There are a ton of events in the Chicagoland area focused on the intersection of law and technology. For example, at the start of the academic year, legal tech professionals, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and many others gathered at Chicago-Kent Law School to discuss the future of the legal profession and how technology can and will enhance legal services delivery. One thing that was clear throughout the #makelawbetter conference is that the skills and expertise of MSL students are extremely relevant to emerging trends in the delivery of legal services. For example, increasingly, law firms are hiring professionals with expertise in technology and data to help them operate more efficiently. And there are other related trends: In-house legal departments are assessing their legal needs, the various platforms they can use to become more efficient, and different ways to collect and analyze data that can be used to inform legal professionals and improve legal services.
Presentations by Haley Altman of Doxly, Jae Um of Baker McKenzie, Dennis Garcia of Microsoft, and Liam Brown of Elevate highlighted the direction of legal tech. Doxly is a transaction management platform that helps provide transparency into the workflow of attorneys in big financial deals; this helps increase efficiency. Altman announced that Doxly had been acquired by Litera – acquisitions of nascent legal tech solutions are now happening on a very regular basis. Um (Baker McKenzie) talked about the huge amounts of money being poured into legal tech and how consolidation is changing the market. Garcia (Microsoft) talked about how big players, like Microsoft, leverage many of their existing tools for the general legal industry; he focused on how Microsoft must continue to innovate, both to make the legal industry more efficient, and also to help professionals better manage their time. Brown (Elevate) declared that alternative legal services providers are no longer “alternative”: — they have become mainstream in many parts of the world and will certainly become much more common in the US. (Generally, the term Alternative Business Structure (ABS) refers to companies that provide legal services to clients with a blend of legal professionals and other professionals; they also offer other professional services that are not traditionally part of legal services.)
Janessa Nelson (MSL ’18) and Greg Amenta (MSL ’18) of VillageMD attended the event to learn how the work they do compares with what others are doing in legal operations. They learned about new technology platforms that can help their work, but also confirmed that the work they do is part of a critical growing area in law.
“One of the key components of this conference is attempting to bridge the legal profession with other areas of technology. Very few lawyers are taught about how to improve operational processes, work with a database, analytically report on work, identify trends, or build sophisticated AI. It is vital for lawyers to partner with change agents who can straddle both the legal and technical worlds; otherwise these lawyers will be left behind.” Janessa Nelson (MSL ’18) said.
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law was represented by Dan Rodriguez, MSL professor and legal technology guru. His presentation centered on the main theme of the day – data; he discussed how data is (and should be) included in legal education and how it can be used more effectively in the legal field; his conclusion: we can #makelawbetter through greater, more sophisticated collection and use of data. It is clear that the MSL community can play an important role in making law better, by producing professionals who can help to infuse technological solutions and data analysis into the legal space.