Law Firms

Episode 28: Joshua Becker on Data Driven Lawyers

In Episode 28 Joshua Becker, Chairman of Lex Machina and head of the Lexis Nexis Legal Tech Accelerator talks data driven lawyering. Josh discusses his start in the tech community and his move to venture capital. Ultimately, Josh became involved with Lex Machina, a legal data analytics company started at Stanford.

Lex Machina permits legal teams to mine litigation data to find insights about judges, lawyers, parties, and the subjects of the cases themselves to discover meaningful patterns in data.

Josh explains how data analysis can not only help lawyers win cases, but it can also help them win business and help corporate legal departments find the right lawyers for their legal projects.

Learn more about Josh

Things We Talk About in This Episode:

Browser Wars

Ravel Law

Data Driven Lawyers

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Image Above: Christian Colen

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI


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Episode 25: Neil Irwin On Successful (Legal) Careers in the Modern Economy

In Episode 25, we talk to New York Times Senior Economics Correspondent Neil Irwin about his book, How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World: The Definitive Guide to Adapting and Succeeding in High-Performance Careers.

To write the book, Neil interviewed successful employees with companies in various industries–from Microsoft to a company running popular New York City eateries.  He wanted to understand what made these people successful in the modern economy–an economy driven by automation, “gig” jobs and dominated by “winner take all” companies (companies that dominate an industry like Google, Facebook and Walmart).

Neil figured out that successful professionals are often “glue people.” People who can communicate across varying job types and roles. Glue people are effective communicators because they are flexible, held varying types of positions in their career and understand the economics of their company.

What does this have to do with legal tech and legal innovation? Quite a bit.

The legal industry is not immune to economic changes affecting other industries. Technology and automation are changing the way lawyers work. To be a successful lawyer nowadays, it takes exposure and skills outside traditional lawyering (like understanding project management and being tech savvy–or, being a “unicorn lawyer”).

In his book,  Neil ultimately concludes that for people adopting the right mindset, economic changes impacting the modern career path are positive. Those that are flexible, willing to make the effort to stay ahead of industry trends and who also understand what really drives business to their organizations are poised to succeed.

Learn more about Neil.

Things We Talk About in This Episode

Glue People

Eric Schmidt’s take on Glue People

Vilfredo Pareto

Pareto Optimal

Laszlo Bock 

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI


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Episode 24: Justin Barker & Steven Nachtwey on Litigation Finance

In Episode 24 we talk litigation finance with Justin Barker, an investment manager and the head of the Chicago office for litigation funding firm Validity Finance, and Bartlit Beck litigator Steven Nachtwey.

This is the first in a series of podcasts released in conjunction with the Legal Marketing Association’s excellent P3 conference. Justin and Steven spoke about litigation finance at this year’s P3 conference and our talk delves a little deeper into some of the topics they discussed at P3.

You can listen to their entire presentation, Demystifying Legal Finance: A Practical Guide to How Funding Works for Law Firms and Clients on the LMA website.

Expanding on their panel discussion, Justin and Steve discuss the process of securing litigation funding, deal structure and explain that a good litigation finance relationship is built on trust.

We close out the interview discussing the non-monetary benefits of litigation funding (another “set of eyes” to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a claim and the ability to see a claim all the way through to the end). The guys also dispel some myths about litigation finance (such as that it encourages litigation of bad claims).

Learn more about Justin and Steve.

Legal Tech Founder Segment: Brian Powers of PactSafe

In the legal tech founder segment we talk to lawyer and legal tech founder, Brian Powers of PactSafe. Founded in 2015 PactSafe is software enabling users to create, monitor and track high volume contracts (like clickwrap agreements) at massive scale. PactSafe’s customers include Angie’s List, CDW and TiVo.
Learn more about Brian.

Things we talk about in this episode:

Non-disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

Waterfall Distributions

Clickwrap Agreements

PactSafe’s Litigation Trends Analysis Whitepaper

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI


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Episode 23: Jim Doppke on the Ethics of Legal Tech (and the Duty to Supervise Robots)

Legal ethics attorney Jim Doppke returns for an encore appearance in Episode 23. Jim discusses the impact that legal tech and legal innovation have on the Rules of Professional Conduct and other rules that govern how lawyers practice law.

Jim explains how Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 (Lawyer’s Duty of Competence) and  5.3 (Responsibilities Regarding Nonlawyer Assistance) are implicated by advances in legal technology and legal innovation. A comment to Rule 1.1 (and adopted by most states) says that as part of a lawyer’s duty of competence, lawyers must stay abreast of changes in technology.

Rule 5.3 states that lawyers must actively supervise “non-lawyer” assistance they engage to help out on legal matters. Historically, this meant that lawyers needed to supervise others lending them a hand–like a paralegal. However, Jim points out that the rule specifically relates to “assistance” and not just “assistants”.

This is significant, because certain legal tech, like artificial intelligence (AI), is really non-lawyer “assistance.”  So, as Jim points out, if lawyers are going to use AI, they must supervise the training of the algorithms to ensure accuracy, just like they are obligated to supervise the work of their paralegals and other assistants to make sure their work is accurate.

In a similar vein, Jim points out that as the use of ALSPs (alternative legal service providers) increases, there too is another situation in which lawyers must supervise work done by those who may not be attorneys.

Learn more about Jim.

Legal Tech Founder Segment: Jeffrey Eschbach of Page Vault

In the legal tech founder segment, we talk to Jeffrey Eschbach, the founder of Page Vault. Page Vault software permits users to capture webpages and social media for use in legal matters. The captures are forensically sound, delivered in pdf format and include vital metadata strengthening evidentiary value. 

Things we talk about in this episode:

Model Rules of Professional Conduct


States Adopting Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1

AI – Artificial Intelligence

State Bar of California Request for Comment to Permit Investment in Law Firms by Non-Lawyers

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI


Episode Transcript


Chad: I’m Chad Main, and this is the Technically Legal podcast. A podcast about the intersection of technology and innovation in the practice of law. Jim is an ethics attorney, and on this episode he and I talk about the impact of technology and innovation on the rules that govern how lawyers operate. In our Legal Tech Founders segment, we talk to Jeffrey Eschbach. He’s the CEO of Page Vault, an app that lets lawyers easily capture web content and social media posts for use in legal matters.

Jim Doppke was my very first guest on the very first episode of this podcast, so this is kind of an encore performance. He practices with the law firm of Robinson, Stewart, Montgomery & Doppke here in Chicago. The firm’s sole focus is on legal ethics. They counsel attorneys on ethical issues and also represent them when they get into trouble for running afoul of the rules of professional conduct that govern how lawyers do their work. These rules of professional conduct are the very reason I wanted to get Jim back on the podcast. As tech and innovation changes the way lawyers work, the rules of professional conduct themselves are also changing in response to tech and innovation.

I think lawyers are generally aware that the ethics rules are changing, but this episode, I wanted to focus on what these changes really mean in practice with real-world examples that lawyers might face in their day-to-day work, but before we talked about that, we got a little sidetracked.

College Radio DJ

Chad: You were a radio disc jockey in college, right?

Jim Doppke: I was.

Chad: Yeah. So was I. What kind of music did you play?

Jim: I did two shows. I had one on an FM station and one on an AM station. The FM station, my specialty thing was I did a blues show, and I tried to go hardcore, old Chess Chicago blues and acoustic blues and things like that, but you also had to do a classical show if you had any kind of show on that station, so I did that too.

Chad: Classical music.

Jim: Yeah, so I did that too. And the other one was our AM station. This was not the official motto, but the motto that my friends and I made up was “Six watts of pure power.” And I don’t think I reached to the building across from me. The FM one could go all the way into Michigan. The AM one, I don’t think even reached my dorm. But that was just almost anything goes except unless, of course, it had swear words. This was a Catholic college after all. So that was it.

Chad: What kind of music did you play on the AM station?

Jim: Oh, I was very into post-punk like Replacements, Hüsker Dü, things like that, but just anything else that struck my fancy, and I tried to make it all fit. I broke the band Nirvana, if you ever heard of them.

Chad: You personally did.

Jim: I don’t usually want to take credit, but I played their records. What can I tell you? Then they got huge. That’s… You know?

Chad: So it’s funny you bring up Nirvana because I was just about to say you play the classical, you play the blues. My days as a college disc jockey… Actually, I started in high school. We’re not as sophisticated. I played all the ’80s metal. At its peak. The Crew, the Priest, even later into the ’80s too, where it got a little weaker, but yeah.

Jim: Nice. I’m getting together with one of my old roommates who was super into heavy rock and metal at that time, and he was… Soundgarden like changed his life, such that he would play it at 10 o’clock in the morning, and I’m like, “This is really dreary music for 10 o’clock in the morning.” We did not dig that, my roommates and I, but that’s okay. And he also… I was refreshing myself in anticipation of seeing him on the kinds of music we listened to, and I found Queensrÿche, Operation: Mindcrime.

Chad: I just listened to that the other day with Jim.

Jim: Did you really?

Chad: Yeah, of all places. And it’s funny you bring up Soundgarden, because… and it’s funny you bring up Nirvana and the change of the guard from the excess ’80s metal to the grunge movement that was kind of anti-that, but… Because the first time I heard of Soundgarden, I was… obviously I was still in high school and really into metal, but you know how I heard about it was an interview with Axl Rose in Hit Parader magazine. It might have been Circus. There was those magazines, those metal magazines, and they asked him who he was listening to and he said Soundgarden. This is like ’86, ’87, so way before Big Love and they started to get some notoriety at Sub Pop and stuff, so.

Jim: Right. That would have been like pre-Louder Than Love, even. Ultramega OK.

Chad: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Louder Than Love, not Big Love. Yeah, definitely.

Jim: Nice. Yeah, no, Louder Than Love was the one that echoed through my room all the time. And that’s okay. I liked it. It’s fine, but my guy was just way into it.

Chad: And it’s got the song that you could not play on the AM station.

Jim: Correct. Correct. That was one… If you had one of those, you didn’t… Half the time I didn’t even realize or you don’t realize until it’s on and then we had a policy of what you had to do, which was turn it down, fade it out, and say, “Sorry about that. You won’t hear that song again on our airwaves,” or something like that.

Chad: And did you major in music?

Jim: No, I majored in English and Classical Greek. I tried to find the least practical majors I could, and that’s what I came up with.

Chad: How do you go from college radio DJ majoring in English and Classical Greek to law?

Jim: Oh, you know, a series of unfortunate events, I guess. I was doing the liberal arts stuff and I was good at it, but I didn’t feel like I had the kind of creativity or new ideas I would want in order to be able to advance in it, and I wasn’t sure I’d be a good teacher of it either, which was like the obvious career path, you know? So I didn’t know… I don’t want to say I didn’t know what else to do, because I had an idea about why I wanted to go to law school, which was I wanted to learn about how the world works, you know? I didn’t know that, and I had ideas about how I thought the world should be, as you do when you’re a senior in college, and I thought I need to know things about that, rather than just about books and stuff.

Jim: And so I was able to go, and my goal was to be a legal aid attorney and I actually did that. So I wound up doing that for three years, so that was something that I pursued. It wasn’t… It’s easy to say I was casting about for something to do and I found that, like a lot of liberal arts majors say after they go into law, but I don’t really feel that way. I really was goal directed. I really had an idea, and I was able to basically achieve that.

Chad: Goal directed. But aren’t you still? Because in some ways it’s not legal aid. Attorneys can help themselves, obviously, but… Well, [inaudible 00:06:31].

Jim: Sometimes.

Chad: But you’re still in a area of law, that of ethics, legal ethics. It’s still… It’s to help the individual, you know? To the lawyers that need guidance so they’re doing the right thing or maybe if they run astray. So I don’t see… They’re not that unlike.

Jim: In some ways, yeah. I mean the work I did at ARDC, I still counted that as public interest work. It was government work, first of all, and-

Chad: And the ARDC is like the Illinois governing body for attorneys, similar to the State Bar of California.

Jim: Correct, and I did that for almost 15 years and that was public interest work. That was doing right by the profession and the public as I saw it, and the work I do not is just the flip side of that. It is helping. It is a bit less of a triage situation than legal aid was. It’s less of an emergency situation than legal aid is. Half the time you’d get a call and somebody’s being put out of their house right then or an emergent family situation is happening. You’d have to help with it. But this is not quite that, but it is helping. I still feel like it’s a service to the profession, just from a somewhat different angle. It’s one that’s even a bit richer than what I did previously.

Jim: I’m more connected even now to the profession than I was before, even though I sort of represented the profession before in a way, I feel more of a kinship with it now than I ever have because I talk to lawyers all the time and I learn what’s on their mind. I learn what their struggles are. I let them talk to me, and complain, and argue with me sometimes, but also just tell me what’s on their minds and I try to alleviate the stress if I can, in my way.

What’s Changed Since Adoption of Lawyers’ Duty of Tech Competence/Duty to Supervise Artificial Intelligence

Chad: So it’s probably about time we get to the point of their episode: tech in legal ethics. When I had Jim on the show a few years ago, we spent a lot of time talking about a change made to Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.1 focuses on a lawyer’s duty of competence. In short, the rule says lawyers better understand and know the particular type of law they are handling for a client, and if they don’t, they better hit the books and learn it, bring in someone to help that does know what they’re doing, or decline the representation entirely.

About seven or so years ago, the American Bar Association added language to the comments to Rule 1.1, stating that as a part of the lawyer’s duty of competence, they need to keep up with changes to technology and its impact on the law. So far, more than half of the United States have adopted this comment, made it a part of the rules that govern the attorneys that practice within their borders. Since the adoption of that comment a few years ago, use of technology has undeniably increased in the practice of law, as it has in the way we do our legal work. So that’s what Jim and I talked about. What’s changed since the adoption of the comment and also what’s changed since he was last on the podcast? One of the biggest changes, according to Jim, is the more prevalent use of artificial intelligence by attorneys.

Jim: Things are changing. The ethical duties that you have don’t change as much with the development of new technologies. They’re more or less the same duties, but they apply in different ways. They have different aspects to them as technology evolves and as the business marketplace evolves around those technological changes. So that’s what we’ll talk about today. One area I wanted to talk about in that respect was artificial intelligence and predictive coding. They kind of go together. You know a lot about predictive coding. But artificial intelligence, for example, I was reading a study by a company called QuisLex, which was founded by a number of former big law lawyers, and what they studied was abstraction tools for contracts, and that’s actually the business that QuisLex is in.

Jim: And they rated a number of the abstraction tools that are out there and rated them all according to different criteria. The conclusions that they drew were very interesting, and I would direct listeners to the study. The one that I thought was most relevant to what we’re talking about today is that they concluded that training AI, training the system and helping it develop the algorithms that it needs to do the tasks you want it to do, that is a skill that lawyers can have, and need to have if they’re going to employ these methods. And the reason I think that’s most relevant is because that seems, to me, to relate directly to Rule 1.1, which requires you to have the competence that’s necessary to carry out a representation and the skill that’s necessary as well, and if not, if you don’t have it, to develop those skills.

Chad: So what you’re saying there is if you’re using AI, be it predictive coding for a document review or maybe you’re even using it at least a first pass on contract analysis… So what you’re saying is if you, as a lawyer, don’t know how to train it, you need to bring in somebody that can or you need to learn how to train it. Is that what you’re saying? And if you don’t, maybe you are running afoul of 1.1 there. Is-

Jim: You’re in a risk area, yeah, for running afoul of the rule, because you have to figure out how this is going to work. If you go into an AI project for contract review or anything else without knowing that without having the skill to either train the AI yourself or to hire someone who can, then you run the risk of the project going off the rails and you not being able to manage it correctly, which then puts your interests at risk and your client’s interests at risk. So one way of looking at it is you have to do sort of due diligence on the AI methods that are going to be used, and on the AI providers that you’re using.

Jim: And we’ll talk about the duty to supervise those types of entities in a few minutes, but you have to ask how much time is going to be needed to train the AI? Initially or as it goes along. How do you improve it as it goes along? These are questions you can ask at the outset so that you can understand what kind of effort needs to be put into it, what kind of cost needs to be put into it, and how best to protect your client’s interests as the information you feed the AI system goes through the system.

Chad: The more I hear you discuss this, I think just that’s a perfect example of… Very few lawyers probably will or should actually figure out how to train the algorithm, the AI, but they should bring in someone to help them, but the person you bring in to help you is maybe not an attorney, and they’re not going to know the legal implications. So at that point the lawyer should step in and say, all right, here’s what’s important legally or factually. And so it’s like a team effort. So it’s the perfect example of Rule 1.1. You got to get up to speed a little bit and then bring in somebody else that maybe has skills you don’t have.

Jim: Right. Exactly. A lot of it is knowing what you don’t know. A lot of it is understanding the basics so that you can ask the right questions of the people who do know, and that, again, wraps in the concept of Rule 5.3, which is the duty to supervise non-lawyer assistance. Not assistants, the individuals, but assistance, as in the concept of the assistance that you’re getting from individuals or entities or whatever it is. And we often think of that rule as encompassing supervision of other humans, right? And working, as you say, as a team with other humans to guide a project to the right conclusion, and making sure as the lawyer that anyone you’re dealing with, when they do their tasks on it, that their conduct meets your ethical obligations.

Jim: That’s the technical obligation under Rule 5.3 but as I was preparing for our talk today, I thought what if Rule 5.3 means you also have to supervise non-human assistance?

Chad: Interesting, interesting.

Jim: The whole point of the project, of an AI project, is to train a machine to do what humans would otherwise be doing. That’s the whole reason you’re doing it. I don’t… I haven’t found any authority on this, and it’s not… I think a lot of a literature you read on AI and technological developments will emphasize the future of law is not robot lawyers, right? And so I don’t mean to suggest that we have to read Rule 5.3 to say that lawyers have to supervise robots. We’re getting pretty far afield here. But I think it’s fair to say the duty to supervise assistance that you get is a duty to be familiar with the technology as it’s working.

Jim: And the reason I thought of that is because, again, what I understand is that as an AI project progresses, the algorithm can learn more, and the system can learn more about, for example, what is relevant in an e-discovery project. It can learn more about how to sort the documents you’re asking it to sort, and you can train it more. And I think 1.1 and 5.3 should be read together to require the lawyer to continue to do just that, and continue to train the AI competently or have someone else do it so that the project can work to its best effect.

Chad: I think the good news is that these tools don’t work without the lawyer’s input. And what I mean by that is, and I think that it’s a really interesting point about do you have a duty to supervise the AI? But I think the good news is it’s baked into it for the most part. You got to have the attorney’s expertise. So for instance in electronic discovery, predictive coding, best practice there is you have one of the main attorneys on the case or the… if you’re using a company like mine, one of the lead attorneys that’s a subject matter expert in that particular case to train the algorithm.

Chad: For the contracts AI, what you usually do is you feed in a contract, and the lawyer goes in and puts in things to look for and what clauses. What’s going to meet the approved clauses in their playbook. So I think baked into how this AI works… lawyers can probably meet that, their duty, to supervise the robots.

Jim: Right, no, I think that’s true. And as you say, it requires continuous input, and nobody can just press a button and have the processes start and work the way they need it to, and I don’t think any lawyers really have that expectation. It’s not a set it and forget it, and the rules require you never to set it and forget it, whether we’re talking about supervising a paralegal, supervising a bookkeeper, or supervising an AI project. You can never just count on someone else to do it, and the older cases that implicate… disciplinary cases that implicate the supervisory rule are ones in which the lawyer did set it and forget it, allowed someone to manage a trust account, often a trusted advisor who then betrayed them, and that redounded on the lawyer’s disciplinary liability because they didn’t monitor what was going on.

Jim: They weren’t opening their own bank statements to find the theft. And I think lawyers have been sufficiently cautioned by those cases over the years not to do that, and to be aware of what their non-lawyer assistance is producing. And now we have to do that with software and technology as well.

Chad: 5.3, the duty to supervise non-lawyers, it’s assistance or assistants?

Jim: A-N-C-E.

Chad: Oh, assistance. [inaudible 00:17:40]. Yeah. So common refrain, and it’s… I agree that 150% is practice of law is a team sport now. It’s not just a lawyer and a paralegal and an executive assistant churning out opinions and briefs, whatnot. You need help with your software. So you need technologists. Maybe you need project management. So it seems to me, would you agree that maybe Rule 5.3 is going to become more prevalent in governing the conduct of attorneys as you bring more people from outside the legal realm to help with legal work?

Jim: Definitely. I think that recognition of that was behind the amendment of the rule to stop saying supervising lawyer assistants, A-N-T-S, as if we’re referring to the individuals, and now to say supervising lawyer… or non-lawyer assistance, A-N-C-E. I mean to supposed to say non-lawyer, I know.

Chad: No.

Jim: That’s a bad word these days, but forgive me. I’ve spent fifteen years saying non-lawyer. No, it is becoming more and more of a focal-point type of rule.

Chad: But again, that goes to the point, because historically, like, “Oh, you’re not a lawyer. You don’t understand. You can’t help with this.” But the reason that becomes… that non-lawyer becomes a faux pas to say is people with other skills are just as important to getting certain legal matters done now, and I think that the reason behind that is it’s a team sport now.

Jim: Absolutely. I was kidding myself a little bit, because it is a habit that I got into when I was a regulator to say that. We talked about the people we regulated and then we talked about not-that, so I got used to saying things like non-lawyers, but even in my private practice, I see the point. I’ve come to see the point through my own experience and through the eyes of others who interact with the profession. And I get the reason why non-lawyer is not really the right term anymore, or if it ever was, because it sounds exclusive. It sounds like you’re either in the guild or you’re not.

Legal Founder Segment: Jeffrey Eschbach, Founder of Page Vault

Chad: Let’s take five away from our talk with Jim Doppke, because now it’s time for our Legal Tech Founders segment. In this episode’s segment we’re talking to Jeffrey Eschbach. He’s the founder of Page Vault. That’s a tool that lets lawyers easily capture web content and social media posts. But before we get to my conversation with Jeff, I want to let you know if you want to get a hold of me or you want to learn more about my company, Percipient, you can shoot me an email at That’s You can catch me on Twitter at chad_main. There’s also a contact page on

Chad: Additionally, if you go to, there’s a dedicated episode page for every one of our guests and every one of our episodes. You can find out more information about them, and also there’s links to stuff they talked about. So I encourage you, if you want to learn more, to go to Okay. Without further ado let’s get to our Legal Tech Founders segment, where we’re talking to Jeffrey Eschbach, the founder of Page Vault. All right Jeff, thanks for being here today. Tell us a little bit about Page Vault.

Jeffrey E.: Sure. So Page Vault is a solution to collect content from the web for attorneys, primarily for use in the legal system. So it could be anything from preserving Facebook to websites, online videos. If it needs to be used for legal uses, Page Vault does that. Whether it’s through our software solution, [inaudible 00:20:47] attorneys can deploy in-house, or we’ve got outsource services where we can do it for them.

Chad: Now is it SaaS-based product?

Jeffrey E.: Yeah. So the product itself for what we deploy to our law firms, that essentially works like a browser. So if you think about firing up Chrome, instead of that you would fire up the Page Vault browser. It works just the same. You could navigate to any content. Again, a Facebook profile, a webpage, you name it. If you can surf to it our browser can reach it as well. When you actually see the content, there’s a button that says Capture. Click on that and then behind the scenes Page Vault does its thing to scroll through the content, collect it, preserve it, and eventually generate a great looking PDF output that can be used as an exhibit or it can be shared.

Chad: And one of the cool things and one of the main features of Page Vault is that it preserves all relevant metadata and the important information for evidentiary purposes. What all does it grab?

Jeffrey E.: Yeah. And that is [inaudible 00:21:39]. We have our one-two punch. It is the high-admissibility along with the ease of use and looks great. So on the admissibility side, for the metadata, it gets the basics that you need. You want the time stamp. You want the URL or the link name. You want to know what the browser type was. All those other little details, but when you boil it down if you know when and you know what you collected, you’ve got the heart of it. And we do that for any web collection that we get. So any webpage URL that comes along with it. In addition to that, we give affidavits all the time. So if you get under the hood, the way Page Vault works is we keep the users out of the chain of custody, which is crucial.

Jeffrey E.: No attorney wants to be having to testify for their own case, right? They want to put their own paralegals on the stand if something ever came to that. Usually they want essentially a trusted third party, and even for our software we deploy to the law firms, Page Vault, with our tech design, we serve as that trusted third party. So at the end of the day, you’re not in the chain of custody. Content goes straight from the web server, like Facebook, straight to our servers. We store it away, which means we can give an affidavit that says this is really what the website looked like.

Chad: Cool. So you’re not a lawyer. How’d you come up with the idea for Page Vault?

Jeffrey E.: That’s right. [inaudible 00:22:47]. Took a little while to ramp up in the legal space. We’ve been doing this for seven years, and at first it was more seeing the broad need in society. Things had kind of hit a tipping point where earlier, if there was something that was relevant or mattered to me in my life, it would be stored away in a filing cabinet or on my own hard drive. And more and more we started seeing that stuff that was really about me, by me, for me, things I cared about, were on the web. I had access through a browser. Whether that’s something in a social media profile. It could be pictures or photos about something I care about. Could be my bank account. Online video.

Jeffrey E.: We’re like wow, this stuff we no longer have under our control. Specifically it’s from friends in academia that wanted to preserve content, refer to content that was online and that content changed. Caused them some issues. Had some friends that were also doing… going through some family issues. They had child custody things, and they were like, “Oh my gosh, this social media profile, Facebook said something yesterday and now that post is gone. Boy, it would have been nice to have preserved that.” And we started seeing just that need to be able to say… Stamp of truth of this is what a webpage actually looked like or what it said at a particular point in time.

Jeffrey E.: And that general need led into Page Vault. You just got to say after that I’m a technologist, so my career is more on the tech side and how to implement things in a network, and knowing how to do this from a tech perspective, kind of seeing that problem, we put together our solution that, again, keeps the users out of the chain of custody. But it did take a while to go in and learn the legal space, and now we’ve got a great brand name. Very highly trusted. But it was an interesting space to kind of get into. But we’re very glad now that we focused very much on the legal space. So we pride ourselves on being the solution for law firms. Am Law 200 boutique firms. That’s what we specialize in providing help to.

Chad: Yeah, and that leads into my next question. Who are your biggest users? What type of lawyers?

Jeffrey E.: So you can get a range, but usually it ends up being someone with litigation, because they’ve got a need to collect content that’s on the web. If you have a contract lawyer, probably less of a need. So specifically insurance defense, trademark infringement, family law, employment law. If you just think on a daily basis there might be something on the web that’s relevant to them, that’s our bread and butter. And again, as far as the types of firms, we’ve served a majority of the Am Law 100. We’ve got great boutique firms as well. Solo practitioners. If that’s what they do and what matters on the web could be relevant to their cases, that’s who we serve.

Chad: Who’s not using Page Vault that should be?

Jeffrey E.: Well it’s interesting you say that. I’d still say the groups I just outlined are the correct groups, but it’s not always easy to reach and get your message out to every single attorney that’s out there. So I wouldn’t put it as a particular camp, but more there’s always an effort that we have to let people know about Page Vault and what we’re doing. We’re actually at a point now where we’ve got, again, a lot of users, and word is getting out, so it’s kind of nice to see people reaching out to us and we haven’t had to do any marketing directly to them. But end of the day, we know that there are a lot of people that struggle.

Jeffrey E.: They hit print screen all day long or they’re getting some off the shelf tool like Snagit. We hear all these stories about some poor paralegal [inaudible 00:25:54] poor person literally taking days trying to open every comment in a Facebook profile, and hitting print screen, and realizing later they missed things. Those people are out there, and those are the ones we want to raise awareness with.

Chad: Speaking of raising awareness, let’s get you some more users. If people want to learn more, where do they find you?

Jeffrey E.: Our website is If you go and search on Page Vault, again, like a page of paper, and a bank vault, Page Vault on the web, you should find us without any trouble. They can reach out to us through web forms. So if they have a on-demand request, say something that they want us to collect, we have forms. You can make a submission, we’ll give you a free quote, and if you approve, then we’ll get the work turned around here in a couple days or faster if needed. They can call us. We get phone calls all the time with requests. Email address is on there as well. So all these different channels, you reach out to us, we pride ourselves on responding very quickly and taking care of our customers.

ALSP’s (Alternative Legal Service Providers)

Chad: Okay. It’s time to get back to our discussion with Jim Doppke. We spent a lot of time in this episode focused on lawyer’s ethical duties as they relate to technology, but it isn’t just technology that’s changing the way lawyers do their work. There’s innovation in other ways, such as clients working with ALSPs, that’s alternative legal service providers, or what some might call law companies. Or the way clients and law firms are looking to litigation funding companies to help cover costs. Innovation outside of technology and how it relates to legal ethics is a big reason I wanted to get Jim on the podcast again, because in our first go around we didn’t talk about it too much.

Jim: I don’t think the Rules of Professional Conduct impose a duty to innovate in your own practice, or even to know exactly how others are innovating. A lot of us are curious about that, and a lot of us want to innovate or be aware of the ways others are in order to improve how we do things, and that relates to AI-type projects or just new ways of doing trust accounting, or new products offered by banks that help you in different ways. It’s good to be aware of those things. I don’t know that I would say it’s a duty that flows from Rule 1.1 to do it.

Chad: Let me phrase the question a different way then, and we’re going to talk about, in a minute, alternative legal service providers. That’s an innovation, because that’s people and tech and the way legal work is getting done, and obviously I’m going to have some bias there, because it’s what my company does, but… and this is where this question’s coming from, probably the bias. Lawyers have a duty. We have a duty to act in the best interests of a client, correct?

Jim: Correct.

Chad: I think, undoubtedly, for certain legal matters, it’s in the best interests of our clients to innovate the way the work is getting done. So what about if I frame it that way? Does that implicate a lawyer’s duty to get something done, where they should bring in a piece of tech to help look at contracts, or they should bring in an alternative service provider to help get the work done, or they should bring in a product manager to streamline things, to save money and get the work done more efficiently?

Jim: I see the point, and I think you can argue that 1.1 and really Rule 1.3 which requires reasonable diligence, it at least requires you to think about those things. What is the best method of getting these things done? And as you say, it goes back to even the more general fiduciary duty concept of having the client’s best interests in mind as opposed to your own, and doing what needs to be done in order to advance the representation to best effect. And so in that sense, I see it. Again, I think a lot of lawyers have more of a concept of should I do it for my practice? Should I reorganize my business in a certain way to make things easier for me? But you can also say your duty to represent the client best is a duty to ensure that you at least consider comment 18 to Rule 1.1 requires you to consider the ways in which you can get benefits from relevant technologies.

Jim: There are also risks and the comment requires you to know about those too, but when it says that you need to understand the benefits of technology, maybe that’s what this really is. The benefits of perhaps engaging a new business system or a new idea for accomplishing a client’s goals.

Chad: So along those lines then, alternative legal service providers. They’re becoming more prevalent now. Much more used, thankfully, selfishly. What ethical obligations, what Rules of Professional Conduct are implicated there?

Jim: Well, again, Rule 5.3 is the big one here, because especially under the rewording of it encompass a wide variety of assistance that a lawyer can get, ALSPs are for sure falling within that category. And again, the duty under that rule is to make sure that any assistance you get is consistent with your own ethical obligations, and the more traditional views of the rule that that would mean making sure that someone else who you employ in whatever capacity isn’t doing something that you couldn’t do. That’s the traditional view of it. That’s how regulators have often thought of it.

Chad: Doing something wrong that you couldn’t otherwise do.

Jim: Right.

Chad: Not what you can’t do physically.

Jim: Oh, no, no, not what you’re not able to do, but what you must not do, in a ethical sense, in a moral sense. The paralegal can’t be going out and soliciting cases in a way that you can’t. The paralegal or other executive assistant can’t take money and do things with it that you can’t do. And you have to make sure that you have systems in place to ensure that they don’t do those things. That’s the real wording of the rule, and that is how it was typically thought of. That is the forcing of another person not to do certain things by means of a system or systems.

Chad: So you’re talking about stuff like if you’re using an ALSP the attorneys involved can’t have conflicts. Security. Make sure that they’re keeping client confidences confidentials.

Jim: That’s a big one, and that remains a big one. And none of that is off to the side or in the past now. That’s all still true, and that’s all still commensurate with your duty under rule 5.3, especially the confidences and some thoughts about how tech is implicated in all of that. But for ALSPs, I think the rule has a more diffuse kind of application, because there are so many ways now in which a lawyer can get assistance. Either on a case-by-case basis or with an ongoing relationship between the lawyer or firm and the ALSP, there are so many more things that ALSPs do now than the traditional lawyer assistant used to do that the rule can be applied in many different ways, and I think can be applied in a more positive kind of way as opposed to a negative framing.

Jim: That is, it’s not just about making sure the paralegal doesn’t do X bad thing. It’s about making sure that the ALSP is working toward the goal in the right way to make sure that nothing goes wrong. And-

Chad: What are you alluding to there? What would an attorney do to make sure they’re working to the goal in a proper manner?

Jim: Well, for example, let’s say you hire an ALSP to do due diligence on a merger and acquisition type of transaction. What is that going to involve? That’s going to involve the firm giving the ALSP information about the transaction that underlies it, or expecting that they will uncover information that isn’t yet known by the law firm. The lawyer’s duty under Rule 5.3 is going to require the lawyer to supervise the provision of that information and make sure that the ALSP has procedures in place to protect that information, to acquire that information in a reasonably secure way, and to transmit the information that they gather back to the law firm also in a secure way, and to ensure that the ALSP has appropriate policies about who owns that information and what happens to it at the termination of the project.

Jim: A lot of what I just said involves the lawyer’s duty to safeguard information under Rule 1.6. There could be other kinds of concerns that arise in the engagement that the lawyer has to focus on and make sure that the service provider is conversant with and understands. And that’s what I mean when I say there’s a positive aspect to it now. There’s a consultative aspect in which the lawyer is required not to supervise as a lawyer would supervise an employee, but, going back to the team concept, to confer with the service provider and make sure that they understand what the ethical parameters have to be so that they continue to act in a way that is consistent with the lawyer’s obligations.

Chad: On the topic of ALSPs, The State Bar of California just proposed a rule that would let non-lawyers, true non-lawyers, people that aren’t licensed attorneys, have ownership interests in law firms.

Jim: My understanding is that if those entities start to occur in America, that is if entities that are part-owned by non-lawyers or have non-lawyer participation but are engaged in the practice of law, that those entities will be regulated by some form of the professional regulators that we have now. That is the ARDC here in Illinois or The State Bar of California, or whichever entity it is would be given some power to regulate those companies just as law firms and lawyers are regulated. And the proponents of the establishment of those entities are arguing for that because, they say, those entities are going to be able to innovate and invest in processes and procedures in ways that lawyers can’t, and that that’s a good thing for the development of practice.

Jim: Essentially it would be like an ALSP merging with a law firm, in a way, or becoming part of a law firm and using outside funding that does not come from lawyers necessarily, outside capital, to fund the development of business processes for the ALSP that will benefit the law firm and its clients. It’s a powerful argument, and I do see these things changing at some point in America. I don’t know if it’s going to be this California proposal, or something else down the line. Not every bar association or regulatory entity is signing on to this, you know? And California is requesting comment about it, and I’m interested to see the comments as they develop. But there’s another view of it that says no, these things should still be separate.

Jim: It’s okay for lawyers to work with ALSPs and make sure that they supervise the ALSPs in appropriate ways, but to merge the two and have that outside capital infusion is too dangerous, because it allows for profit motive to govern decisions about what is best to do for the client.

Chad: Come on. Profits for partner. I mean-

Jim: I know.

Chad: The whole goal of the law firm, unless you’re a public interest law firm or a legal aid law firm, the whole goal of a law firm is to put money in the lawyer’s pockets at the end of the day.

Jim: Well, the rejoinder to it is, like you said, come on. The point is law firms are getting lapped by other entities that can innovate, streamline, and do better. And why should the legal profession hamstring itself because they’re not keeping up? Even the biggest funded and best earning and most wealthy firms can’t do what outside capital does with a IPO or with just a large infusion of money to help improve systems. They’re not doing that, and it’s because of this rule that restricts our ability to partner with non-lawyers. And it’s funny that… because when I was a regulator, I dealt with Rule 5.4. Had some cases in which I prosecuted violations of it. Had nothing to do with any of this.

Jim: It had to do with lawyers paying people to go and run cases in to them and refer cases to them and so forth, and we alleged that it a splitting of a fee in a way that was improper. It didn’t have anything to do with technology and innovation, and yet that’s the focal point of that rule now, and it should be. And I think the debate is healthy to have, and I do think it’s one of those areas in the profession and in society that I just see as changing inevitably at some point.

Chad: Well it already is. Somewhat related, I mean you have litigation funding and legal funding where there are certain lawsuits that probably wouldn’t have ever been filed without third party backing. So I mean you already have people that aren’t licensed attorneys that are participating in legal matters.

Jim: Right, and there are ways of ensuring that ethical obligations are met in that. You do disclosures, you do as you would with a conflict, or you make sure that others understand where the decision making authority lies. If money is coming in from outside, is the provider of that money making legal decisions? No. That still can’t happen, and shouldn’t happen, I think. But a lawyer should be making those kinds of strategic decisions and consulting with the client in the way that lawyers do. But the money is a valuable thing to come into the case, because as you say, the case might not exist without it, and if it creates relief, if it furthers a client-based goal or even a societal goal, then that can be a good thing as long as the lawyer’s professional independence is preserved.

Jim: I hesitated almost to say that, because that’s supposed to be what Rule 5.4 is all about: professional independence. But when I say those words now, that strikes me as the same tone as we say non-lawyer. That is, the same problem with it is the problem behind saying non-lawyer. It sounds like here we are again, being the guild. The people apart from the rest of society. The special wizards who are the only ones who can do certain things. And that’s what the proponents of the amendment to Rule 5.4 would argue against. And I’m somewhat in sympathy with that. I just think… I don’t know, again, if it’s going to be the California thing or if it’s going to be a more gradual, graduated change, but I think it’s going to be there.

Jim: And I think you will see, even before we get to the point of new or amended rules being enacted, you will see not partnerships, but affiliations between lawyers and law firms and ALSPs.

Chad: We’ve already seen it. UnitedLex, you know they spun off a law firm. And the closed loop on that, from a purely economic, selfish standpoint if you’re a law firm, I think there’s an argument to be made that you want this additional capital and this additional place to look for money from people that aren’t licensed attorneys because if you don’t change, you’re going to lose this business. You’re already losing this business. My business wouldn’t exist but for the fact that clients are moving to document review, or the contract analysis away from law firms because it was costly and maybe a little less efficient. So the law firms can stay in this ballgame if they take advantage of this other pot of resources.

Jim: Right. It’s about meeting the needs that are out there, and lots of different lawyers have lots of different practices. There are still small firms and neighborhood firms that are never going to have an in-house e-discovery department, and may not need those services. But if they do, if they come up with a case that turns huge on them in ways they didn’t expect and ALSP is out there for them in a way that it wasn’t previously, and it doesn’t have to get handed off to a big law firm which, as you say, may have its own systems, but maybe the client wouldn’t be served as well by those systems as they would by a more nimble and better funded entity.

Jim: And that’s something that I think is developing whether we like it or not, and that will continue to develop as the technology gets better, the algorithms get better. I was, again, reading older articles and newer articles about that, and there are already just in the last few years, different things that you can train an algorithm, an AI software to do, than you could just a few years ago. And it’s not every lawyer that needs to know all the ins and outs of that or be coding themselves or anything like that, but if your client winds up needing it, you better be able to learn what those things are.

Chad: James, thank you very much.

Jim: Sure, Chad.

Chad: Second time’s a charm. People want to reach out, how do they find you?

Jim: Our firm website is different from what it was last time we talked. We are now Robinson, Stewart, Montgomery & Doppke, LLC, and our website is And you can find our contact information on there. That’s probably the best way to do it.

Chad: Well that’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to this episode of Technically Legal. If you want to subscribe, which I hope you do, you can catch us on most major podcasting platforms, such as iTunes, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, et cetera, et cetera. If you like us enough I hope you’ll leave a positive rating. Thanks for listening, and until next time, this has been Technically Legal.


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Episode 18: Greg Siskind on Process Automation for Lawyers

The focus of this episode is automation of legal processes by law firms and in-house legal teams. We talk to Greg Siskind, a Memphis lawyer with Siskind Susser, a leading U.S. immigration law firm that handles all aspects of immigration and nationality law.

As Greg explains, he and his firm automate both client facing and internal legal processes. For instance, prospective and existing clients can access firm-built apps to determine if they qualify for visas and provide customer feedback. Internally, among other automated processes, Siskind Susser lawyers have access to tools that generate retainer agreements and help perform legal research.

As we learn from Greg, automation solves several problems and has several benefits, including a way to limit errors, automate expertise, save time and gain marketing exposure.

You can learn more about Greg at or on LinkedIn.


Legal Tech Founder Segment: Tom Dreyfus of Josef

For our legal tech founder segment, we stick to the automation theme and talk to Tom Dreyfus, the CEO and co-founder of Josef, an automation platform helping lawyers create legal chatbots, streamline processes, eliminate repetitive tasks and access new revenue streams.

With Josef, lawyers can create legal chatbots without the need for developers.  Company clients include law firms, governments, in-house legal teams and public interest legal groups.

To learn more about Tom or Josef visit


Things We Talk About in This Episode


Bulletin Boards

Expert Systems

Neota Logic

Ross Intelligence

Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Entrepreneur Parole

ABA Blueprint


Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI



Episode Transcript

Chad Main:          This episode is all about automation of legal processing. We talk to Memphis immigration lawyer Greg SIskind about how he uses technology to automate many of his legal tasks. We also talk to Tom Dreyfus. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Josef, an app from its lawyers to create bots to automate some of their workloads and processes.

Chad Main:          This episode was recorded live and direct from Soulsville, USA. That’s right. Memphis, Tennessee. Don’t think Memphis is a hotbed of legal tech activity? That might be somewhat true, but our guest lives there, and he’s one of the earliest adopters of legal technology out there.

Chad Main:          On today’s show, we talk to immigration lawyer, Greg Siskind. He practices with the law firm of Siskind & Susser, where he handles all kinds of immigration matters. He helps individuals try to get legal immigration status. He helps corporate clients and startups try to get work visas for star talent from other countries, and he even helps sports/entertainment clients trying to get their artists and athletes permission to work in the United States.

The First Law Firm Website (Almost)

Chad Main:          So, why do I say Greg is one of the earliest adopters of legal tech? He’s an OG as far as use of tech in legal goes, because he literally almost had the very first law firm website out there.

Greg:       I ended up getting married, in Memorial Day of ’94. I was working on this website. But, we took a little honeymoon. When I came back, in the beginning of June, the website launched. Now, the sad thing for me was, had I launched the website before the honeymoon, I’d had technically would’ve been the first.

Greg:       But, two other DC large firms launched their sites like a week and half, two weeks, before mine went up. Mine was like ready to go. But, I wasn’t gonna launch a website while I’m like in Egypt, at the pyramids. And, that’s what we were doing.

Greg:       So, I was just waiting, and I just assumed that everything was cool. The good thing was, for me, I got a tone of media. Nobody wanted to write about two big DC firms that had launched this website. They were more interested in the sole immigration lawyer in Nashville, who had done this, and was clients from all over the country.

Greg:       That was a lot more interesting for a reporter than how some four, five hundred lawyer law firm was using it to get corporate clients.

Chad Main:          What was the goal of the website? I assume it’s to get business, right?

Greg:       It was to get business, and it was basically to be a publishing platform for me. So, the other thing that, aside from the website, that I started was an email newsletter. And, that was the first email newsletter that I’m aware of.

Greg:       So, the website might have actually landed a couple of weeks late, but the newsletter that I put out was the first newsletter, I think, that any law firm ever distributed electronically. And, that was at the same time that the website launched.

Greg:       And, I think I had to do it at the beginning. I was doing it at the beginning, going through AOL, which was new also at the time. But, AOL had the ability to allow me to do email distribution. And, that was …

Greg:       And, not long … That was not very, no offense against AOL, but it was not … In 1994, that email product was not all that great. I was building up content on the website from the newsletter. I had a link on the website that you could subscribe to, and then I would manually add the person to the list.

Greg:       But, that newsletter grew really, really quickly. I think it was up to about 40000 subscribers towards at its peak.

Chad Main:          Wow! And, what year was that?

Greg:       This was probably after about a … maybe about two years in.

Chad Main:          So, not a long time, and it still-

Greg:       No. So, it was being distributed far and wide. And, I didn’t really have any competition from the immigration bar, probably for a good two years. So, I had some space to grow.

Greg Moves Into Legal Automation

Chad Main:          As we just heard, Greg saw the value in internet and email for marketing and client development. As an early adopter of the law firm who utilized the internet, it is not surprising that Greg progressed into using tech to automate task and processes that he was running into, every day at his immigration practice.

Chad Main:          As we will hear throughout this episode, automation helps with more than just marketing, although that is a key feature, and should not be overlooked. Automation helps create consistency in processes, it digitizes expertise, reduces mistakes, facilitates communication, and very importantly, it saves time.

Chad Main:          Greg’s first forte into legal automation wasn’t too sexy or complicated. But, taking one step at a time, Greg’s use of automation has grown exponentially.

Greg:       One of the things I did, early on, was try and find things that were not available electronically. So, even though the website was more of a marketing tool early on, I was taking a lot of primary resources and just digitizing them, and getting them on our website.

Greg:       In terms of automation, the other thing that was a first for us, back in about ’97 or so, was the immigration forms. This sounds like a basic thing that you just go on to USCIS website, and you can either-

Chad Main:          Which is?

Greg:       USCIS is the agency that handles immigration. Now, you go on, there’s a form section. Some of them are electronically submitted. Some of them you download as Adobe, and you print them out. There was no Adobe Acrobat. Well, there was. Adobe Acrobat had just started making PDF conversion tools available to the masses.

Greg:       So, that was a traffic builder for me, was I went and I got the forms, ordered the paper forms from the immigration service, and got all the popular ones, and then scanned them, and made them into PDFs and put them on our website, which sounds like the lowest tech thing that you can imagine today. But, it was like a huge deal, because it was the only place on the entire internet you could find government forms.

Greg:       The INS was the agency before USCIS. They did not have a website until about 1998, 99. Their first website, all it was was a photo and a bio of the INS commissioner. Not very helpful.

Greg:       So, I was getting a lot of traffic there. And, it certainly occurred to me that … So, you asked when I got started. So, I would say it’s always sort of been in the background trying to find-

Chad Main:          I count that. I mean, I count that at some level, because you automating the process of filling in these forms.

Greg:       Right. But, in terms of more recent years, we’re definitely interested in trying to use tools on basically taking the expertise of our lawyers, and building automation tools that offload that expertise into tools for lawyers, for internal use for lawyers, for potential clients, that they can get that information on demand, as opposed to having to have a lawyer basically regurgitate it, and better information, because lawyers make mistakes.

Greg:       They often times make assumptions as far as what they think they’re hearing. I’m not talking about mistakes in terms of malpractice or anything like that. But, not necessarily interpreting correctly what they’re hearing, or missing asking for some background information that would change the answers.

Greg:       And so, a couple of years ago, I started hearing about expert systems that were using artificial intelligence, and decided that that was something that made a lot of sense for immigration law. We are a practice that is very rules oriented.

Greg:       It’s a lot of times in our heads, we’re using decision trees, we have a lot of time decision trees in our practice, that we’re using to figure out whether people qualify for different benefits. We are assembling a lot of documents that are based on what we’re finding out.

Greg:       And, we have been, for a long, trying to figure out, in our firm, how to streamline processes, and be more efficient, and be more consistent how we do things across the firm. And, as we started to get into that, heard about Neota Logic, which is an expert system software that was one of the first AI products that were out there. Heard about ROSS Intelligence, and a couple of others.

Greg:       But anyway, I contacted Neota. Neota, their early clients were largely large firms, and had some interesting products. And, it was expensive. But, I talked them into taking a chance on a small immigration firm that was gonna try and do some different things it. And, that product has been great, as far as what I’ve …

Greg:       We found that it was very versatile, as far as things that we could do. So, for example-

Chad Main:          For the listeners, what’s the elevator pitch in Neota Logic? What does it do for lawyers?

Greg:       Basically, it offloads the legal analysis from lawyer’s brain to an application, so that essentially, the app allows you do an interview, and basically come up with a legal analysis at the end that would be very similar to what a lawyer would be doing if you were face to face with the lawyer, and the lawyer was interviewing you, to figure out if you qualify or if a lawyer needed to get information from you, in order to build a legal document.

Greg:       It basically automates that interaction between a lawyer and a client.

DAPA Automation Tool

Chad Main:          One of the first things Greg did with tool automation was client phasing. He created an app for people to use to see if they qualify for DAPA, which is the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. That is a precursor to DACA, which I’m sure all of you have heard a lot about in the news lately, which is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Chad Main:          Because of legal uncertainty, the DAPA app kind of got stuck in limbo. So then, Greg made another app. This time, it was an app that startups and entrepreneurs could see if they had a chance to get a Visa to hire employees from outside the United States. Unfortunately for Greg, the powers that be also kind of put that app into limbo too.

Chad Main:          But, the point is this, apps can be built to help attract clients, help clients help themselves, and also streamline communication with both potential and existing clients.

Greg:       Well, so the first tool that we took out was … It’s kind of sad how this shock out. But, I guess it depends on your perspective. But, we wanted to have a big splash with the first tool that we rolled out with Neota.

Greg:       And, it was during the Obama administration. And, they had announced a program in 2014 called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. And basically, this was a follow up to the DACA program that’s been in the news a lot lately. And, DAPA was gonna benefit about four million people. And, they announced the rules, and then immediately was taken to court.

Greg:       And so, what we had done was we built an app that help people figure out if they qualified for the program. And, there were a bunch of complicated rules as far as whether they qualified or not. We built this whole thing, but we couldn’t actually put it out there, because the program is tied up in the courts.

Greg:       Well, it works its was all the way to the Supreme Court. And, we find out what they, the Supreme Court … It’s the last case of the year for the Supreme Court. So, we had this app built, and we were going to launch it, as soon as the Supreme Court upheld DAPA.

Greg:       So, we had this whole app built that was basically ready to go. We had press releases. We had everything all set. And then, the Supreme Court ended up on a 4-4 tie. And, the program died because the lower, the fifth circuit decision stood on there.

Greg:       So, the first app never actually launched because of that. It was really good exercise for us to build this whole thing. We gambled that if it succeeded, and the Supreme Court had ruled in favor, I think we thought that the odds were that they were going to, that we would have this.

Greg:       It would be a very exciting news making thing, ’cause everybody would be excited about this program going forward. But, here’s this tool that instantly available that you don’t have to go to a lawyer. You can just go online. And, we had in the Spanish version, we had an English version of it, all ready to go.

Greg:       So, that didn’t happen. But-

Entrepreneur Parole Tool

Chad Main:          You said it was good exercise. But, there is one you did that we talked about it earlier, before we went on. The Parole.

Greg:       Yes. So, that was also a … President Obama, in 2014, came up with this whole package of these reforms that he was gonna do on immigration after congress couldn’t get their act together and pass an immigration reform package. So, he had a bunch of announcements.

Greg:       One of the was the DAPA program I just mentioned. Another one was something called Entrepreneur Parole.

Chad Main:          Which is?

Greg:       Entrepreneur Parole was a program that they were trying to figure out this problem where they have this visa called an H-1B visa. It is in short supply. And, they had a lot of high profile cases where startup companies, founders, didn’t get picked in the annual H-1B lottery, and they ended up having to close their companies down, or migrate their companies to Canada, or not be able to grow as quickly as they wanted, or fire sale, where the founders could get out of it.

Greg:       So, they came up with this program that based on a whole series of criteria, that the immigration service could exercise discretion and allow a founder of the company to qualify for a work card for up to five years.

Chad Main:          Just correct me if my wrong, and this is my layman’s understanding of these H-1B visas. There’s a quota on them, and they’re only available to non US citizens with certain skills, or certain high level skills. Is that correct?

Greg:       Has to be at least a bachelor’s level background that they have. And, they have been getting, sometimes, over 200000 application for 65000 sports. So, it is very much a lottery. It’s a lottery. They draw them once a year. Basically, a company’s fate.

Greg:       You start a company. So, whole fate depends on whether they get picked or not in the lottery. Some of them have US workers, and they have venture capital funding, and there’s a lot riding on it.

Greg:       So, the Obama administration comes up with this plan, and they issue a proposed rule in late 2015. Late 2016, I apologize. And, we built the app based on the proposed rule. And then, we were watching to … And then, the plan was to tweak it when the final rule came out. And, launch the app. Just build the app, have it sitting in the server, and then launch it, hopefully within a day or two with the final app, because our assumption was that the rule wasn’t gonna change that much.

Greg:       And, they, the Obama administration, got this program launched like the week before Trump got inaugurated. So, they beat the clock, and they got the program out. And, they announced it was gonna have a six month lead in before the first application would come.

Greg:       But, we had the app launched, I think, 35, 48 hours after the rule went final. So-

Chad Main:          And, you say it’s still online.

Greg:       Yeah. It’s still online. It’s And so, we launched this thing. And then of course, the Trump administration decided that they wanted to kill the program, even though I don’t really … I mean, it’s a very pro business program. I don’t know what their problem is with it.

Greg:       But, they decided they wanna kill the program. And then, it ends up in court, where … And, I fortunate actually to be involved with the plaintiff’s group that was working on it. But, the case was successful, and the Trump administration was forced to actually open the program up. They hadn’t. They were supposed to open it in July, after six months passed. They didn’t do it. They got sued.

Greg:       The court said you have to open the program up. They opened the program up. They got about 15 application, and they have been sitting for all 2018, without a decision. But, the app is still up. It’s still technically tells you that you qualify. But, it’s gonna take a judge, probably, to make the government-

Chad Main:          So, let’s talk about the app. It’s built on the Neota Logic?

Greg:       Yeah.

Chad Main:          Who is the target user?

Greg:       The target user are founders themselves, and the venture capital and funding community.

Chad Main:          And, they go online, and there’s … I actually tested it out to see what it did. So, they go online, there’s questions asked. And, the questions are?

Greg:       The questions are; when was the company founded? How much funding have you gotten? Whether the funders are qualified? Are they US citizens? Are they individuals? Are they companies? There’s a bunch of questions to see whether the government can make a safe bet that the company has a reasonable shot of growing quickly, and creating jobs.

Greg:       So, we go through all that. And then, at the end, we came up with a meter from red to green, as far as the likelihood. Nobody actually … There’s no guarantees with this program, because it’s discretionary. But, there are certain things that definitely make you not qualify. And then, there are factors that make you qualify.

Greg:       So basically, what we ended up doing was we gave a rough score on what we thought that the person’s chances were, and then an explanation of why we came up with that. What the negative factors, or what the positive factors were.

Greg:       And then, this is also … This was kind of a cool thing that were able to do with Neota. If they scored poorly, we sent them to one page that was to set up a paid consultation with the firm. And, if they scored well, we sent them to another page where they got free consultation with firm.

Greg:       Of course they didn’t know. People don’t know that when they’re filling it out. But, the idea is that if they scored well, we thought that there’s potential work there, and there’s a solution for them. If they score poorly, we don’t know if there’s a solution for them. There might be other things that are available.

Greg:       Then that’s one of the cool things about Neota is that at the end of the sort of questionnaire, you can have a scoring system, you can have a generated document for you. You can do a lot of different kinds of things, as far as what happens after the person goes through that process.

Use of Automation to Gauge Client Satisfaction

Chad Main:          Another app Greg built to help strengthen client relationships is a client satisfaction survey. And, if you’ve listened to some of our prior episodes, you know conducting client interviews to gauge client satisfaction is key to building a strong practice.

Greg:       We wanted to build our own client survey tool. So, we built a very simple survey that looks very similar to online surveys that you take from any business that you go to. And, it’s just a couple of questions.

Greg:       And, it dropped down which attorney you worked with, with paralegal you worked with, and asked some basic questions about your experience. And then, a comment box if you wanna say anything or nice. You rated one to five, like most of the websites that are out there.

Greg:       And, if they score us a five, then they’re invited to go to a … They go to another page where they’re invited to go on to one of our social media pages where the firm has a presence, whether it’s, or whether it’s Google, or Facebook, or whatever, and rate us there.

Greg:       If they rate us poorly, that’s actually more important information to me than a nice rating on social media, because I wanna know what went wrong with the case, and where their dissatisfaction was, because a) we wanna address it, and b) somebody that, if you don’t address it, they’re gonna go out on social media and say bad things anyway. And, you’ll have deserved them, in a lot of cases if you didn’t address them.

Chad Main:          How do you get this survey to the client?

Greg:       So, that’s actually right in front of you, right there. We stick that on the final letter that we send to a client. And, it’s just a little sticky note that goes on, and there’s just a little website for feedback. And, some of the lawyers, I think, put in their signature blocks, some of them put the sticky notes on their letters that go out, either at the end or in the middle of the case, or wherever they are.

Greg:       And, I think also on the website, there’s a feedback link.

LegalTech Founder Segment: Tom Dreyfus of Josef Legal

Chad Main:          We’re gonna take five from our conversation with Greg, because it’s now time for the legal tech founder segment. In this episode, we’re sticking to our automation theme, because our guest is Tom Dreyfus. He’s the CEO and co-founder of Josef. Josef is an app lawyers can use to create their own legal chatbots and streamline processes.

Chad Main:          Although Tom spends a good deal of his time here in the good old United States, he hails from the land down under, which is where we caught up to him, in Melbourne. 95 degree temps, at 7:30 in the morning, while I was dealing with subzero temperatures in Chicago in the middle of the afternoon.

Chad Main:          Tom, thanks for being here today, and good morning to you. My day is about done. Yours is just starting. Tell us a little bit about Josef.

Tom Dreyfus:        Thanks very much for having me, Chad. What we’ve built with Josef is a legal automation platform that is really easy to use. It’s designed for any lawyer, anywhere, any time, to build logic driven workflows, integrate them with document automation inside our platform, and launch those products to their clients in a conversational interface. So, as a legal bot.

Tom Dreyfus:        It’s designed so that lawyers can take the high volume repeatable services that they provide, and create automated and scalable versions of them, for their clients to access online.

Chad Main:          And, I saw you have a law degree and were a solicitor prior to Josef. Is that correct?

Tom Dreyfus:        That is correct. So, as you might hear by my accent, I am Australian. I went to law school here, and then practiced as a big law attorney in Australia. I clerked at our highest court. And then, I went over to New York to study legal data analytics at Columbia Law School.

Chad Main:          And so, how do you end up getting into legaltech and creating the app?

Tom Dreyfus:        Yeah. I mean, this is a great question. We actually created the app in response to demand from both Australian and American legal services organizations, who were looking at ways to use technology to help them to bridge the access to justice gap.

Tom Dreyfus:        And, one thing that we realized talking to them, and it’s something that’s sort of been repeated to us over and over by lawyers and attorneys across legal organizations of every size, from the biggest firms to the smallest, from in house teams to legal services organizations, was that legal technology, for the most part, is hard to use.

Tom Dreyfus:        So, even though there are attorneys who really want to create products that they know their clients will use and love, the platforms to do it require intensive training. The barriers to using them are just too high for organizations to incorporate them into their practice.

Tom Dreyfus:        And so, what we did was we identified this need for really simple, really easy to use legal technology, initially in the access to justice space. And, since we built and launched the platform, we’ve really expanded across the industry.

Chad Main:          So, let’s talk a little bit about under the hood. What are some of the features that Josef offers to create these bots?

Tom Dreyfus:        When we talk about Josef, we talk about three core features. So, the first one is a workflow buildup. And so, what that is, is a click type, drag and drop interface for attorneys to build logic driven workflows that reflect the work that they do with their clients, day to day. So, that allows them to create series of questions, a conversation, that their clients can use to provide them with all of the data that they need to do the legal work for them.

Tom Dreyfus:        Now, the second core feature is a document editor. So, what that looks like is a place for you to take your pre-existing templates, all of those legal documents that you have in your document management system, and you can input them into our platform, and layer in the logic from the automated workflow that you created.

Tom Dreyfus:        So, you have some legal agreement, or a form, or a letter, that you know you can create an automated form of, if you only had access to the client data necessary to populate that document, and generate it on a customized basis. So, the second core feature is that document editor for you to build those documents.

Tom Dreyfus:        And then, the third core feature is the conversational interface itself. And so, this is something that we’re really proud of. I think that legal technology, for a long time, especially for end users, the clients, has been pretty old fashioned, stuck in kind of web forms. And, no one likes filling out forms.

Tom Dreyfus:        And so, this third core feature is a conversational interface. So, what some people might call a chat bot, where your clients, or if it’s internal phasing, your attorneys, get to interact with the automated products that you’ve built. That’s where they put in all of the data that’s gonna feed into those automated documents, that can then be generated as part of the end to end automated legal service that you’ve built.

Chad Main:          And, you said there’s an API available?

Tom Dreyfus:        Absolutely. So, our API is open. We can push and pull data from any external source. We have a number of really exciting integrations that have been both built already, and are in the works. I’m very happy to talk to anyone interested in using the platform to integrate with third party data sources about their plans, their projects. That’s some of the most exciting work we do.

Chad Main:          And, the app is … It could be used really virtually any size of law firm or legal department, right?

Tom Dreyfus:        That’s absolutely true. So, to give you a sense of who is using it, we have a solo lawyer in Florida who is using it to create an automated version of a part of filing for bankruptcy, all the way up to one of the largest firms in the world, who is rolling out access to Josef on a distributed basis across offices in, I think it’s, 12 different countries.

Tom Dreyfus:        And then, in between, we have some of the most impactful legal services organizations using the platform. We even have the American Bar Association using Josef to power a service that they provide to their members.

Chad Main:          And, let’s talk about that for a second, because you mentioned to me before we hoped on, that’s a program called Blueprint. So, if people wanna see Josef in action, the can visit the ABA website. And, where would they find that?

Tom Dreyfus:        Absolutely. If you head to, you will see this great service that’s been developed in partnership with the ABA and CuroLegal. And so, what we’ve done on Josef, with the ABA is build this service that more firm attorneys, solo attorneys can use to understand what technology is out there, what technology they should use for different parts of their practice.

Tom Dreyfus:        And, all of this is powered by Josef’s logic engine. And, at the end of your interaction with ABA Blueprint, the system will actually provide you with a report containing recommendations of different products. It will diagnose where in your practice some technology might really help you do what you do even better.

Chad Main:          Well, that’s great. I appreciate your time today. If people wanna learn more about Josef, where do they go?

Tom Dreyfus:        So, you should head to You can request a demo. That will come through to my team, and I will be in touch as soon as I possibly can.

Internal Facing Legal Automation

Chad Main:          So, let’s get back to our talk with Greg about automation of legal processes in law firms and legal departments. So, Greg has talked a lot about applications that are client facing. But, many of the benefits legal departments and law firms can gain is the automation of internal processes.

Chad Main:          For instance, Greg’s firm uses automation to generate retainers, and engagement agreements.

Greg:       So, we have a retainer generator tool that we built also using Neota. So, the problem we were encountering, at the firm, was that we would have a template that we would push out to the lawyers.

Greg:       And, it was like the telephone game, where everybody starts out with the same engagement letter, and then they evolve in different directions, and people add something that … This lawyer adds something for this case that made sense in their case, and they basically mock up that same engagement letter for the next client. And then, eventually everybody has different engagement letters across the firm.

Greg:       We wanted to end that, and have consistency, and make sure there were certain important things that we wanted to have in the document like the conflicts of interest, and consistency of fees, and all kind of things like that.

Greg:       So, we decided to build this tool that would ask basic questions to the lawyer that was creating the engagement letter. Type of case, and how they wanted to structure the fees, and all kinds of things like that.

Greg:       And, we built in fee calculators to make it easier for people to … Actually, we bill a lot of cases on a flat fee basis at the firm. So, we may structure where people pay, and benchmarks at different stages, or they may pay a flat fee per month, or they may pay X% quarterly, or that kind of thing. And, there’s different ways that it’s done.

Greg:       We also wanted to make sure that we were having consistency on our fees. We have a fee schedule. And so, we also built it in with the tool, where we wanted the firm’s official fee to flow into the agreement.

Greg:       Now, a lawyer may make an adjustment here or there from the official fee. But, we built this tool that after the lawyer fills out the form, which may be a dozen questions or so, then it’ll generate the document or it’ll calculate the fees. It will pull in the fee from the fee schedule, and then it just makes it a lot faster for the lawyer to push it out. And then, we upload the right signature for digital signature and send it to the client.

Greg:       But, we have … Lawyers like it. And also, it solved this problem where we had all these inconsistencies.

Siskind & Susser’s Automated Tool For Doctors to Determine Visa Eligibility

Chad Main:          One of the most ambitious automation projects Greg and his firm undertook is a tool that its lawyers and clients can use to determine if doctors from other countries might qualify for work visas in the United States.

Chad Main:          As noted earlier, although Greg practices in law firm, automation is also very well suited for use in corporate legal departments. And, the doctor visa analysis tool, he and his firm has developed, is a great example of how certain types of legal analysis can be automated, something in house legal departments can take advantage of for legal questions that come up routinely, and tie up law department resources when they may not need to.

Greg:       It’s a tool that helps to determine if a doctor qualifies for a visa. And, the reason why it’s so complicated is immigration’s all federal. So, generally speaking, we have one set of rules for the whole country for immigration, except for doctors.

Greg:       Congress created this program where they delegated to each state the ability to custom design your own immigration program to get doctors into shortage areas, mostly rural areas, Indian tribal clinics, and places like that.

Greg:       And so, what will typically happen for us is physician recruiters have a real struggle of trying to figure out whether they can recruit a doctor or not, that was educated abroad. They are trained in the United States. And, it’s about a quarter of all the doctors that are in the United States in training.

Greg:       So, we’re not talking about a small group. We’re talking about roughly 78000 doctors that enter US every year for training, for residency programs. So, it’s a pretty big pool of doctors that they’re recruiting from.

Greg:       But anyway, figuring out whether they qualify, there are so many rules, and they differ from state to state. It’s very hard for a physician recruiter, a headhunter to be able to figure out if they can recruit a doctor or not for their facility, and whether the doctor qualifies, because a doctor has to meet a bunch of requirements, the hospital has to meet a bunch of requirements.

Chad Main:          So, give me examples some of the requirements that have to be met.

Greg:       So, they have to accept Medicaid, they have to be in what’s called a health professional shortage area, which is the US Department of Health and Human Services designated certain locations as having shortages of doctors. They have to have a certain amount of recruiting that they’ve gone through to try and get the doctor there. They have salary requirements that they have to meet.

Greg:       Sometimes there’s a bunch of requirements for what would need to be in the employment contract, which will work for some employers and not for others. A lot of issues that have to be dealt with. And, I think it’s one of the most complicated areas in immigration law, which is why there’s not a lot of lawyers, immigration lawyers, that handle doctor cases.

Greg:       But, the challenge that we’ve had over the years is because these physician recruiters get intimidated by the rules, they tend to, even though the shortages are dire in some places, they will still do everything that they can not look at the international doctor, even though they may be educated or trained at Harvard, and have all the requirements that they want, they just are intimidated by the immigration aspects of it.

Greg:       So, the lawyers, a lot of times, if you can make the process easier for the recruiter, it makes good sense from a business point of view, from an immigration lawyer, because they’re more likely to recruit that doctor, and they’re more likely to use your services.

Greg:       So, over the years, we’ve decided, for example, even though we charge for consultations, we always say we don’t charge hospitals for consultations regarding physician recruiting, because we didn’t wanna have one more reason for them to put that resume to the side.

Greg:       But, when they contact us, we have to go through this research process to figure out whether this location qualifies. We have to look at their address, we have to ask them a bunch of questions about their own practices, we have to ask questions about the doctor.

Greg:       And sometimes, it takes us a couple of days to get back with them. And, in of itself is a burden on the firm, because we have to go through this research process, and they may end up not hiring this doctor.

Greg:       And, it’s a burden on the recruiter, has to sit and wait, and they may still decide that, “You know what, it’s still too much of a pin in the neck to call a law firm up, even though we’re not charging for it.”

Greg:       So, what we wanted to do was to build out a tool that essentially had all the research built into it. The question sets would be different for every state, because remember every state gets to custom design their program. It will query the necessary databases.

Greg:       So, remember there’s a salary question, and it’s based on Department of Labor data. So, we wanted the tool to query the data from the department of labor. We wanted the tool to query the shortage area data. And then, we wanted them to ask all the questions that were appropriate for that particular state.

Greg:       Some states have some federal programs in there as well. So, it sort of it more complicated, because you have to ask questions based on more than one potential program that you could use in the state.

Greg:       So, we had this idea of this simple looking app that was actually fairly massive in what’s happening behind the scenes. And, we have been pushing it out about a state per week, over the last year, to finally get that done.

Greg:       And, I think that … I mean, it’s probably, I think, the most ambitious app that anybody would have done with Neota, and probably, I think, in legal, using an expert system like this, probably as far as the amount of labor that’s gone in. I think probably as much as any tool that’s been developed to date.

Chad Main:          I’ve got two question for you on that. So, number one, who’s using it? The attorneys? Paralegals? Others in the firm?

Greg:       It will be used by the attorneys and the paralegals who need to find out the answers themselves. So, it’s a lot faster for us to look it up in the tool than it’s gonna be to basically go and do the research.

Chad Main:          And, how is the answer given to you? What’s spit out?

Greg:       So, at the end it spits out a … We use that metering system, red, yellow, green light. Red means that you don’t qualify. And, it’ll tell you why you didn’t qualify in there, because it maybe something that you can address.

Greg:       It’ll tell you yellow, like some states for example, some of the programs have a limited number that you can do per year in the state. So, it may mean that you’ve met all the qualifications, but they have a lottery for doctors in their state. And so, you may not qualify, even though you meet all the rules.

Greg:       For green, it’s a state, there’s either no limits on the numbers, or it’s a state that tends to never fill up.

Greg:       And then, we have a checklist of all the items that are gonna be needed in order to be able to proceed with the case. So, this is something we want clients also to fill up, because they’ll get the answer they want, without having to wait on the law firm. So, they’ll know whether they should recruit that doctor or not.

Greg:       Basically, they’re getting a green light to recruit the doctor. And, some of these cases, I mean, you’re talking about people that are gonna be making anywhere from two to five hundred thousand dollars a year salaries. So, it’s a lot of money riding on recruitment.

Greg:       And, they’ll get a list of all the things that they’re going to have to provide in order to proceed with the case. So, that’s also something that saves some time before they actually … And, the law firm get it as well. So, we know they contact us, what the app said. On there, we can look at the logic as well, and we’ll know that without having to spend the time going through all the questions again that this is going to be a case that should work, as long as they answered the questions correctly.

Greg:       So, it’s designed for clients, and it’s designed for us. And then, we were talking beforehand, we probably will sell it to our competition as well.

It Takes Team Effort to Develop Automation for Law Firms

Chad Main:          So, what goes into the development of Siskind and Susser automation tools? A team effort.

Greg:       So, there’s a couple of folks that are involved. So, we have lawyers that are involved on the quality control issue, making sure that they’re going to the question sets that the answers correct, and that the questions are the correct questions.

Greg:       We have a couple of paralegals who have been helping as far as developing the question sets. These are people that regularly work with clients in terms of developing a checklist and everything that they’re gonna need.

Greg:       And then, we had two people in the office that are involved with coding. And, it’s coding, not in the sense that you have to have a background as a computer programmer. With Neota and with some of the other tools, you need to be technically comfortable. But, you don’t have to have a programming background in order to be able to develop with Neota-

Chad Main:          That’s the whole point of these tools. Those with non development, non coding background-

Greg:       They can be trained, right? So, we’ve had, probably on this tool, about six or seven people that have been working on it consistently.

Where to Start with Legal Automation

Chad Main:          As I got ready to end my visit with Greg, I asked him the question I ask most of our podcast guests. Where can people start doing what he’s doing?

Greg:       So, I think one of the first things that you should be doing as a lawyer … It’s not so much from a technology perspective, but you really should be mapping out your processes. So, in most practices, even though every case maybe unique and have it’s own … There are standard procedures for it.

Greg:       If you’re litigator, there are certain steps that you go through in terms of preparing your documents, and collecting information, and how you set up your files, and all that. And, I think the first thing that we’ve been struggling with, and trying to deal with as well in our firm, is really trying to map out all of our processes, so that we can figure out where we can streamline and automate.

Greg:       But, just the actual process of going through and figuring out, even if you don’t develop, use technology to automate that system, having your system actually mapped out, and understanding what your system is, and it maybe that it’s completely half hazard. If you go through that process, I think it sort of reveals itself where you should be automating.

Greg:       So, that’s step one. I think that it’s been around for 30 years. But, document automation, probably most law firms can start with that as far as figuring out where your forms library that everybody’s had, and used to have in file cabinets. And now, it’s electronic.

Greg:       But, that’s probably the easiest place for a lot of firms to start, is on basic document assembly. And, you don’t have to have necessarily artificial intelligence tools to be using that. There are tools that have been around for a lot of years that are available for that.

Greg:       So, I would probably say that would be the place I would say. For a lot of firms would be to start with document assembly. As far as the expert systems kind of thing we’re talking about, I think the good news is this is an area that is about to get a lot of competition, and also of less expensive tools, that are pretty user friendly. And, we’ve been seeing a lot of them in course of researching how we’re moving forward.

Greg:       So, I think once you’ve gone through that, and figured out the … And probably, and hopefully, that of these things that we talked about today will get people sort of some ideas of their thinking about the interactions that they have with their clients, that there’s a lot of repetition, in how they do things, and the advice that they give.

Greg:       But, I would say, probably my guess is in the next six to 12 months, some of these inexpensive tools are gonna be coming online, that do some of the things that Neota does, some of the things that Neota probably … Some things that Neota does probably won’t be that easily available.

Greg:       But, I would say that the cost probably won’t be as much of a barrier as they have been. So, those are a couple of things I think that firms could do.

Chad Main:          That’s great. Appreciate your time. If people wanna get in touch with you, how do they find you?

Greg:       They can find me on our website, or on LinkedIn. Probably the two easiest places.

Chad Main:          Great. Thanks.

Greg:       Thank you.

Chad:       So, that’s it for another episode of Technically Legal. We appreciate you listening, and hope you enjoyed it. If you wanna subscribe, you can find us on most major podcasting platforms like iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, et cetera, et cetera. If you wanna get a hold of me, you can shoot me an email at

Chad:       Thanks again for listening. And, until next time, this has been Technically Legal.


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Episode 16: Vishal Agnihotri on Knowledge Management for Law Firms and Legal Departments

Our guest this time is Vishal Agnihotri, Chief Knowledge Officer (or “CKO”) for the Chicago based national law firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson. As CKO, Vishal is responsible for the firm’s knowledge management programs. 

What is knowledge management? Vishal has a great way of defining it: the ability to identify critical knowledge within an organization and then leveraging it to serve up at the right time for the right purpose.

Vishal explains that law firms are great candidates for knowledge management and that for law firm KM programs to succeed, CKOs must work closely with the firm’s Chief Information Officers and Chief Marketing Officers (CIO and CMO).

Vishal talks about her many responsibilities as a law firm CKO including keeping up with changes in legal tech, vendor management, making sure tools and software the firm already owns are used effectively and educating others about KM and related tools.

For law firms and legal departments interested in implementing a knowledge management program, Vishal says the first step is determining what constitutes “critical knowledge” and to use tools to organize that critical information. She suggests a good starting point is a collaboration platform to share knowledge and pose questions and to also utilize a good intranet for the organization.

To connect with Vishal, you can find her on LinkedIn.


Legal Founder Segment: Jeff Kerr of CaseFleet

We also talk to Jeff Kerr, the CEO of CaseFleet. A case chronology and management tool for lawyers that helps attorneys review evidence, organize facts, and identify trends in legal matters. Jeff also points out that CaseFleet is also used by investigative reporters and expert witnesses.

You can find CaseFleet on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Things We Talk About in This Episode:

Peter Drucker Knowledge Workers


Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI



Podcast Transcript

Chad Main: I’m Chad Main, and this is Technically Legal, a podcast about the intersection of technology and the practice of law, where each week we’ll talk to a different mover or shaker in the legal and technology field. We learn a little about them, what they’ve been up to, and hopefully get some real-world tips that will help lawyers better use technology in their legal practices. You just heard from Vishal Agnihotri. She’s the chief knowledge officer for the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson. In this episode we talk to her about knowledge management for law firms and legal departments. We also talk to Jeff Kerr, the CEO and founder of CaseFleet, case chronology software for lawyers.

In this episode we’re talking about knowledge management. What is knowledge management? In short, it’s a way for companies, law firms and legal departments to keep track of the information they collect in their day-to-day business. If ever there is an industry that has a use for knowledge management or KM, for short, it’s the law. The cornerstone of law is knowledge and precedent. Although when many think of lawyers, they might think of a stunning closing argument by a trial lawyer or a shrewd negotiator sitting across the conference table getting the best deal for the client, but as we lawyers know, the vast majority of a lawyer’s time is not spent on exciting verbal activities. In fact, the vast majority of time spent practicing law is doing the mundane, taking a look at the written word, reviewing legal documents, examining contract templates, or looking into laws handed out by governing bodies.

All this information used to be stored in file cabinets and books, but in the digital age, it is stored on computers, and there’s a lot more of it. This is why law is such a perfect profession for knowledge management. Despite what we want to think, not every legal matter cuts new ground or requires lawyers to come up with some new novel legal theory or create a new contract clause. Chances are really good another lawyer somewhere else, probably even in the same law firm or legal department, was hired before to address the same problem. This lawyer has notes, research or document templates that, again, could be put to use. But, often, all that prior knowledge is not that easy to find. It may not be organized, or it may not even be available. That’s where knowledge management comes in.

Our guest today is Vishal Agnihotri. She is the CKO, or chief knowledge officer, for Hinshaw & Culbertson. Although Vishal studied marketing, she got into knowledge management pretty early in her career. Before she made the jump to the legal industry, she worked at consulting and accounting heavyweights like KPMG and Ernst & Young. Vishal has a great way of succinctly describing knowledge management: It’s the ability to identify the critical knowledge within an organization, and then leveraging that information to serve it up at the right time for the right purpose.

Vishal: Knowledge workers, this was a term that Peter Drucker came up with. They’re workers whose main capital is knowledge. When you’re talking about accountants or lawyers or engineers or doctors, they all fall in the same category. Their work involves non-routine problem solving, and it involves convergent and divergent thinking. So, in both capacities, knowledge management is just about raising the corporate IQ, the collective intelligence of the firm itself, and the ability to build on each other’s ideas. So what we sell in a professional services firm is really between our ears. If you’re smart about it, you want to capitalize on what you know, what you’ve done before, so that you can make better margins going forward.

The purpose of a good knowledge management program is really to identify those key critical crown jewels of knowledge, if you will, that, when we leverage correctly, will serve for the firm’s benefit at the right time for the right purpose. Traditionally, this has been a very labor intensive process, so knowledge management was more about curating knowledge, gathering it, painfully, disseminating it for the greater good. We’re finding that that approach is becoming harder to sustain as we live in a world where information has just exploded. There’s an overload, if anything. So it’s giving way to an alternative approach that uses both technology and adaptive behavior to manage knowledge that’s internal to a firm, to manage knowledge that’s external to a firm as well.


Technology Begat Knowledge Management and Technology is Needed to Handle Knowledge Management

Chad Main: The interesting thing about knowledge management is that it’s kind of a thing solely because of technology. There has been an explosion of data as a result of the digitization of information, and you need even more technology to get a handle on all this digital information.

Vishal: We create, we curate, and we share digital knowledge in many more forms today than ever before, so firms end up needing a helping hand with managing all of that, in the service of their clients, with well designed systems that everyone understands and that everyone uses. I say uses because sometimes the scale and complexity of interactions between people and content can actually lead to increased business risks, so it is important that people understand how to use the systems, but they also have a fuller understanding of information governance and try to be compliant with that. All of this cannot sit on the shoulders of billable attorneys, and so they do need help with sorting through emerging technologies and evolving regulations around data.

So your point about, yes, somehow the electronic control and management of files of documents has led to some of this issue, and yet we turn back to knowledge. There used to be a time, at least when I started in this discipline 21 years ago, where piecing together information was the larger challenge. These days, that has become lesser of a challenge. What we face now is the challenge of filtering, of accessibility. I think, to some degree, people have started to undervalue information. They think it’s just abundant and it’s at your fingertips, but we know that that’s not the case. We have to make sure that you have integrated your systems well and you’ve employed better search engines, smarter systems, better filtering, and accessibility. Everybody wants it mobile, et cetera. So, yes, some of the problems have been created by technology, and we’re using other forms of technology to now address those.


Responsibilities of Law Firm CKO

Chad Main: So now that we have an idea of what knowledge management is, what does a law firm CKO do?

Vishal: As a CKO for a law firm, I straddle the world of business strategy and technology. I work very closely with the firm’s CIO, and my other partner in crime is the CMO. The CKO, like I said, introduces the firm to new tools, new processes, new idea that will enable faster and more effective access to useful, to actionable intelligence. I have a team that oversees all of the research, both legal as well as business research. We manage the vendor relationships for our digital research resources, print collections, et cetera. I’m also responsible for the vendor selection, implementation, training adoption of knowledge tools. This could be a knowledge sharing platform. It could be a smarter search engine, just integrating systems in order to be able to get to answers more effectively.

Even more important than that, while we are looking at surfacing the knowledge we have, because of the exploding legal tech landscape, there are lots of opportunities to automate specific, basic tasks. So what e-discovery tools did for document review, there are now so many other tools in the marketplace that are similarly automating some basic tasks, but changing the game very dramatically. That becomes our role to be sort of a technology purveyor, to go ahead and sort through the tech landscape and make sure that you find the right fits for your organization.

While we’re on that topic, a huge part of the role that I think nobody else necessarily has in the firm, or is at least expected to have, is keeping a lookout for new and interesting technologies. We talk about AI, machine learning, blockchain, et cetera. What are the new tools? What are the new technologies that are popping up? Is any of that relevant to our processes, to our workflows? Do we see them as things that can augment how we do things? Can they be possibilities for new service lines? Are they possibly threats to how we’re doing things? In terms of emerging technologies and both evolving regulations around data privacy, data practices, all of that is also a responsibility that the CKO has.


Law Firm CKOs Work Closely With Chief Information Officers and Chief Knowledge Officers

Chad Main: It used to be the only acronyms for business positions was CEO and CFO. Now there are quite a few acronyms hanging around the C-suite. As noted, Vishal is a CKO, or chief knowledge officer. In that role she works closely with the law firm’s CIO and CMO. That’s chief information officer and chief marketing officer.

Vishal: The CIO definitely offers, I would say … I’m going to use anatomical references here. The CIO definitely offers the backbone for the organization, so they’re not only making sure that the lights are kept running and the servers are humming and emails are sent the way they should be, with security and encryption and so on and so forth, and everything they do, in that sense, is mission critical. A lot of their work actually falls on the backend. A lot of times, I think, at the frontend, people don’t even know the extent of the work that’s going on.

In contrast, a CKO, a chief knowledge officer, does everything in the frontend space. So if they’re bringing in a new tool or a new technology, it is almost always to either bring the firm together. So, again, anatomically, if I reference it, it would be more like a nervous system, where you’re gluing everything together. You’re making sure all the connections are made, the dots are connected. Also, you can’t get away without making the main constituents actually use your tools. That’s the whole point. You cannot deploy it and then just hope that they will use it. You need to almost cultivate it, nurture it, make sure that they are paying attention, that they are using it the way it’s meant to.

There’s an element of adoption that is much more stronger, or an element of change management, I feel, that is much more stronger in a CKO’s job description, because you have to ensure that each user, each intended user, is using the new tool or is implementing the new process the way it’s meant to be. They may not get it the first time. There’s a marketing rule that says seven times you have to touch something to have enough brand recall. It’s similar. I think lawyers, paralegals are extremely busy. They have billable pressures. So in order to make a successful implementation, you absolutely need to make sure that they’re grabbing their attention and convincing them of why they should be using something, why they should change the way they’re doing something.


CKOs Must Educate Others

Chad Main: You just heard Vishal mention a couple of times that part of her job is educating others at her law firm at the tools and tech available to them. So I asked her to expand on that a little bit.

Vishal: The law firms make excellent cases, no pun intended, for the application of knowledge management. So one of the ways to explain to them how this works out is everybody is learning. Their entire job, their entire role as a professional rests on the idea of what they know, what they’ve learned. I don’t mean just what they learned in law school. Who knows what? Who knows whom? A lot of that is learned. It’s built upon. It’s interpreted in different ways. It’s managed, and it grows exponentially with their career. Some of it is lost to turnover. Not everybody grows up in the firm together forever. Some of it is just wasted, if you don’t capture it in any systematic way. Some will always be impossible to codify and share. But what we can share, and I’ve come to believe that a lot of the just-in-time knowledge that can be shared, can really, really change the game for them.

These are professionals who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their craft. They get very specialized, very deep in a subject, and now they’re suddenly being challenged for even better service, quicker service, cheaper service, by the client. Knowledge management helps build that ecosystem of … We don’t expect partners to, on their own, take time, or lawyers, on their own, to take time and write down lessons learned from a specific case or some a-ha moment that they had. But as the knowledge officer in the firm, you can now build out the systems and bring them along in a way that makes it easier for them.

Under no circumstance can you build a system or create something for them that makes them cringe at the idea of knowledge sharing. So how do I educate them? A, by showing them that this is how other firms, other professional firms, have been doing it for decades now. By doing so, they’ve achieved better margins. They improve their not just marketplace value, but also wallet share with clients. Because the more you can codify this is what we do, this is what we’re known for, the more you can capitalize on that for future engagements, for future client relationships. In some ways, I think it’s not even rocket science. It can be uncomfortable, I will give you that, for law firms, for lawyers.

Chad Main: How so?

Vishal: So a lot of lawyers of the … I guess, trained many years ago, I think took the line, “Knowledge is power,” very seriously. I think, by that, they meant individual knowledge is power. My idea back to them is it is still power, but collective knowledge is even more powerful. So they are hesitant, sometimes, to put in the time or put in the effort or put in the mind share to help you with your knowledge platform, to endorse it, to participate in it fully themselves, largely because they’ve gotten this far without it, so they feel like they can continue to do so. But we don’t live in the same world that we did 20 years ago. Like I said, client expectations have moved. The marketplace dynamics have changed. So we really want to focus on what the marketplace looks like today and what works and what doesn’t work for today’s marketplace, for today’s client.


Legal Founder Segment: Jeff Kerr CEO of CaseFleet

Chad Main: Let’s take five away from our talk with Vishal, because now it’s time for our legal founder segment. This time around, we’re talking to Jeff Kerr. He’s the founder and CEO of CaseFleet, case chronology software for lawyers, and, as we will find out, software that’s used by others outside the legal realm. Jeff, thanks for being here today. Tell us a little bit about CaseFleet.

Jeff Kerr: Thanks, Chad. CaseFleet is a tool for creating chronologies of facts, and it’s designed for litigators and investigators, people who care about the facts and the evidence and who believe that mastering the facts of their case is the best way to win.

Chad Main: What was the inspiration for you to develop CaseFleet?

Jeff Kerr: So it goes back to my former legal practice. I practiced employment law in Atlanta, Georgia in a small firm setting, myself and my partner and a few associates. We didn’t have a whole bunch of paralegals to help us out on our cases, so we tried to leverage technology to do as much as we possibly could and to work our cases as well as we could without having a large team. I found that mastering the facts of my cases and knowing the documents and knowing the events and knowing the witnesses was the best way for me to get a good outcome for my clients [inaudible 00:16:26]. A lot of attorneys were a little bit sloppy about the facts, and if I just knew them well and was very faithful to the evidence, it really helped.

I found that the best way to do that was with the help of software of different kinds. Having a database, in particular, is essential if you want to create a real representation of the relationships between the legal elements in a case, the facts that you know, and the evidence that you’ll use to prove those facts. Those are three very important components to every case, and I think people underestimate the number of connections that there are, even in pretty simple cases. A database and a database-backed application is really the best way to organize that kind of information.

I wanted a tool to exist that I could not find anywhere, and I was somewhat proficient with technology myself, and I wanted that tool to exist so badly that I started writing code and developing some prototypes. I had so much fun doing that that I decided to make that my new job, and so I left practice of law in 2015 to work full-time on CaseFleet. That’s what I have been up to since then.

Chad Main: Did you write all the code and develop it yourself? Or did you hire a team of developers?

Jeff Kerr: I did not, by any means, write all of the code for CaseFleet. Throughout the entire history of the company, I’ve been working with developers and our CTO, who’s a computer science graduate from Georgia Tech, who understand best practices, and our professional coders, to create an extremely reliable and high-performing application. But because I have such a clear vision of the way I want certain features in the product to work and the different use cases that there are for a product like ours, it’s been very helpful for our team that I have been able to design and even implement some of the features, particularly on the front end of the application.

Chad Main: That’s cool. So I know CaseFleet’s got a bunch of different features. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

Jeff Kerr: The main feature in CaseFleet is what we call our facts page, and that is the place where you go to see what the facts are in each of your cases and to add new facts. Each fact can be linked to different people and businesses that are involved in the fact. A date can be assigned to it. It can be related to different legal issues that make it important or relevant in the context of the case. You can also attach evidence to the fact.

The second core feature is our document review feature. It really differentiates CaseFleet from a lot of other products that are in this field, in that document review is built in to the software. Our users, everyday, upload a great number of documents, which we index so that they can be searched for keywords, and also we allow those documents to be previewed within the same web browser that you use to access facts page and other parts of CaseFleet. That provides a huge benefit, because, as you review the documents, you’re able to extract facts from them in a very efficient way. So creating the chronology isn’t necessarily something where you’re having to write every single fact in place. You can build it from the documents themselves, such as depositions, interrogatory responses, and other documents that play a role in the case.

Chad Main: So, great. That sounds like a great tool. Who’s it for?

Jeff Kerr: We designed CaseFleet primarily for litigation attorneys, and litigation attorneys are the core of our user base. But we’ve found that it’s also been very useful for paralegals, litigation support folks, and other people on the litigation team, anyone who has in interest in reviewing the documents and ensuring that the facts of the case are mapped out in a really clear way. Another category of users consists of clients of lawyers who sometimes are the first people to buy the software and who want to organize their documents and different facts. We also have a good bit of use among investigators, investigative reporters, and people who provide expert testimonies for attorneys, such as forensic experts, forensic psychologists, medical records review folks. So it’s kind of a broad [inaudible 00:20:59] of uses that can be found for CaseFleet.

Chad Main: That’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought about that right off the top of my head, investigative reporters and expert witnesses. That is an interesting use of it. Well, great. I appreciate your time today, Jeff. Where can people find out more about CaseFleet?

Jeff Kerr: The best way to learn more is to visit our website, which is, and, from there, you can sign up for a demo or access a free trial of the software.


Do All Law Firms Need a CKO?

Chad Main: Let’s get back to our conversation with Vishal Agnihotri, the CKO for Hinshaw & Culbertson. So do all law firms need a CKO? Not surprisingly, Vishal thought that most firms could use one, or at least could start thinking about formalizing knowledge management protocols. She pointed out that, by doing so, it forces law firms and law departments to examine their internal processes, which in turn might encourage improvement of those processes and boost productivity and client service.

Vishal: Any law firm or any professional service firm should have a CKO, if they are ready to implement the changes that will come with that kind of investment, so it’s a mindset thing. I will say this: Profession firms are very adept at serving clients. They’re very good. They hone the craft of looking externally, whether you’re talking about marketing or in terms of service, service quality. They’re very externally focused. I think what they sometimes neglect to understand is that building out a knowledge management program internally moves some of that focus to our processes internally as well. That could also be very beneficial in the service of the client. It could improve client service quality. It could improve margins and productivity for the firm itself. So, yes, a law firm should hire a CKO or should at least have a knowledge management program led by someone who can bring about both new ideas, improved processes, but also, frankly, raise the base understanding of everybody in the firm of new ways of working.

In a professional service firm, whether it’s a law firm or an accounting firm or an architect’s firm, you will realize that the client expectations are evolving every single year. They keep moving the goal post. Even if we are not willing to share collective knowledge, at a minimum, somebody’s got to be responsible for raising the professional intelligence of the firm itself. I can’t imagine that somebody who’s on a billable track has the time and the wherewithal to do that, so you almost need somebody to come in from a different discipline, like knowledge management.

Knowledge management is a lot about change management, thinking about how this human-computer interaction is going to take place. It’s a lot about looking at the marketplace. Some of it may be even pontificating, like looking at various scenarios. What would work out best? So being a little bit of a futurist, looking out a couple of years at the minimum. So they should have a formal KM program leader, largely because nobody who’s billable will have the bandwidth to do that.

Chad Main: There is also a business case for the implementation of a knowledge management system. It makes clients happy but it makes attorneys more efficient.

Vishal: So you could work on a number of documents and save them on your desktop and never share them with anybody else, and best of luck when you’re looking for something.

Chad Main: So legal documents, contracts-

Vishal: Right.

Chad Main: … pleadings or whatever?

Vishal: Right, client documents, your work product. Now, for example, you have a need where you’re looking for something. It’d be wonderful if you were doing the exact same kind of document for the exact same kind of client for 30 years, but that does not usually happen. So every now and then, you will run into a need where you’re looking for something. You’re looking for a piece of information. You could go back to the phone culture and pick up the phone and call 20 people before you get an answer. Or if you had a system where all of the work product was in one place, you had a very good search system that would search across, you would actually save a lot of time, instead of manually trying to go gather this information. Now you may still end up finding a document or two that you think are worthy, and you may still end up picking up the phone to the partner that created that or that has his or her name on it, but that is much more different and much less compared to the hours upon hours you would spend otherwise piecing together the information.

Clients, I don’t think, want you to have that luxury. They’re not willing to pay for research, that kind that you would do 20, 30 years ago, when they know that there are better tools out there right now. So they’re expectation is that you bring your A game on and you’re finding what you need to find as quickly as possible. In terms of dollars and cents, A, it’s great for your reputation in the marketplace. B, if you’re actually doing it in lesser time, the client understands that you’re very efficient. It may not be billable time, but I doubt if you were to spend six hours finding something whether you would try to bill all of that time anyways. In effect, it makes you more efficient and less burned out, but also you’re keeping true to the essence of client quality, and hopefully you’re improving your margins. So if it is a flat fee arrangement, if it is one of those alternative fee arrangements, then you’ve actually improved margins if you have managed to use a better technology to find something in a shorter period of time, as opposed to going at it with sticks and stones.


Where Legal Departments and Law Firms Can Start to Implement Knowledge Management

Chad Main: So we ended our talk with a question I try to ask all my guests. Where can lawyers start to implement the ideas they heard discussed on this podcast?

Vishal: First of all, I think, from a content perspective, you definitely want to understand what qualifies as critical knowledge in a law firm. I mentioned this earlier, that it’s a very laborious process to try to codify every single item, so you do definitely want to just focus on the critical elements. There’s also an element of timeliness. Sometimes you just need an answer to this question. So, right now, a lot of law firms will have pardon the interruption emails, where somebody has a question and they send it around to everybody, and everybody else is popping in to give an answer.

But what you really want to do is employ better tools that can help with that. For example, one of the tools that I had rolled out in my last law firm, and we’re working on it at my current firm as well, is a social collaboration tool where lawyers are able to ask a question. Others who think they have an answer are able to answer, and that Q&A is almost on a Facebook-like or a LinkedIn group kind of interface. It has a picture next to the person who’s replying, and it creates, if you think about it, a searchable repository of question and answers, with zero effort from anybody on the KM team. Of course, we implement the system. We make sure we remind people. We teach people how to use it, et cetera. But once that is done, you’ve now created an auto-building auto-populating … As the day-to-day questions pop up, the Q&A repository is being built. That’s a very good place to get started, because it’s just-in-time kind of learning. It’s just-in-time kinds of Q&A. It is very simple to use. It does not require a ton of training, and it’s relatively inexpensive to actually put into a firm.

Other places to start, for example, the research and library services report in to me. A lot of times you’ll find that the resources that we have that the firm has paid for are not fully utilized. I know it sounds like common sense. Why would they not use something that they’re not already paying for? But a lot of times we do have tool fatigue or training fatigue even. People pay attention for when they need it, and then they forget about it. So one of the roles that I take very seriously is making sure that the awareness level of everything that we have, that we subscribe to, is very high within the firm. So you can do that with your good old fashioned newsletters. If you need to add incentives in there, you can. But a lot of times, people will come back and say, you know what, I had forgotten about that. I’m glad you brought that up. Or, you know what, I attended a training session when it first came out, but it’s been a year since I’ve used it. So even though that may feel like a very small effort, it actually has a lot of returns, because the firm’s already invested in that tool or in that resources.

You want to have a good, strong intranet. You definitely want to have a good portal that … in a very simplified way, a bulletin board that sits, electronically, where you can go hand everything from the firms PTO policy to other firm-wide information, office locations, et cetera, et cetera. But that portal can also be made … It can be more than just a pointer to different applications. Here, I want to schedule a conference room, or here I want to check out the events calendar. It can be more than that. It can be an operations portal. It can have more items on that. It can be an operational dashboard. You can have the lawyers looking at their billable hours, at their WIP, et cetera. You could have more insight on specific clients, on your top clients, et cetera. So there are many ways to use that kind of hub, if you will. That’s important as well, to move people to a central location, especially if you’re operating with a small team.

Most importantly, you want to use all of these tools, also, in the service of building camaraderie and rapport within the firm. I know this sounds a little bit like HR’s role, and it is. I think knowledge management, as I mentioned, works as the glue of bringing people together. You’ll find that people share more or share better or share easier if they trust each other. So in a lot of firms where you have a lot of lateral acquisition, partners being brought in at direct entry level, they may or may not feel comfortable right away. Even though this feels like soft, mushy stuff, believe it or not, putting focus on building the camaraderie within a firm, not just within the office, but within a firm, across practice groups, across offices, is actually key to having a strong knowledge sharing culture.

Chad Main: So that’s all we have for this episode. If you want to get a hold of Vishal, you can catch her on LinkedIn. Her name is spelled V-I-S-H-A-L A-G-N-I-H-O-T-R-I. If you want to get a hold of me, shoot me an email at That’s We hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you want to subscribe, you can find us on most major podcasting platforms, like iTunes, Google, Stitcher, et cetera. If you like us, I hope you give us a good review. Thanks for listening. Until next time, this has been Technically Legal.


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Episode 15: Keith Maziarek on Pricing Legal Services

In Episode 15 of Technically Legal, we sit down with Keith Maziarek, Director of Pricing and Legal Project Management for the Chicago law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman. Keith discusses the evolution of his marketing and business development roles for two of America’s largest law firms into pricing and project management positions.

Keith explains that law firms are adding pricing positions because of economic pressures and client demands. Clients are demanding changes in the way they are billed (AFAs or “alternative fee arrangements”) and also demanding that law firms become more efficient.

Keith also explains how project management and pricing legal services go hand in hand because to properly forecast the cost of a legal project, a thorough understanding of how the work will be done and what resources are needed is necessary.

Keith notes that fixed fees are not the only type of AFA out there. He discusses fee collars and success based legal fees. Keith explains how pricing fits into law firm marketing efforts and why sometimes it is best not to bid on work at all if it is not a good fit for the law firm.

You can contact Keith here:

Legal Founder Segment: 

In our Legal Founder Segment we talk to Kevin Miller, the CEO of Legal Sifter, an app that uses artificial intelligence to help people negotiate contracts with speed and providing advice from company leaders and lawyers in seconds.

You can check them out on Twitter at @legalsifter.

Things We Talk About in This Episode

American Bar Association

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

Keith’s Article on Law Firm Pricing Techniques

Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)

Fee Collars

Carnegie Mellon Artificial Intelligence Department

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Background photo above Christine and Hagen Graf


Episode Transcript

Chad Main: I’m Chad Main and this is Technically Legal, the podcast about the intersection of technology and practice of law. Where each week, we’ll talk to a different mover or shaker in the legal and technology field. We’ll learn a little about them, what they’ve been up to, and hopefully get some real-world tips that will help lawyers better use technology in their legal practices.

You just heard Keith Maziarek. He’s the Director of Pricing and Legal Project Management at the Chicago-based law firm Katten Muchin. In this episode, we’ll talk to Keith about the benefits of having a dedicated pricing and project management position in modern law firms and legal departments.

In our legal founder segment, we talk to Kevin Miller. He is the CEO of Legal Sifter, an AI backed contract analytics team.

This episode is about the pricing of legal services. You might be thinking a couple of things about that. You might be thinking: why does pricing need its own position at a law firm and what does pricing have to do with legal technology? No matter if you are a lawyer at a law firm or a client purchasing legal services, you are all too familiar with the mantra of more for less. Pick up any legal publication the last few years and you’ll read time and time again that clients expect lawyers to do more legal work for less cost, so what that means is lawyers must do their work cheaper and more efficiently.

That’s where tech comes in. Legal tech permits lawyers to become more efficient by automating certain parts of legal tasks and as a result requires fewer bodies on a project. Also, as Keith will talk about, tech permits lawyers to gather data about pricing which in turn helps those on both sides of the negotiating table and also provides crucial information about the time and effort it really takes to get legal work done.

As part of this more for less conundrum, clients are demanding creative pricing for lawyers. Sometimes you will hear people talk about AFA’s or Alternative Fee Arrangements. As a result, many firms are hiring people like our guest, Keith Maziarek, to fill newly created positions solely focused on pricing and process improvements. Keith didn’t start his career in legal. He started writing PR copy for his uncle’s company and then moved into the tech industry in the early 2000 where he started handling market responsibilities for a startup. Along came the crash and Keith moved his marketing skills over to the legal industry, where he got a job in the marketing department of the American Bar Association. While at the ABA, Keith figured out that the legal industry’s main trade association shared attributes of its law firm constituents. Specifically, silo departments and opportunities to create working relationships between departments.

Keith Maziarek: I worked at the ABA for a little over four years. It’s an interesting place to go into work from the outside because there’s a lot of people that are lifers there and you come in from the outside and make a lot of observations. You notice silos because you say, “People are here doing this? There’s people on the other side doing this, why don’t we all come together and try and mitigate some of the coordination issues and everything?”

So I started doing more than what my job was supposed to be because I would raise my hand and go, “Hey, you know what? Did we ever think about connecting those two things or making a more organized and streamlined approach to the way that the department does everything?”And they’d say, “No, that sounds great. Why don’t you go do it?”So I did a lot of those things and it was very interesting and got to be a very dynamic job for me after awhile because every time I’d raise my hand, they’d let me do other things. But what I started realizing over time was that from a career trajectory standpoint I didn’t feel like non-profit was where I wanted to be, but I had, in the process of being at the ABA for that long, I learned how to work within the context of the legal world, working directly with lawyers and trying to coordinate with them and weigh and balance different priorities that they have to get the input that you needed or get the participation you needed, those kinds of things.

I said, “Well, how is this a transferable skill?”And I said, “With law firms, there’s marketing jobs.”A lot of what I was doing was marketing and communications related, maybe I’ll try that.

Chad: After the ABA, Keith took what he learned about connecting insular, siloed departments within an organization and used that knowledge at two business development roles, with a couple of the United States’ biggest law firms: Akerman and DLA Piper. While holding a business development position at DLA, Keith also got his MBA at Northwestern and it was then that he really started utilizing his skills to help DLA cope with the changing nature of the way  legal work is done in the 21st century, the impact that technology is having on the law, and the changing client demands as a result of economic forces.

Ultimately, Keith’s role evolved into pricing and how to help law firms not only price their services to cope with client demands, but also how to manage legal projects and deliver value to clients.

Keith: When you work in a big firm like that, BD [business development], a lot of it is being a broker between people on opposite sides of the firm that don’t know each other exists, but they can offer each other something for their work.

Chad: Facilitator.

Keith: Yeah, basically. Yeah. Saying, “Okay.”And just kind of connecting those dots and being in a position where you’re kind of in a broker or agent type of position within the organization because you see across multiple silos or areas that other people don’t. That’s sort of a benefit of being in those positions and it sort of lends itself to being able to make those connections.

Chad: So do you ultimately get into a pricing position at DLA?

Keith: Yeah. So here’s what happened. When I was an undergrad and when I was in high school, I was always in AP Calculus and all those advanced quant classes and I said I want to get back into the analytical side of things and the quant side of things as opposed to just being more of the qualitative side of things that tend to focus on more of what we did in BD and marketing back then.

My three majors at Kellogg were Manager of Economics, Management and Strategy, and Analytical Consulting, which is basically big data analytics, predictive analytics, those kind of things. That was very calculated on my part, no pun intended. I wanted to actually focus on those things more and have those as the compliment to the other side of things where I sort of knew a lot about different businesses and different industries and what they were looking for from the legal services standpoint. That was a very deliberate choice that I made as far as what I wanted to focus on there. My thought when I went into Kellogg was,”I’m staying in legal.”I kind of liked the idea of going into management consulting.

What happened was, I started at Kellogg in 2007. When you go through the interviewing process at Kellogg, that’s usually in the fall and it was the fall of 2009. One of the worst times to interview in the last 15 or 20 years I’d say, other than maybe right after bubble, was during the financial crisis when nobody was hiring, right? People were laying people off in droves. It was hard. It was a hard time to interview with. It was much more competitive. I didn’t find a good path for me in management consulting to that process. I was thinking at that point 2009, 2010 I’m like … Or 2009 I’d say, yeah. I was like,”What am I going to do after interviews ended?”And I’m like, “I don’t know, what? I wasted all this time and all this money, what am I going to do with my life now? I’m going to be stuck in the same role.”Right around that time, the managing partner here in the Chicago office-

Chad: At DLA.

Keith: Yeah, at DLA, yeah. Bill Rudnick. Worked with him really closely. He’s a JD and a MBA. He’s an incredibly smart guy, incredibly gracious guy. He’s a friend and a mentor to me still. We still catch up from time to time.

He had closely followed my MBA studies and I worked with him very closely in the substance of the BD side of things for my job back at that point. He came to me and said, “Look. As a firm, we need to get our arms more around what’s happening within our industry because it’s changing and the way we do business is going to be different from now on. A lot of that’s going to come down to how we price our work, how do we create budgets, how do we deal with different technology opportunities that we have and implement those into the practice of seeing how we measure our work or how we’re more transparent with our clients?”All these things that are what actually came to fruition today. He’s like, “We need to learn about what we’re doing well, what we’re not, where we need to develop, and how we need to make sure we’re ahead of the curve on this.”

So anyway, long story short, he goes, “Do you want to be the co-founder with me internally of a task force that gets our arms around all these things and starts setting up a plan for the firm?”More or less. I said, “Yeah, I’d love to do it.”There was all these thing I want that would help me leverage what a lot of what of my studies were and also the environmental sort of awareness or information or knowledge that I already had from, not only the firm but also the industry. So yeah, that’s great.

Little by little from 2009 on I started getting more into the pricing thing and it was like, okay well, what are the different things clients are asking for? Are we doing those well? How are we measuring performance now? That to me … I was lucky because I started when a lot of other people started doing this in general and as I got more and more invested in it over time, I started trying to spend more time on that and less time on the BD stuff. Because I saw, number one, I was interested in it. It was intriguing to me. It was very rewarding to me. But then also at the same time I felt like there was a new profession developing out of this. So there’s gonna be a specialty. There might be an opportunity for me there.

So I wanted to pursue that a little bit and see if it turned into anything. I won’t get into all the gory details of the process but over time they said, “Look we need to create a formal function at the firm to develop these things into formal departments. Or whatever for they take but we need somebody to formally own it. Do you wanna be that person? We know you’ve got experience in it.”And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to do that.”

Chad: As noted, Keith’s position at Katten is Director of Pricing and Legal Project Management. In this role, Keith has both internal responsibilities to the law firm itself and also external responsibilities to the firm’s clients.

Keith: There’s internally facing work that I do and then there’s working with the partners, working with our internal departments; marketing, BD, finance, IT, all those things right? Enabling the functions basically, of pricing and LPM [legal project management], right? So you need data. You need different ways of getting reporting generated. You need different types of applications so you can generate certain types of analytics, and those kinds of things. So those are all very internally focused. Like, how does a company do any product development? Right? That’s an internally facing role, right? But marketing then puts it on the outside right?

So if you think about how those functions kind of, are symbiotic. Same kind of thing. So with what I do, you have to internally enable the analysis that you need and the types of reporting, transparency, all the infrastructure type, elements of the functions need to be dealt with, managed, developed, those kind of things.

And then the externally focused I was, “Okay, how does that present itself to the client? Either directly or indirectly?”It could be me saying, “Hey we generated these reports that show you a good birds-eye view. And then a little bit more in the weeds view of how our work is being done with you,”and where we see that there’s opportunities to look at different ways to price things, or efficiencies. So those kind of things are a very client facing thing to … Either that or just how I enable the partners to better interact with some of their business side counterparts, on the client side. To give them the tools or the information they need to be effective in those types of conversations as well.

So it’s kind of both. So pricing and LPM are the overarching disciplines, I would say. But then the way that those get done, or the way that those sort of manifest, have both internal and external versions, I would say.

Chad: We’re gonna step away from my chat with Keith for just a second. Now it’s time for our Legal Founders Segment. In today’s segment we talk to Kevin Miller. He’s the CEO of LegalSifter. LegalSifter is an AI based, contracts analytics tool.

Kevin, thanks for being here today. Tell us a little bit about LegalSifter.

Kevin: Thank you Chad. We really appreciate the interest.

LegalSifter has built a product to solve an age-old problem. Contracts are the most important, most prolifically used document in global commerce. And they’re just a universal pain. They’re hard to read. They’re hard to negotiate.

We’ve built a product that reads that contract and gives in-context help or advice, in a minute or two, to anyone who needs it; using artificial intelligence. And we think it’s a thing.

Chad: Tell me what was the inspiration to develop the app?

Kevin: Well the company was originally founded out of Carnegie Mellon University here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And if you live in Pittsburgh you know that Carnegie Mellon and Pittsburgh, is just a hotbed of AI activity.

I’ve personally been in and around AI for about 10 years. Our co-founders built a product for freelance software developers who never take their contracts to attorneys because they can’t afford them. And they said, “Hey upload your contract to this product and our product will review it and tell you what to think about protect you.”

And they did that way back in 2014. They got 5,000 people to use the product in a week. And then they put it on the shelf. They weren’t ready. The product was a beta. The leadership and the funding wasn’t quite there, or where it needed to be. They weren’t quite sure where they wanted to go.

I heard about the product about a year later. After it had been on the shelf for about a year. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, you’ve built a product that reads contracts and gives advice. That’s a big deal.”And so I jumped in.

We built a team out. And we had to get the use case quite right. We really wanted to partner with the legal community. It took us really, two years from that point to launch the product that’s out on the market today. And we’re proud of it. We think we built something that everybody is going to and wants.

Chad: Give us the elevator pitch about two things. What exactly LegalSifter does and it’s features. It’s unique features.

Kevin: Sure. So we’ll start with the primary users, and that’s for business. We’ll talk about how businesses use it and law firms use it.

So if I’m a business and I negotiate contracts all day long to run my business on the buy or the sell side. I typically have some combination of three issues. Either I have way too many people involved in the contract negotiation process. And it takes me way too long because, you know, “Chad you’re my boss and you’re on vacation. Then the lawyers too busy and the IT person forgot. It slows things down.”And that’s a challenge for typically middle to larger businesses, some small.

The second challenge people face, and the more common one, is that they have only one person reviewing a contract. Whether it’s a lawyer or non-lawyer. By themselves, reviewing a one to 100 page contract, and trying to represent that organization as best they can.

And then the third issue is really more on the solution that they have at their disposal. If you have inside counsel or even if you go to outside counsel, if you run your contracts through attorneys, often times it’s too slow and too expensive. Attorneys themselves don’t have technology that helps them scale or do a lot more in the same hour that they otherwise could. And so they look very expensive and very slow for the average transaction.

So you have some combination of too many people involved, one person reviewing a contract or it’s too expensive or too slow to go outside counsel. Well, the product that we’ve built empowers individuals to either negotiate contracts by themselves, take on more of the work. Thereby eliminating steps in that situation where you have too many people involved. Or if you’re by yourself, whether you’re a lawyer or a professional, you tend to make fewer mistakes and you tend to read product contracts faster with the product.

The adage is a person plus an algorithm is stronger than either by itself. If I have an individual reading a contract by themselves, and then I have that individual read that contract with LegalSifter, they’re gonna be faster, cheaper, and better. Meaning they’ll make fewer mistakes, get to a better outcome if they use the product.

And then finally for lawyers, and this applies to law firms. We give them the opportunity to become more efficient, to deliver things faster, cheaper, better. Which their clients are going to want. But we also, for law firms, allow them to put their brains and their best practices inside the product. Co-brand it and resell it to their clients. And open up new revenue streams on top of their typical full service, as spoke, work.

Chad: That’s really cool and usually the question I’ll ask the Legal Founders I talk to for this segment is, who’s the target customer? And you’ve already talked about, it’s law firms, it’s businesses, and it’s in-house counsel.

But when I was taking a look at your website today, before we hopped on this call, I noticed something pretty cool and pretty interesting. You also target accountants, sales professionals and others outside the law. Tell us a little bit about that.

Kevin: Most contracts on this planet are reviewed and negotiated by professionals and non-lawyers; Not attorneys. Because of the reason that I said before, and so what we’re providing is a way for attorneys to get their brain in the hands of those people at a cost and at a speed that those people can afford.

And we’re also providing a tool that those people can use by themselves, to empower them with a little bit of extra knowledge. To make sure that when they are by themselves, which is most days, that they’ve got that kind of in-context assistance that they need, to get to a better outcome.

Chad: Well Kevin, cool. Really interesting. Great product. So tell us where can people find out more about LegalSifter if they want to?

Kevin: is the easiest thing to do. Today, you can come on and learn about our product. In about four weeks, if the trains run on time … So this podcast is on October 11th, sometime before November 11th, you’ll be able to come to our website and try and buy the product. So that’s something we’ve evolved to over the first 14 to 15 months of the product … The products about 14, 15 months old. And we’re now ready to allow people to come to our website. To try the product and buy it, without even talking to us; come November.

So really, two ways. You can go and learn about it today on the site and then give us a call or send us a note and we’ll call you and let you try the product. In about a month, you’ll be able to do it without even talking to us.

Chad: Let’s get back to our talk with Keith Maziarek. The director of pricing and legal project management with the law firm Katten Muchin.

What do pricing and legal project management have to do with each other? A lot. As Keith explains, it is very hard to accurately figure out what you should charge a client if you don’t plan ahead and figure out all the steps that you need to take to get a project done, that’s where project management comes in.

Keith: Pricing and LPM go together. They’re sort of inextricably linked, right? So it’s sort of a process. So even if you don’t set a price up-front that’s based on certain assumptions, the way that the work is staffed is gonna impact that price. And later on that often comes up in conversations with the client. Which comes back around to pricing the next time, right? Because these are ongoing relationships.

And on the flip side, which is the way it more often will present itself, you price the work. But you price the work based on certain assumptions and based on the analysis that you’ve done of past matters and the way that you look at staffing questions and we’re you gonna use technologies to try and help enable either collaboration, or coordination, those kind of things?

All those things impact the pricing that you use to build a budget or workflow plan that you use in your legal project management process so they’re both sort of … It’s like a cycle. That they both go together, right? In fact, the funny thing is when I first started doing both of these things at DLA, there was a lot of price competition.

And clients were asking for alternative fee arrangements all the time. The partners would come to em and say, “Hey this client wants some other billing arrangement.”So we worked together and developed, come up with our set of assumptions and develop our pricing models from there. They’d come to me and say, “Hey that’s great. Thanks so much for the help. The client liked that fix fee that we did or that partial contingency, or whatever it was.”We did it as …

I would go to them and say, “Okay look, we need to use the plan and assumptions we put together now.”To track against what your actuals are. Because if you’re not following the plan, number one, we’re not going to be profitable. Number two, we’re gonna miss opportunities to communicate with the client and say, “Look, the scope has changed. Or there are other issues that have come into play that are gonna impact the price. “So we need to be very well coordinated on that. And nine times out of ten they’d say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. I’ll come back to you in like a month once I get going. We’ll set up all that LPM stuff you’re talking about.”And you never hear from them again.

And then a year, year and a half they come back to me and they’d say, “Man I really got crushed on that deal.”And I’d say, “Yeah, you know why? Let me take a look.”So I’d look at how the work was done. I’d look at their staffing. I’d look at what ended up happening, and ask them a couple questions and I’d say, “Well, it’s pretty clear why you got killed on that from the realization or margin standpoint. You didn’t do any of the things that we put down in the assumptions. And that was what the LPM side was for. “And they’d go, “Oh, okay, fine.”

So that was a good, effective, but sometimes painful way of demonstrating what the value is of actually measuring budget to actuals. And the value of investing the time up-front to plan out how work is done. And then use that as sort of a blueprint to do it, and that helps you identify when things may be deviating. And with the reports that we can provide, we can help identify those deviations as soon as possible so you can address them with the client. Or the engagement team or whatever it might be.

Chad: So what you’re saying is, it’s a fool’s errand to come up with price without actually figuring out how the works gonna be done in the first place?

Keith: Yeah. The only time I wouldn’t use that as a blanket statement, there is some categories of work that are very market driven. But those are also highly patterned, sort of high volume ones. So it just is what it is. If you can’t do it for those prices than you either shouldn’t be doing it or you’re doing it wrong.

Generally speaking though, I would say yeah. You can’t just throw a number out there and say, “Ah I bet it’ll be this.”You also can’t throw out a half-baked number because a lot of times you have to understand what the nature of the data that you’re using as your reference point is; for modeling the new one.

So if you take something in a vacuum and you say, “Okay, I have a new complex M&A transaction that’s gonna be a cross border deal.”If you look at the last one, the last one might suggest a certain number. But it also may not be very highly correlated with what the actual attributes of this new matter are. So if you use that in a vacuum, which people would do from time to time, and they wouldn’t consider where they were similar and where they were different. And what the implications of where they were different would be, that gives you a very inaccurate estimate of what the numbers gonna be. All you’re asking for is trouble then.

A fool’s errand? If you have somebody like me or people in your finance department or whatever, that can go back and look at your data and break apart the numbers and give you some of these insights and go, “You know I see these levers. Tell me about why this happened. Or is this accurate here? Or is this relevant here?”You can put together that puzzle of what this new matter looks like, and know where you’ve got similarities and parallels. It’s well worth the time. Because just picking a number out of thin air or taking an average of a bunch of different, old matters is typically not as … You need more specificity and more accuracy than that.

And I’ve seen instances where partners will do that and they’ll say, “I think it’s like these.”And I’ll say, “Well, why?”And then I’ll pull the number and I’ll say, “Okay well tell me what it is that makes this new matter like any of these that we included.”And as you go through the list of the ones we included they go, “Well actually, you know what it’s different form that one. It’s different from that one.”So the nerd data guy in me goes, “All you’re doing is making a big noisy data set.”You’ve got a bunch of very unlike things in here that you’re trying to predict the future with. And that’s gonna give you a lot of variance with, so anyway …

It is definitely worth that extra level of diligence to go on the analysis side and understand better, at a very granular level, what is required. Or what you could or could not do. Or should or should not do, in order to come up with the best price possible.

Chad: We’ve heard Keith talk a few times about AFA’s. Those are Alternative Fee Arrangements. AFA’s are an alternative to the billable hour. Which is how law firms have historically built clients.

When clients approach lawyers about alternative fee arrangements, most probably think the client wants a fixed fee. Say I handle a routine contract negotiation for a set price. However AFA’s are more than just fixed fee arrangements.

Keith: So I break it down into three categories now. One of them I don’t really consider AFA’s. They’re just some variation on what the billable hour model is. If you define alternative fee arrangements as not hourly billing, then that last category is sort of in it’s own. I’ll get to that one. That’s my last one.

The first category is the fixed fees. And there’s obviously a variety of different forms of fixed fee. You can do for a whole matter, you can do for a task, you can do by phase. You can do by milestone, you can do annually, those kind of things. So those are sort of, all the varieties of fixed fees.

The next category I use is more of the risk-sharing. The more ones with the contingency of performance element. Right? So it’s sharing the risk and sharing the reward with the client on a … Usually on a higher level. I don’t wanna say higher level but from a different perspective than a typical fixed fee would be. Example being like, a partial contingency.

Sometimes you’ll use a flat fee and say, “Okay. Based on outcome.”There’s some other supplemental piece of compensation the firm gets. And if it’s a good outcome, based on the magnitude of the good, I’ll say, right? We get a bigger and better reward or portion of that. And if you hurt, than we’re not going to disproportionately profit from, what would be considered a failure for the client. We want to be in this with you. So that’s the second category of the contingency related ones.

The third category are the ones that I say I don’t consider them true AFA’s. But they have a place. But at their core, they’re still measured as a function of hours times rate. That’s things like the fee collar. Which definitely has a place. Those are very interesting. I used to be in love with the fee collar.

Chad: Which is?

Keith: It’s basically … You go through a very similar exercise of setting a fixed fee but rather than just saying, “Okay. This fixed fee is either set in stone …”What you do is you say, “If it’s within 10% above or below, based on some agreed hourly rates and the hours that we bill.”We’ll charge the client whatever that number is that we agreed on.

If it falls outside of that it’s usually a scoping issue. The scope was less than we thought it was gonna be or more. In which case we have to make some other accommodation and there’s a whole spectrum of other accommodations that can be made.

Now I don’t have a problem with that but it still does come down to you’re going, “Okay. What is an hourly rate assumption that we use for each timekeeper?”Which has gotta be based on some discounted number, typically. Or even if it’s a full freight number. To come up with what that range is gonna be. And so that is not exactly what I would consider to be like … It’s not a fixed fee anymore because it’s somewhat variable based on what that is.

Whereas in a true fixed fee, you wouldn’t measure things as a function of time and rates. It would just be, “Okay based on our experience in the past, what do we see that this is gonna be?”And regardless of slight changes, what does that mean?

So the other ones that I don’t consider to be true AFA’s, that was the first one. Just to round out the explanation there. Volume discounts, things like that. Like blunted rates, a blunted rate really isn’t an AFA. It’s still a rate times hours. And if you do it right, it’s a function of what you assume your staffing makes to be in those kind of things.

So they are different tools and they’re different ways of packaging your pricing. And the work, as far as how you go to market with a client. But in terms of what the more accepted or traditional definition of alternative fee arrangements is, they’re not … They still are based on hourly rates times hours. So that’s why I don’t consider those to be true AFA’s.

Chad: Keith wrote a great article for the ABA Journal about pricing legal services. I’ll put a link to that article on the episode page at Be sure to check it out. A lot of good information in that article.

In the article Keith talks about the four P’s of marketing. Promotion. Placement. Pricing, and Product. Before reading that article, I hadn’t really thought of prices being that much of a component of marketing.

Keith: The four P’s I think are more traditionally thought of in like the CPG [consumer packaged goods] context, or that kind of thing, like products. As opposed to services or high-end differentiated services like legal is. But it’s still a model that applies.

Price is one of the four P’s because the other three P’s can impact what your price is. Right? So product … In our case it would be service, not product, right? But is the work that you’re pricing more commoditized or routine and there’s high price competition? A lot of different competitors and substitutes that you could use to do it? Or is it very bespoke type work where the people that you have at your firm, are very specialized in these particular skill sets. Or these areas where they have a very unique value, very differentiated value. And that helps you protect your pricing power, right? So that’s the product side of things.

Placement is another thing. Where do you fall, I’m just thinking in the legal industry; from that perspective. Where do you fall within the continuum of firms? Are you a global firm? Are you more of a local firm? Are you mid-tier? Kind of one of those things? And what are the right types of clients or work that you’re going to pursue based on what your placement is within the industry. Right?

So promotion is really, in a lot of ways … I think of the way that we articulate the aspects of what our placement and what our product, or our service are. Right? So again, if you’ve got … Think about the old adage, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If you’ve got the most specialized person in the world but we’re not … Either they or we as a firm, are not good at telling the story and demonstrating and articulating to clients why this person is the greatest at that they do. And what particular advantages or benefits that promises to them as clients so that they work with us. If we’re not good at promoting that in a way that’s gonna be helpful, then either we’re not gonna get the work or we’re not gonna be able to again, impact the pricing power that we have as we price the work. Right?

That to me is how the model overlays in the legal industry. In terms of how those different disciplines interact with each other.

Chad: I asked Keith what he would say to a law firm legal department that is kicking around the idea of hiring a pricing specialist.

Keith: The types of questions and the demands, the nature of the demands that clients have had is they’ve developed more sophisticated ways of analyzing what their spend is, where their spend should be, who they’re using and what’s generating that spend. Those kind of things. They’ve gotten increasingly sophisticated in the questions they ask and the demands they make of the law firms that they work with. And those things are becoming pre-qualifying, prerequisites for whether or not they’re gonna work with the firm.

So someone in a pricing LPM type position or with that skill set, is very well-positioned to help not only, interpret what those needs are but then translate them into, “Okay, I can make those actionable strategies for the firm.”

I’m not saying anything that I haven’t heard from dozens of partners over the years. They didn’t go to law school to do math. A lot of these things that relate to, what are the metrics we’re looking at? Or how do you interpret some of the figures you have over large portfolios of work, and those kinds of things? That’s not something within their sweet-spot or what their comfort zone is. So to have somebody that is more versed in those things, and in those areas and can bring that to the table; it’s a big advantage when working with clients that are asking for some of these things. Or their outside, again, of the traditional comfort zone or scope of what a typical law firm partner would be doing.

Chad: So let’s say that the firm’s not quite there yet. Are there things law firms can be doing regarding pricing, without a dedicated position like you hold? And if so, what should they be doing?

Keith: If you’re not gonna create a whole new function for it. Leverage the ones that you have. The ones I’m thinking of most are typically, in most firms like your IT department, and your finance department. Or accounting or billing, it could be … Depends on how you’re structured. Where those fall.

But data is the biggest tool that we have in the arsenal to go, “Okay, when clients are asking me about these things and I haven’t really looked at these types of challenges in a different way other than billable hours in the past … “Looking at leveraging some of those people in IT to go, “Okay, what tools do we have that can help generate some of these reports that maybe our client’s asking for.”And that can be a learning process internally as well. To go, “Okay the client asks for this, let’s pull it together. Let’s interpret that on our own.”And say, “Oh you know what, I understand what they’re trying to get out of this, or I don’t.”In which case that can initiate a conversation with their client as well.

But back to the original questions, leveraging what you already have to understand better how your work is being done and how that coincides or doesn’t coincide with what the client’s priorities are. So you’ve already got a lot of that information resident within your firm. It’s a matter of tapping into the resources that can get it for you. Again, that’s usually the people that deal with the numbers and people that deal with the tools that hold the numbers, and can spit them out for you.

So getting close with those and trying to get those initial steps down of understanding better from a practice standpoint, from an office standpoint, however you’re structured. From a partner, each partner, or billing lawyer standpoint. Where you’re seeing the most revenue. Where you’re seeing the staffing models, coming up and down. Understanding better how, again this is sort of a data driven thing …

Profitability has been the new mantra within the community of people who do what I do for probably at least seven, eight, or nine years now. Understanding better how you make profit as opposed to just how you make realization. Those will help you make different decisions as well.

So you can work backwards from PPP [profits per partner]. And everybody’s measured those internally so working with the CFO to understand, “Okay. On a more individual practice level, how are we generating profit?”And how does that work from timekeeper to timekeeper? From client to client? So getting a better awareness of what those parameters are, just as a general understanding.

Again, these are things that should exist somewhere within most firms. In some level of sophistication or another. So being able to just get started on, what are those key metrics that we can use to measure how we’re doing, what we’re doing, and what means success to us and what doesn’t? Leveraging those in a way on a day to day or a month by month basis for my business, those are I’d say, some the easiest first ways to do it.

I think once you start down that path, you usually get one or two adopters that will start to get really into it. You always get several people that are invested in it. They get curious and they go, “Oh you know what I was thinking about? Let’s look at this. Let’s look at that.”And they’ll find some success. And those are people that’ll bring those stories to the forefront internally. And that’ll help build momentum or awareness and hopefully get to the point where you do wanna build a function like that.

That’s how it works with people like us that do this as our full time job. It’s really trying to find and make those compelling internal cases. And then scale them as much as you can. That will happen on it’s own organically as well.

Chad: As I left Keith, he offered a great piece of parting advice. He pointed out that part of his job is to help lawyers figure out that sometimes the best pricing is none at all. That is not even bidding on work if it’s not a good fit for the firm.

Keith: Doing every piece of work that’s put in front of you, regardless of price isn’t always worth it. It shouldn’t be worth it. There should be more of a strategy behind what you’re doing. I know this is easier said than done. A lot of times it’s harder to turn away work when it’s kind of on your doorstep. But it’s one of the things that, again the increased focus on profitability … Have a solid and agreed upon profitability model. You’ll know when something’s not profitable anymore. And it’s okay to do some work that’s not profitable as long as you’re doing other work that is profitable.

So people always will say, “Well, at least I’m helping keep the lights on.”Right? This is a loss-leader. Well if you look at somebody’s book of business and 90% of it’s loss-leaders, that’s not-

Chad: It’s loss.

Keith: -leading to anything. It’s a loss, right? So-

Chad: A loss.

Keith: I always say that … I don’t know if I made up this tongue twister or not but a loss-leader is only a leader if it leads to something that’s not a loss. That’s what I tell them all the time. You can do a loss-leader and that’s good. And that’s got client value from a financial standpoint as well as a relationship standpoint. If you’re not balancing that out with something that’s more specialized, and more profitable, then you need to kind of reassess why you’re doing those loss-leader type things.

So that’s one reason why it’s not worth bidding on everything all the time. The other thing is, clients have different tactics of either collecting information or using information that’s collected as leverage. In their negotiations either with you or with other people. Just be mindful about, that the rate information you send or the bid you give out or the amount of discount you’re willing to give them. Doesn’t go away like a puff of smoke and it never … It doesn’t disappear. That’s captured in time forever. And they’re gonna use that somewhere right? You’re setting an expectation.

Chad: And I think your point there is … And it has nothing to do with whether you should or should not do the work. Make sure your bidding on a project that you actually have a chance because maybe the bid is requested to just get competitive intelligence.

Keith: Sometimes, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, yeah. I’ll give you an example. So sometimes big RFP’s will come from companies you’ve never done work for. It’ll come to a partner that never met anybody at the company. And one of the qualification questions then is why do you think you got this? If you’ve never done work for this company and you don’t even know anybody there, what is the point of us spending all this time to put together this proposal and this response and all these bids and everything? The probability of us ever seeing a dollar, let alone a profitable dollar from it, is pretty low. So you gotta think, “Okay, why would the client send me that?”It’s probably either because they just had to get other bids and they already knew who they wanted to pick in the first place. Or they’re collecting market data that they’re gonna use from an organizational or an institutional standpoint on, “Okay how are different firms in the market priced? And how do we start base-lining those things?”

The other thing is sometimes they’ll … If you get an irrational bidder, which I’ve been part of those things too. Where you try to give the best advice possible but there’s a belief that if you just give the biggest discount, that it’s all gonna be worth it in the end. Clients will anchor to that and they’ll say … Either they’ll come back to you in the future and say, “We expect that same level of discount because you offered that before.”Whereas that might not be a sustainable thing or that might not fit the new piece of work that you’re bidding on as well as it did the old one.

Or they’re gonna go back to their other firms and say, “Oh well, we’ve got competitors of yours that are bidding 25% less or 30% less.”And that’s information that can be used … It can be leveraged in a way that can be advantageous in a very one dimensional way. So just being mindful of those kinds of things.

The other thing is too, and this is more negotiations, if you put in a bid and you get a response like the one I just mentioned. Like, “Oh we think you’re great but all your ‘competitors’ are 25% less than you.”You have to kind of ask them questions as opposed to just taking … Don’t be an order taker, make it a negotiation. Right? So counter that offer. Don’t say, “Okay.”If you know you can’t do it for that cheap, or you shouldn’t do it for that cheap, there’s a good chance that any of your direct competitors aren’t offering it at that price either. The client is coming back to you and trying to say, “Okay what can I extract out of this? Get the best price I want.”

And that’s their job. They’re always supposed to say, “Can you do it cheaper? What’s the cheapest you can do it for?”Totally understand and respect that. It’s our duty on the law firm’s side to play the … Be the same steward to our firm, and to our book of business and say, “Okay, if you tell me other ‘people’ will do it for 25% less … Man, I would love to have this work and I wanna meet you in the middle here but I can’t do it for that. How about 10% less than whatever it is?” Obviously after some careful analysis of what you could afford to do it for. But don’t just assume that a counteroffer is a walk away offer from the client and you can’t engage in a … I’d say a fair and reasonable negotiation process to come to a point of agreement that works for both sides. You always want win/win’s.

Chad: Cool. Appreciate your time.

Keith: No, hey thank you.

Chad: A lot of good info. Lot of good info there. So if people wanna contact you, where do they find you?

Keith: You can find me … I’m all over LinkedIn, or email is: first name dot last name. So K-A-T-T-E-N-L-A-W dot com. I’m out there.

Chad: So that’s all we got for this episode. We thank you for tuning in. If you wanna subscribe, you can find us at most major podcast platforms like iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play. If you like us enough, please give us a five star rating. If you wanna get a hold of me, you can find me at That’s C-M-A-I-N-@ recipient dot C-O. Thanks again for listening. Until next time. This has been Technically Legal.

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Episode 14: Barry Solomon on Legal Marketing and Technology

Marketing. Not always front and center for lawyers and law firms–but it should be.

In Episode 14 we discuss legal marketing with Barry Solomon, lawyer, former BigLaw CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) and current President of Foundation Software Group. Foundation develops law firm experience management software providing a foundation for other knowledge management applications that need to know what the law firm has done, who did it, who it was done for and who all was involved.

Barry distinguishes legal marketing from business development and explains how the two should work together. Barry says the key to good business development is to really listen to clients about their needs.

Barry also discusses the benefits of using of technology to gather data and track marketing metrics. He points out that much of the data helpful to improve marketing efforts is often found in software law firms already use (such as billing and timekeeping software, matter management software and the like).

Barry’s tip for law firms wanting to get serious about marketing but still testing the waters is to have two programs in place: 1) a program to gather client feedback; and 2) a program in place to train lawyers how to develop business.

You can contact Barry at and learn more about Foundation at


Legal Founder Segment: Daniel Goldstein of Trust & Will

In Episode 14 we also talk with Daniel Goldstein, the Founder of Trust & Will, an online tool to create, edit, store, and share a trust and will. To create a will on the site, users need only answer a few questions and decide what type of estate planning documents are best for them.

Daniel can be contacted at


Things We Talk About in This Episode

Interface Software

NITA – National Institute for Trial Advocacy


Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI




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Episode 13: Justine Gottshall on Data Privacy Laws

For Lucky Episode 13, we talk to Justine Gottshall about data privacy laws. Specifically, about the European Union’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and, closer to home, California’s Consumer Privacy Act.

Justine is well positioned to talk about data privacy. She is a partner at InfoLaw Group, where she counsels clients on data privacy, technology, information governance, consumer protection, and digital marketing issues. Justine began her career as a Washington D.C. litigator working under a former Federal Trade Commission Commissioner and was involved in the FTC’s first data privacy investigation.

In this podcast, Justine explains to whom the GDPR and CCPA apply and the protections the laws grant consumers. Justine explains that law firms are not immune from data privacy laws and need to be prepared to comply with them.

Justine can be reached at


Legal Tech Founder Segment: CourtSolutions Founder Morris Massel

In this episode’s Legal Tech Founder segment, we talk to former bankruptcy attorney Morris Massel about the company he founded, CourtSolutions, The company provides an efficient way for judges and lawyers to make telephonic court appearances.

With the app, judges can manage telephonic court appearances through an easy-to-use visual interface that participants may also access to see who is on the line and who is speaking. To learn more about CourtSolutions, check out the link above or visit Morris may also be reached at

Things We Talk About in This Episode

Federal Trade Commission

DoubleClick Investigation

National Advertising Initiative (NAI) Principles


California Consumer Privacy Act

Deidentified Information

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Episode 12: Jae Um on the New Normal for BigLaw and Calling BS on “Because Lawyers…”

In our twelfth episode, we talk to Jae Um, founder of Six Parsecs, an insights company for participants in the legal industry.  The company uses visuals and analytics to create objective, engaging information about the market for legal services.

The conversation with Jae is wide ranging. We discuss Han Solo, the true distance of a parsec and how she came up with the name for her company.

Jae also talks about her work history in legal, including multiple positions at Seyfarth Shaw, where she last worked as Director of Strategic Planning and Analysis. In her roles at Seyfarth, she learned a great deal about demand for legal services and how law firms can best serve clients and grow their businesses. From her vantage point, Jae concluded that a “new normal” confronts many law firms and how they must now compete for business post-2008 recession.

Jae also talks about how “data viz” (data visualization) helps explain information and why it is not helpful to use the “Because Lawyers” excuse as the reason change does not always come quickly to the legal industry.

You can find Jae on Twitter: @jaesunum and Six Parsecs on LinkedIn.


Legal Tech Founder Segment: Ironclad Founder Jason Boehmig

For the legal founder segment in Episode 12, we talk to Jason Boehmig, attorney and founder of Ironclad. A contract management and  automation platform that is customizable and has an open API to connect to other apps used in the contract workflow. You can learn more about Ironclad via email – and on LinkedIn.

Things We Talk About in This Episode

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Kessel Run Clip Lucasfilm Ltd.