Legal Market Demands Sustainable, Practical Technology

Working to create high-value products is what drives success and differentiates people and organizations. Many industry segments and verticals constantly evaluate processes to improve the quality, speed and efficiency of delivering these products.

Jason Vander Meer

Often companies embrace practices, such as “Lean,” to identify work that may be wasting valuable time. Businesses must find ways to allow high-value resources to focus on important tasks required to produce differentiating products. Industries, companies and people are transformed after they apply Lean practices with a focus on reducing waste.

Seyfarth Shaw studied and successfully implemented many aspects of Lean, which led to cost savings for clients and the firm, as well as shortened the time taken to deliver services. A report published by Seyfarth Shaw showed one client in particular was able to save an average of 30 percent in costs for single-plaintiff employment litigation. Another client was able to decrease average costs per lawsuit from $50,000 to $10,000.

There are many ways to benefit from Lean, including changing processes or implementing technology. The legal industry is confronted with many technologies that embrace Lean to solve problems related to efficiency, risk reduction and reputation protection — all to drive value toward providing services to clients. Topics such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive computing, and big data analysis are discussed with a hope of transforming the industry. How can these technologies and concepts be applied in order to appreciate the benefits today?


Advanced technology solves complex legal problems by processing large amounts of data to make decisions and recommendations. One example is predictive coding for document discovery in the litigation process found in many e-discovery platforms. They tackle hugely labor-intensive and error-prone tasks that high-value resources typically have to do.

It is estimated that existing technology handling low-value tasks can result in a 2.5 percent increase in lawyer productivity, assuming a realistic adoption.

Adopting these technologies to go through low-value work and gather data allows the law firm’s resources (lawyers), to focus on high-value work to interpret and determine how to use the data. This ultimately drives value back to clients and the firm.

The trend of using these technologies is not new; e-discovery products have been on the market for years. It’s the algorithms performing some tasks that is still an area of contention for many law firms. It helps to take a step back and think about them in terms of finding and eliminating the effort wasted on low-value tasks, rather than thinking in terms of artificial intelligence taking over an individual’s job.


By disassociating artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive computing or other key phrases from the conversation of eliminating waste and driving value, and simply focusing on automating low-value tasks to achieve this, the concept becomes less opaque and the benefits appear attainable.

In the case of the drafting lifecycle, documents need to be navigable, accurate and aesthetically presentable. The product should reduce risk and protect reputation, but how this is arrived at becomes less important as long as each part is delivered. Automated solutions abstract the how, while helping achieve those valuable aspects, and allow nearly anyone to interface with the technology with the goal of providing an impeccable product.


Some law firms believe embracing this low-value work develops analytical, thoughtful minds; however, individuals still need to work and think critically to analyze data, issues and items surfaced by automation tools. These solutions allow for more time to perform analysis.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Results should aim to provide considerably more time for attorneys and legal professionals to focus on the work they are meant and educated to do, while still having the confidence that commoditized tasks are being completed in a high-quality manner. In the white paper by Dana Remus and Frank S. Levy, summarized by The New York Times, it is estimated that existing technology handling low-value tasks can result in a 2.5 percent increase in lawyer productivity, assuming a realistic adoption.

Rather than replacing individuals, these solutions provide more time to focus on the work that drives value. We need to learn to examine problems from different perspectives and keep in mind the specific goals that will increase time spent on high-value work.