review staff and eliminate hundreds or thousands of hours of manual review and data entry – saving companies money and minimizing their risk.
Not to be content with simply revolutionizing legacy contract review projects, Apttus introduced Max, the world’s first Intelligent Agent to manage the entire contracting process. Max is uniquely designed to allow commercial and contract personnel and legal staff to request, create, update and even negotiate contracts using voice commands and text inputs through a number of channels. Max has pattern recognition and can recognize similar tasks and preempt a user before even being asked to perform a task, reducing the time spent by legal department staff on mundane, administrative tasks.
Every few years there are defining moments at Legaltech that signal a new era of technology advancements and 2017 was one of those years. Over the course of two decades, we’ve gone from on-premises relational databases to change the way we collect and store information to cloud-based artificial intelligence solutions that change the way we interact with both data and people. As attorneys are starting to deal with the upcoming legal challenges of driverless cars, “smart” appliances and virtual reality in the workplace, the Legaltech conference is right there in the middle of the shifting tectonic plates at the crossroads of law and technology.