This is a live blog post from The Changing Lawyer LIVE! virtual conference, hosted by Litera. This panel is Adapting Legal Tech to New Priorities with
Ryan Alshak, Founder & CEO, Ping; Jake Heller, Founder & CEO, Casetext; Basha Rubin, Founder & CEO, Priori Legal; Noah Waisberg, Founder & CEO, Kira Systems.
Though virtual, I am treating this session as I do one at an in-person conference. I write it in real time and post as the session ends. Please forgive any typos and misunderstanding in meaning.
What Behavior Do You See in Use of Your Tool During COVID Crisis
Casetext (Legal Research + Analytics and Drafting Automation)
Change in Volume and Mix During Crisis. The company’s new Compose product “takes a lot of drudgery” out of writing briefs and improves the quality (because lawyers can spend less time on pulling in information and more time on thinking. Product was releases on February 25th this year, just before the USA started locked down. The company saw a lot of use for business disputes and insurance coverage as the crisis started. Then, law firms started asking when Compose will be ready for bankruptcy. We also had a lot of questions about using Compose around employment law questions. These reflect themes that likely will continue – and be highly litigated. Jake reports firms are more focused now than they would have been on accelerating work and reducing cost.
Casetext serves 40 of Am Law 100 and 6,000 smaller firms (mainly for legal research). During the first and second weeks of March, Casetext saw 50% drop in each of those weeks. Then it bounced back and now almost back to volume pre-crisis. It was clear, that there was almost no work for two weeks. I expect that firms will miss 2 or 3 weeks of billing – and some firms may not recover.
On legal tech adoption and use… for legal tech to be consider in the first instance, the provider need to make a case that it can reduce cost or increase profit. If a legal tech vendor is not doing that especially right now when almost all businesses are cutting costs, then you won’t be be taken seriously. Casetext has introduced the idea of allowing firms to quote fixed fees for brief writing.
Ping (Automated Time Keeping)
Changes in Product Use. Biggest difference is motivation behind purchase decisions. Pre-COVID, firms were looking at time recording, collections, and avoiding write-off long term. Now, firms are thinking about “how do we make more money.” Previously, firms ignored the leakage of 5 to 15% of time. It was hard to get management to focus on that when everyone was doing well. Now, with all the cuts, firms want to record and collect time to avoid leakage. One large firm projected a $34M increase in revenue, which it factored into its cash conservation measures.
Especially for lawyers WFH, time entry will be hard. There are too many distractions at home. So not only is there potentially less time to bill, but there will be more leakage. So firms in our pipeline are focusing on this as well.
Cahill Gordon asked us to incorporate Zoom sessions in our automatic time keeping. This is the first time in our four years we were asked for this. Bigger point here is that if workflow changes, we will continue to adapt and adjust our software.
Priori Legal (“Find, hire, and manage outside counsel without costly infrastructure of a law firm”)
Our platform creates RFP for new legal service. Pre-COVID, many of our requests for commercial overflow work. Much of that was directed at ALSP. In the past month, requests for overflow support reflect a huge uptick in employment law, insurance, bankruptcy, and other litigation.
Larger law firms are now onboarding to our RFP platform. This reflects interest in any and all ways to win new business. The company has been talking to firms about this a long time. The crisis may level the playing field with more reliance on formal bidding.
On launch, most of the lawyers on our firm are at 5 to 25 lawyer firms, many of whom started at Big Law. The market has long held some bias against these lawyers (“could they hack it at Big Law”). That was not the case but there was suspicion of lawyers WFH. Now, with everyone WFH, the attitudes and conversation has shifted around the demographic of lawyers on our platform.
Kira (Knowing what’s in your contracts)
We are seeing similar changes as you’ve heard above. Early in crisis, everyone was focused on the transition to WFH. Even now, uncertainty can make some sales conversations hard.
Starting in early February, we started doing research on what’s market for Force Majeure clauses in contracts. Noah discusses some of the substantive content of these clauses (not captured).
March has been one of the highest use months for the cloud instance of Kira.
Most Surprised by
Priori: how incredible the Priori team is and how easily they changed course.
Casetext: similar to Basha… we hire for flexible individuals. COVID has tested this for many people everywhere. I’ve been pleased to see how in almost all cases that people – ours and our clients – have adapted to a new plan.
Ping: Professionally: focus on what matters and are coming out of this with laser focus. Personally: returned from SF to LA be with father – the big silver lining of crisis.
Kira: I’ve been surprised at how nice it’s to be home for so long. Previously, I either traveled or was in the office. I do miss out the in-person interactions but I love seeing my 3 kids all the time.