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Technology is a Partnership: Selina Coleman on AI and Client Collaboration

Liz Roegner

At Reed Smith, AI Visionary Selina Coleman and her colleagues focus on how client relationships and collaboration make the implementation of new technology more effective, efficient, and insightful. By working as a team, and armed with AI and other innovative solutions to help their clients address legal challenges, Selina says attorneys and their clients can confront those challenges head-on more quickly and with better evidentiary support.

The legal sector has a reputation for being slow to embrace new technologies, but you stand out as an early explorer of AI. What are some of the structural barriers that keep law firms from adopting new technologies? How and why did you take an interest in AI?

Lawyers are trained to review precedent, and law firms often look to past strategies that have proved successful, regardless of the emergence of new technologies. Implementing new workflows and technologies that are unfamiliar can be difficult to reconcile with this perspective.

Reed Smith has driven its growth and success, however, by partnering with clients on technological innovations that will help improve outcomes. Like our clients, we welcome embracing new technologies when they demonstrate their potential to yield better and more cost-effective results. I view AI as an opportunity to add value and create efficiencies for our clients, particularly when we manage the review of high volumes of data in litigation matters. By leveraging AI across this data, we not only add value by minimizing costs, but we also reveal critical information and patterns that further support our legal arguments and make for more informed case strategies.

Can you share any lessons on how legal leaders can drive the adoption of new technologies such as AI inside law firms?

Stay up to date on the evolving technologies, and recognize that it’s not about ceding control—it’s about harnessing technology to help us do our jobs better. For example, we often use AI to swiftly identify the documents in a data set that are most likely to be key, responsive, or privileged. Doing this quickly allows us to maximize the value of human review.

Stay up to date on the evolving technologies, and recognize that it’s not about ceding control—it’s about harnessing technology to help us do our jobs better.

Law firms can also create centers of technological expertise—like Reed Smith’s Records & e-Discovery Group, and our technology subsidiary Gravity Stack—to support evaluating new technologies, as well as effectively employing technologies to deliver greater value to clients. Putting dedicated experts on these tasks helps to improve adoption and implementation.

Over the course of your career, what wins are you most of and why?

I feel the greatest sense of pride where we have demonstrated our clients’ compliant practices through their data to help defeat allegations of fraud. For example, in partnering with my healthcare clients, we  have used data to refute allegations of improper inducements to healthcare providers. We have also used data to demonstrate our clients’ proper dispensing and billing of prescriptions for medically necessary drugs. By leveraging data to challenge fraud allegations, and to reveal instead our clients’ compliant practices, we have achieved highly favorable results with the government and other regulators. These wins show the value of partnering with our clients to leverage technology in ways that help us better understand and deploy their data quickly and with purpose.

What were your interests early on and what drew you to the practice of law?

Studying English and philosophy drew me to the law, where linguistic and analytical skills solve concrete problems, and I developed a passion for healthcare from my family members in medicine. Defending healthcare providers like pharmacies and hospitals through practicing law has been a great fit.

What do you do when you are not working? How do you decompress?

On the weekends, you can usually find me walking in Old Town, Alexandria; spending time with my husband and daughter; or reading a good book.

Which person (living or deceased) do you most admire?

My parents: each came to America as an immigrant, and they found great success in building a life together through hard work and perseverance.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Because the practice of law has changed dramatically as we have embraced remote technologies and developed a hybrid work environment, I find myself most identifying with my fellow women partners as we navigate how to best develop our teams and our practices in this evolving landscape. No doubt some of them will make history.

What do you consider the most underrated quality or skill?

Listening: to your clients, to your peers, to your staff, to your newest team members. Listening shows respect and promotes trust, and often reveals additional considerations or potential solutions that yield better outcomes.

At Text IQ, we feel very strongly about fostering diversity and using AI to root out unconscious bias from the workplace. How do you think law firms can foster more diversity in the workplace? What, in your opinion, have been the structural impediments to diversity at law firms and how can they be removed?

At Reed Smith, we are passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our inclusive culture allows us to deliver more innovative and creative legal services and achieve better outcomes for our clients. We promote our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion through messaging that starts from the top, and firm-wide programming that focuses on inclusive behavior.

Although many law firms are committed to recruiting diverse talent, a common structural impediment to welcoming and cultivating that diversity is a lack of investment in resources to develop and retain that talent. At Reed Smith, that includes training, networking, mentorship, and sponsorship. By committing resources to support the professional development of diverse talent, law firms can achieve more diversity at all levels, which further promotes a diverse and inclusive culture. 

Liz Roegner is an account executive at Relativity. Before joining Relativity, she was a practicing attorney with Choate Hall & Stewart LLP in Boston, where she focused on commercial litigation, government investigations, and insurance/reinsurance arbitration.

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