In Part 1 of this two-part series of posts, I described — how “judges’ personal foibles and idiosyncrasies — I mean their distinctive, well-informed, jurisprudentially ingenious perspectives — can drive litigation outcomes more than any objective view of the law or evidence would seem to warrant”.
From there I compared the relatively new (circa 2006) legal analytics technology to a courtroom grapevine that colleagues and I used in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in the 1980s to ascertain such personal foibles and idiosyncrasies when our case was assigned to a particular judge for trial.
By this time legal analytics is old news — at least among the largest law firms and for specific categories of major business litigation. But recently this technology has moved beyond just big cities and elite law firms to Main Street and to small law firms.
Witness the example of Gavelytics’ announcement a few weeks ago.
Gavelytics — the legal analytics company — announced a new partnership with a company called “CourtCall”. In my own courtroom experience, CourtCall has functioned as a conference call service — just that this one involves judges and is deemed a formal court appearance for the participants (there’s a video offering feature too apparently).
My first experience with CourtCall came when I had a case in a small city. Until then, my experiences doing conference calls with judges and lawyers — in place of an actual visit to the court — had been confined to the well-equipped federal courts, who have their own, ample facilities for such things.
The fact that Gavelytics has partnered with CourtCall tells me that this legal analytics offering is not confined to big cities and elite law firms. It’s now coming to small cities and small law firms.
This Gavelytics / CourtCall partnership, “will allow lawyers who are scheduled to appear before a judge via CourtCall to obtain analytics on the judge from Gavelytics that will provide insights about the judge’s patterns and propensities in decision-making“.
Gavelytics’ CEO puts it this way:
“The whole thing we’re after is to provide analytics to everybody. This tool is so powerful that we want lawyers of every size to be able to have access ….”
Why would such a sophisticated software capability be attractive to — and feasible for adoption by — by smaller law firms outside big cities?
Jake Heller, CEO of Casetext, an artificial intelligence-enabled legal search engine, answers this way:
“One of the most common misconceptions about the application of artificial intelligence technologies to the legal profession is that it is only for the big firms ….
“Quietly … the 85 percent of lawyers at smaller law firms have been adopting, using, and thriving on artificial intelligence technologies. And they have been using AI [artificial intelligence] to level the playing field, diminishing or eliminating what were once the resource and staffing advantages at the bigger law firms ….
“First, AI diminishes the importance of having a huge staff, especially in litigation ….
” … Smaller law firms are leveraging technology ‘to do the work of many attorneys, leveling the playing field against more established attorneys and law firms ….
“Second, it’s not just that artificial intelligence can help smaller firm attorneys do the work of many. It’s also that once expensive resources are becoming increasingly affordable, thanks to AI ….
“… In sum: artificial intelligence is flourishing within smaller firms as they realize how this technology helps them do the work of many — and do so affordably.”
I’ve written about law firms’ business model that “maximizes associate leverage” (For instance: Here): Mix in a lot of recent law graduates with a lawyer who actually knows what he or she is doing.
What do these inexperienced, apprentice-type employee-attorneys do to bill hours to clients and generate profits for the law firms’ owners after their compensation and benefits have been subtracted from total hours billed?
Those inexperienced, apprentice-type employee-attorneys do simple review of documents and rudimentary legal research. The sorts of tasks that continue to be the “grunt work” that generations of attorneys have long experienced fresh out of law school.
This is where artificial intelligence generally, and legal analytics in particular, show such great promise for economy and efficiency in the future. And this is why legal technology is such a threat to the legal profession’s business model.