In a buyer's market for legal services, more law firms are adding industry groups and practice areas to differentiate themselves from competitors. As law firms look to distinguish their client offerings and create new revenue streams, where can they start and what should they be thinking about?
We sat down with Reed Smith’s Director of Practice Solutions, Bryon Bratcher, to learn about how he’s taking an innovative approach to their transactional practice with the help of artificial intelligence available in the Relativity App Hub.
Rishi: What about the state of the e-discovery industry made opening your transactional work an important move?
Bryon: The e-discovery industry is mature from a technology and expertise standpoint with accepted workflows. In general, the model of using analytics and machine learning technology to identify and minimize data sets for e-discovery has come a long way. But technology to assist in transactional law has been behind.
There’s a runway for growth there, and we’re seeing a new phase of market growth that we can latch onto. We could have maintained a singular focus on our e-discovery offering—which accounts for 50 percent of our work—and done well with that trajectory. However, our transactional work accounts for a sizable percentage of our business. Why not push the tech boundaries there to create new value for our clients?
Since it’s my job to help our practice groups continuously improve their operational efficiency, I knew we had to identify new ways to move our transactional portfolio forward from a technology standpoint. When we identified Heretik as a solution that could be used in our transactional work, we knew it made sense to apply the latest technology to that part of our offering. Making the work more efficient for our clients helps them improve their ability to identify risks, obligations, and other critical information in their contracts. It’s also a tremendous opportunity for us to capture new business and widen a revenue stream.
How can another law firm spot an opportunity for opening new lines of business?
Law firms should take a critical look at the type of work they’re doing and find out where technology could be applied to make gains. In particular, anything manual and repeatable should be examined to see if there is a way to automate it. Automating the time-consuming work allows for attorneys to focus more on legal issues.
Law firm clients are expecting smart use of technology to increase operational efficiency and deliver the most favorable outcomes. Law firms have an opportunity to leverage technology to boost efficiency in new practice areas and build process around those new areas. We’re simply not in a market where a firm can rest on their laurels. Expanding offerings and thinking long term is crucial to any firm’s success.
Was it difficult to get buy-in from decision makers at your firm to build on this transactional focus?
No, not at all. Decision makers see that this technology is making our attorneys more efficient during contract review, and our clients are seeing the value in the form of faster project completion that’s not nearly as costly as previous workflows. Not only are we more efficient for our clients, but this gives us an opportunity to take on more work for them and create a stronger relationship.
What value did you find in choosing a partner like Heretik to help you expand your transactional work portfolio?
We have one of the largest law firm installations of Relativity with more than half of our firm using the solution. Taking advantage of a Relativity integration like Heretik to help with our transactional work was extremely valuable because we’re extending the use of a solution we already have. It saves an incredible amount of time and money not having to install another solution, train up staff, and maintain it. So we’ve eliminated typical adoption barriers.
Aside from the solution being tightly integrated into Relativity, Heretik’s value is really in their technology. Finding a solution that uses machine learning to take out the manual work involved in categorizing contract types, finding important contract sections, and organizing key elements in those sections was something we needed to take our transactional business forward. Cutting down this manual work allows us to provide our client better counsel.
Can you give us an interesting use case for the solution that you’ve incorporated into your practice?
Our clients were performing an NDA risk analysis with the goal of creating a gold standard set of NDA clauses to create the best NDAs possible. This required looking at all the NDAs they have out in the wild to establish overall identification, organization, and management of them and learn what language was used and how well they were written.
This is, historically, a manual, inventory-and-cross-check process with thousands of documents in a foldered area and teams of people digging into the agreements to copy and paste pertinent information into an Excel spreadsheet. It takes hours to accomplish.
With Relativity and Heretik, we’re able to perform an NDA review much faster and parse out clauses up front automatically, put them in a thread view, and go through them efficiently. It used to take 45 minutes to an hour to manually match up the clauses of the gold standard NDA against another NDA. Now it takes 15 minutes, making us four times faster.