• ...
  • ENG | PER | RUS

Associates Go On ‘Time Strike’ and Refuse to Log Billable Hours

Associates at major law firms in the US and UK are today going on a ‘Time Strike‘, where they do the work that is required of them, but refuse to log their billable hours.

The protest, organised by the Value Not Time group, is aimed at sending the message that junior lawyers no longer want to be measured primarily by the number of hours they are willing to work each day, but instead by the value they bring to the firm and the clients.

Artificial Lawyer spoke to one of the organisers, Emily LeMontre, who is an associate at a global law firm.

– First, why are you doing this?

We are doing this because enough is enough. We love our jobs, we respect our colleagues, we really want to be lawyers working inside major law firms – but, that doesn’t mean that the main way we are judged, that how our performance is gauged, should be by how willing we are to just keep working.

We want to add value to the firms we work for and the clients we serve, not just build up hours upon hours on our time sheets, which of course once they are billed to a client are often partly written off.

For example, in the past some of our group have worked through very important family events they had booked months before, then that additional time that had been generated and then billed was written off by the clients. It was all for nothing. And worse, we have plenty of legal tech tools now at our firms that could have done that additional manual work very quickly.

We just don’t believe that in 2021 we cannot find a better way of doing things when it comes to our time-based culture.

– How many of you are doing this?

There are about 200 of us now, spread across about two dozen major law firms, mostly in the US and UK. In fact, we started this three years ago, but the pandemic has really shown us how important it is to have some control over our lives.

This is however the first time we have talked openly about it. The first couple of years it was kept fairly quiet. Now though, we are going public with the campaign.

– But, isn’t this a sackable issue?

That is a very good question. You are right, normally this would be an immediate ‘out the door’ situation. But, you know what? There are enough partners that are sympathetic to our cause to allow us to do this – at least for one day a year. They cover for us.

– Some of the partners support this…? Really?

Why is that a surprise? Partners were associates once too. They also have to log billable hours, which is really a bit bizarre at that highly experienced level. Ten minutes with a top partner could be worth $10,000 to a client, maybe far more, but they still have to log their time using an hourly rate, just like we do. It’s a bit absurd, don’t you think?

We now see at every firm there are a growing number of partners that support our cause. And, to be frank, there is no way we could do this without them. Plus, the clients support us too – at least when they know we are doing this.

– Wow. Artificial Lawyer is stunned. So what happens next?

We will see if we can make this grow globally. For now it’s just about 200 people and we do this just once a year, every April 1. Our goal is to get this number into the thousands, and then eventually to see the entire billable time system for associates overhauled. At least, that is our hope.

I guess there will always be some hourly work, but we just want to be judged by the value we bring, not the time we are willing to give up.

Strategy Head, Richard Punt, Leaves Thomson Reuters

Richard Punt, the former CEO of Allen & Overy’s Peerpoint group, and most recently Managing Director, Legal Strategy & Market Development at Thomson Reuters, has left the giant company. He is the fourth well-known figure to leave in recent months.

Other recent departures include: Carlos Gamez, Andy Wishart, and Stuart Barr. It is understood that at least one more senior figure on the legal/legal tech side of Thomson Reuters (TR) is also soon to depart.

However, each of the leavers has noted that their moves were unconnected – and Artificial Lawyer has to say they all did indeed have quite independent reasons for going. That said, TR is seeing the departure of several of its most well-known figures of the last couple of years and that is something of a loss even if everyone had their own reasons for leaving.

Punt joined TR in June 2019 as Chief Strategy Officer, then last summer his title evolved to Managing Director, Legal Strategy & Market Development. Overall he spent 21 months at TR, a relatively short time for such a senior role in a large company.

One reason he joined TR was that before Allen & Overy and his role at its legal resourcing group, Peerpoint, he had been a consultant at Deloitte and TR had been one of his key clients.

Punt told Artificial Lawyer: ‘I joined [TR] to have the best opportunity to consult on legal tech. [Also] I am always looking for different options and I had never worked inside a corporate before.’

This site asked why he had left, to which he replied: ‘The last two years have confirmed that I am a services guy.’

He added that he is focused on where tech and services intersect, rather than just having a focus on the tech. And, TR doesn’t supply legal services – not unless you count Practical Law as a legal service, (but that’s a discussion for another time….)

So, what next?

Punt already has an advisory board role at FLEX, the UK-based flexible resourcing group, but that will not occupy all of his time.

‘I will be working on consulting and running a portfolio [career],’ he said. ‘My plan is to be in the middle of professional services market change.’

As to his legacy at TR, what was he able to tell us? He explained that he could not outline any of the major projects he had worked on for business reasons.

But, he would comment on the launch of the TR Marketplace, and said: ‘[TR wants] to be the open legal platform and Marketplace has been a success.’

Overall then, that is four execs now at TR that have gone, and as said, each have left for their own reasons. But the fact remains: even a company as large as TR, which has thousands of staff, only has so many senior figures that are well-known to the market.

No doubt other people will come to the fore, but this is a notable period of change at the giant company.

A Taxonomy of Contract Pre-Execution Tools

A few weeks ago Artificial Lawyer published the New Legal AI Map, which showed the main branches of NLP tools used in the legal sector today. One key branch is Pre-execution tools, i.e. pre-signature, which covers areas such as contract red-lining, risk analysis and negotiation.

To that end, Dan Broderick, the CEO and founder of BlackBoiler, and his team, have kindly put together their own take on the taxonomy of this particular branch of the wider tree.

There are several similarities to Artificial Lawyer’s original map, but this branch map includes Broderick’s personal additions and comes with an explanation of what it shows – which naturally represents his own views. Your feedback is very welcome, especially if you are a company also working in this field. Enjoy.

Pre-Execution Contract Review Taxonomy

By Dan Broderick, BlackBoiler

The legal tech market has become increasingly crowded, especially the pre-execution contract review space. There are now dozens of pre-execution tools out there focused on solving some of the biggest issues that law firms and corporate legal departments currently face.

Yet, during recent conversations with peers, potential buyers, and even journalists, we began to realise that there is often confusion around contract lifecycle management (CLM) and more specifically, what pre-execution contract review products actually do.

There is a lack of differentiation in how the various companies define themselves to customers, so we felt it was important to create a taxonomy to help future customers, and the broader legal industry, understand which tools do what.

Let’s start with a few examples of similar marketing lingo and taglines on company websites or LinkedIn pages. Below are examples from four different legal tech companies:

  • ‘Automate Your Contract Review’
  • ‘AI-Driven’
  • ‘Pre-screening’
  • ‘Powered by artificial intelligence’

The lack of differentiation causes confusion for customers as they are unable to identify which tool will best fit their contract review needs. By carving out specific areas within the pre-execution space, it would better explain the individual tools – such as risk scoring, classification, extraction, and contract markup.

There also needs to be more education and segmentation from service providers to truly differentiate products, so customers know which tool is best for their specific problems.

So, how is the pre-execution space broken down? (In order of complexity):

Comparison to Client Standard: AI reads a contract and compares it against a client’s standard language, checklist, etc. Issues are then flagged to be checked by humans.

Comparison to Industry-Standard Language (Benchmarking): AI reads a contract and indicates whether language is close to an industry-standard document. If language differs, the static boilerplate text is inserted.

Clause-level Semantic Similarity: AI reads contracts and shows semantically similar language that the user has seen before.

Classification: AI scans through the document and understands the significance of each paragraph. Based on the content, AI classifies the clauses and terms.

Extraction: AI extracts key legal and business terms and organizes large sets of documents into specific categories.

Risk rating/scorecard: AI reads contracts and surfaces the risk in your contracts. AI pinpoints which of the proposed redlines could cause a deviation from your intended obligations, entitlements, or standing positions.

Automated Contract Markup: AI redlines contracts according to your company’s playbook in minutes, entirely done by AI.

Given that the legal tech world is ever-changing, we see this as a sort of living taxonomy as the space evolves. I’d also love to hear readers’ thoughts on this taxonomy as we tried to address each type of pre-execution tool on the market.

Casey Flaherty Leaves Baker McKenzie, Joins LexFusion

Casey Flaherty, the well-known Director of Legal Project Management at Baker McKenzie, has left to join legal tech marketing consortium LexFusion as a co-founder, (i.e. a co-owner in the business), and as head of strategy.

He becomes the third co-founder, joining Joe Borstein and Paul Stroka at LexFusion, which represents a group of specially picked legal tech companies that includes the likes of CLM company Agiloft, complex work at scale provider, Factor, and the Litera conglomerate.

Flaherty has been busy building a legal project management group at Bakers, but it’s now ‘job done’ after creating a team there to serve the firm.

He told Artificial Lawyer: ‘The move feels good, it’s a return to the scene. Bakers has been rewarding, but I missed being in the mix.

‘I will be part of the core team at LexFusion and at the centre of the conversations with end customers. I will be listening and driving forward the conversation.’

He added that the end clients of the consortium, which are law firms and inhouse legal teams, really want to know what is happening in the legal tech market and what is possible, and in turn LexFusion is looking to build long-term relationships.

With Flaherty on board the trio will be able to do a lot more outreach – although, that said, they were already working flat out with Borstein and Stroka.

More broadly he noted that when he first heard of a consortium approach for selling legal tech, ‘I thought: this is a terrible idea….for anyone other than Joe and Paul!’.

He noted that the two other co-founders have a huge number of deep relationships across the market, many of which were developed while working at Pangea3, which went to Thomson Reuters and then to EY. This, he added, made their consortium sales strategy a very realistic approach – something that many others would not be able to do.

In terms of how they will make money, there is a commission award to LexFusion for clients won and there is a membership fee from the tech companies.

And, as to why he left Bakers?

‘My part at Bakers was done. My build was done, which was to make the biggest LPM group in the world,’ he explained.

A key factor here is that, as Artificial Lawyer put it to him, he is a ‘builder’. And that is the kind of person any young company needs.

He also has broad experience, having worked inhouse at Kia the car company, and also having created his own startup Procertas that helps with tech training. Plus, he was an associate at US law firm, Holland & Knight. All in all, a wide range of skills and experiences that no doubt will help him to connect with potential clients.

Last word goes to Borstein: ‘Casey is a friend and a fellow traveler in the world of legal innovation. We cannot contain our excitement that he has chosen to join our team. It’s a milestone when one of the brightest minds in your space not only believes in what you are doing, they agree to become part your story and join you in advancing the collective conversation.

‘Casey’s presence will make an immediate impact on the practices of our corporate and law firm clients, as well as the businesses of our member companies. He can offer an unparalleled insight and guidance to those in the legal field seeking solutions to address their current and future priorities.’

The full list of the LexFusion companies so far:

  • Factor – complex legal process at scale,
  • Time by Ping – timekeeping,
  • HaystackID – eDiscovery,
  • Litera – legal workflow specialists and more,
  • Priori Legal – lawyers on demand,
  • Intelliteach – now Frontline Managed Services – outsourced IT services,
  • Agiloft – CLM.

CLM ContractPodAi Launches ‘Cloud’ in Major Expansion of Platform

CLM company ContractPodAi has launched ‘Cloud’, in what is a major expansion of the platform that streamlines a broad range of inhouse legal processes beyond contract management, and also provides the ability for inhouse lawyers to build their own no-code applications to use within the system.

For example, Cloud also allows teams now to better manage matters such as RFP review and IP portfolios, as well as the day to day contracting needs one would expect.

Sarvarth Misra, CEO of ContractPodAi, commented: ‘ContractPodAi Cloud is crafted according to the most advanced principles of modern legal design thinking. It puts the needs of corporate counsel at the centre of the technology experience.’

All well and good. But, how much of a change is this? And what does this mean for clients in practical terms? Artificial Lawyer caught up with Richa Kaul, ContractPodAi’s Chief Strategy Officer, to find out some more.

How is this different to what was there before?

This is a core change. ContractPodAi’s offering is changing in three main ways.

First, what we have now is one legal platform that supports in-house legal teams across their workload. The platform offers different modules or applications, one of which is contract management, to help legal teams streamline the management of their day-to-day legal scenarios.

Other pre-built applications beyond contract management include: RFP Review, IP Portfolio Management, Claims Management, Real Estate Portfolio Management, and more.

For example, the RFP review module automates workflows between legal, procurement, and the relevant function, and it creates a repository for RFP responses.

Another example is our IP portfolio management application, which enables better protection of IP rights via a centralised repository that abstracts data like jurisdictions and expirations for easy ongoing management, and more.

There is also a fully revamped user experience, [and] all processes and workflows are fully guided, with the user being presented at each stage with only their potential next steps (see screenshot below). This supports organic adoption for maximum impact to clients.

Then there is the Legal Application Launcher [which you can use to] build custom applications in minutes. This experience is made easy for non-technical audiences with guided forms and templates that take you step by step through the process of building a tailored application in a no-code format.

A client can use the legal application builder to address a frequent legal use case or manual-work-heavy task that they face and want to streamline and scale in a standardised way. This really applies to any task that they do often.

For example, the senior legal team members might be responsible for corporate governance or corporate secretarial administration. They can create a custom legal application that has a smart, fully searchable repository for all their Board documents, automated workflows for approval of Board minutes, e-sign for any corporate governance items that require attention, and even relevant tasks noted and managed in-platform.

More broadly, there is a foundation of technical tools underlying the ContractPodAi Cloud platform, which users can leverage towards their specific use cases and needs.

The foundational features include functions like smart repository, dynamic workflow builder, self-service document authoring from templates, AI review and extraction, advanced cognitive search, foreign language translation, visual reporting and analytics, and more.

Clients have the ability to use this toolkit in a tailored way against each of their legal scenarios.

BRYTER Bags $66m – In Legal Tech Funding Speed Record

Decision automation company BRYTER has bagged $66m in a Series B funding round, reaching $90m in total investment in just three years, making it by Artificial Lawyer’s reckoning the first legal tech company to reach this level of growth funding so rapidly from a standing start.

In fact, it’s quite possible that BRYTER, which is based in Berlin, but has offices in the US and UK, has now received more VC investment than the entire German legal tech sector combined over the same three year period.

The company currently has about 120 staff and will aim to grow to 200 by the end of this year. The additional money, which comes just eight months after the last round, will be partly invested into expansion in the US – the largest legal market on the planet.

The latest funding was led by New York based investment firm Tiger Global, with participation from existing investors Accel, Dawn Capital, Notion Capital and Cavalry Ventures. Ulf Zetterberg, the former CEO of legal AI company, Seal Software, has also become an investor and an advisor to BRYTER, although he made his investment a few months ago.

All in all, it’s quite an achievement, especially given that several no-code (or low code) legal tech companies that also help with decision automation pre-date BRYTER’s launch.

So, what is their secret sauce? How did BRYTER go from $0 to $90m funding in so short a time, and grow so fast, winning around 100 clients including ING, Telefonica, Baker McKenzie and PwC along the way?

As founder and CEO, Michael Grupp, explained to this site, their goal has been to focus on the stuff that may not seem exciting, but actually works and that really does provide ROI, because when you bring in no-code decision automation it speeds up processes and makes them easier for a business, and that in turn saves money. That money saving can be clearly explained to the company’s CFO and so support for BRYTER grows across a business.

Of course, that may sound simple, but turning complex processes into something that feels intuitive and provides a clearly tangible benefit has always been the Holy Grail of software companies.

‘There is no secret sauce for us, we just focus on a solution that brings ROI today. People want ROI and BRYTER just works,’ he said.

‘But, there is also something about timing, [to grow as we have] you need companies that are thinking about these things. You need GCs and heads of compliance to be thinking about [this kind of solution]. You need them to be looking at this process that currently costs X, and [considering that] with BRYTER it will now cost Y,’ he explained.

And there is a lot of truth to that. Being early, or being late, can be a cruel fact of life for many startups. BRYTER seemed to arrive just as no-code applications saw a surge of interest, and just as inhouse teams were really getting to grips with automation.

But, there is one other aspect – and it reminds Artificial Lawyer of what Agiloft’s CEO, Eric Laughlin, said to this site recentlyit’s also about having an enterprise mindset. I.e. to stop thinking small and to approach large businesses in the same way Salesforce approaches them.

As Grupp explained, any company with around $200m in revenue would be a good fit for BRYTER’s capabilities. And there are thousands of such companies across the planet. Not all legal tech companies think in this way. Although, to be fair, if your product is tailored for mostly the Top 50 largest transactional law firms in the world, then such an enterprise approach is tricky because the numbers are just not there.

Grupp added that the main investor in this round, Tiger Global, has a new multi-billion dollar fund and with their continued support ‘if we want to go big, we can’.

At this point, Artificial Lawyer asked: given how fast you are growing won’t you aim to sell soon, to benefit from that during a market that is hot for M&A? Grupp said: no, certainly not now. They have only been going for three years, the team is young and dynamic, and there is so much more expansion ahead of them. There is far more growth in the US to come, and then there is the Asia-Pacific region to expand into.

And when you hear how Grupp sees things you can understand that from his point of view this really is just the beginning. He points to RPA pioneer UiPath, which now has annual revenues of $0.6 billion, as a potential model for the path BRYTER could take in terms of future growth.

‘UiPath were ten years before us, they were the first wave, and we’d love to be in the second wave,’ Grupp concluded.

But, the last word goes to key investor, John Curtius, Partner at Tiger Global, who said in a statement: ‘BRYTER has all the characteristics of a top-tier software company: high quality product that solves a real customer pain point, a large market opportunity and a world-class founding team. The feedback from BRYTER’s customers was resoundingly positive in our research, and we are excited to see the company reach new heights over the coming years.’

Good luck to all the team at BRYTER. Their success is ultimately good news for many other companies in the legal tech world, as it is sending the message that software businesses that originate in the legal sector can have huge potential.

Is the Pandemic the Push Legal Needed to Really Embrace Technology?

Like so many employers, law firms were resistant to the idea of letting employees work from home or relying too much on technology – until they had no choice. The coronavirus pandemic forced many industries to reconsider how people work and use technology. Even the Supreme Court began holding oral arguments via video conference.

Although a recent survey shows that most lawyers don’t want to work from home full-time, it’s unlikely firms will be able to completely roll back remote work when the pandemic subsides. At least some of the tech tools used over the last six months will stick around. Consider these silver linings:…

Some People Aren’t Allowed to Vote and It’s Perfectly Legal

The 2020 General Election is less than a month away and millions of Americans will not be able to cast ballots. Among them, pop icon Britney Spears. Spears, 38, is among an estimated 1.5 million Americans who live under a conservatorship (or guardianship, depending on the state), meaning that a judge has appointed a guardian who makes decisions about daily life and financial affairs and, in some states, voting.

Focus on Financial Planning: Power of Attorney for Finances

Sound financial planning generally includes budgeting, minimizing bad debt, creating wealth, and building a nest egg for retirement. The complexity of these efforts depends on many factors, including the extent and nature of your assets and liabilities, whether you run a business, and whether you have dependents. What would happen if you suffered a serious illness or accident and suddenly were unable to manage your finances on your own?
As uncomfortable as it may be to imagine yourself incap.