The Changing Lawyer Summit – Firm Intelligence: The Advantages of a Single Source of Truth
Litera’s Former Senior Director, Firm Intelligence Cindy Thurston Bare is joined by Simpson Thatcher’s Director of Knowledge Management, Tanisha Little and Director of Data Analytics Andrew Baker to talk about how law firms can become more data-centric. Read transcript
Cindy Thurston Bare
Former Senior Director, Firm Intelligence, Litera
Director of Knowledge Management, Simpson Thatcher
Director of Data Analytics, Simpson Thatcher
- Ep 020 - Transcript: The Changing Lawyer Summit – Firm Intelligence: The Advantages of a Single Source of Truth
Welcome to Legal Tech Matters, a Litera podcast dedicated to creating conversations about trends, technology and innovation for modern law firms and companies big and small.
Welcome back. Now I'm sure you can agree that we've just had a fantastic, fun, inspiring start to the Changing Lawyer Virtual Summit. Don't forget to use #TCLVirtualSummit to stay social with us. And now let's continue all of that goodness, but also change gears a bit and get into the first of our sessions this morning. Our panel is made up of knowledge management data analysts and experts will explore the advantages of breaking down data silos, combining information from disparate systems like CRM, time and billing. H.R. conflicts and external sources to drive data driven decision making. Lots of useful information to come, I'm sure. So let's learn together
All right. Welcome, everyone. Hi, I'm Cindy Thurston Bare. I'm a senior director at Litera, and I have been fortunate to work with almost half of the AM Law 100 to help them understand and leverage their firm intelligence. I joined the foundation four years ago, and prior to that I spent 20 years inside global law firms, most recently as the director of knowledge management at it. And I was really pleased to hear Seth validate my opinion this morning that there was almost nothing changing lawyers more today than data.
And that's what we'll talk about today during this session. So I'm really excited to have two people with me today who are leaders in our industry and personally whom I admire greatly to join me for this conversation. So Tanisha Little and Andrew Baker, both with Simpson, Thatcher, Tanisha, can you start the introductions and tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure. Thanks, Andy. It's great to be here with you today. Hi, everyone, I'm Tanisha Little. I'm the director of knowledge management at Simpson, Thatcher and Bartlett. I've been with the firm just over a year now, so it's been an exciting ride this past year. I've been a knowledge management though, for over 15 years now and started as a capital markets lawyer before moving into into KM as a knowledge management lawyer. And over the years, I have worked on so many projects I've done, you know, SharePoint intranets. I've done enterprise search and practice intelligence tools, some internal and client facing custom applications along the way. So in background, I went to NYU for law school. Like I said, I started as a capital markets associate and spent my first summer at Struck and Struck and Livan, writing Y2K risk factors
So, yeah, dating myself a little bit there. But you know, it's interesting because I worked at firms at a time when you know when to find precedents. As an attorney, we went to the bound volumes right. We would walk into a partner's office and we would say, Hey, do you remember that deal where we did x y z thing? And they look at their shelf and point to a book and you know, and you would borrow it like it was a lending library. And that was how we collected data. So when I started. And you better not lose that book because if somebody else needed that down the line, you had to turn that over. But once I decided to after a while, that practicing law just wasn't for what's it for me?
And you know, and I started dabbling, you know, trying to find ways to help the practice group just be more efficient. I figured this got to be a better way to to do some of these things. And the more I started dabbling, the more I became interested in knowledge management. Although I did not have a name for it at the time, I just figured it out. These were the things that needed to get done to to help the practice group. And by the time I was at Morrison and Forester and that's where I met, Omron.
He was leaving the knowledge management efforts there at Mofo and he convinced me to join his team. And that was kind of my first stop into knowledge management. And, you know, our careers took us in different directions for a while, he went to white in case I went to the ropes and gray. And now we're back together at Simms and where is our deep knowledge and information officer and I lead the KM here at Simpson is I have a team of knowledge management lawyers, so their knowledge lawyers, they're embedded in our practice groups, highly experienced advisors to our practice groups. I also have our knowledge resources team. And this is the group that supports a lot of the content in our knowledge banking systems. They work really closely with the knowledge management lawyers and in their practice groups to support their needs. And I also have an internet team that's supporting our firm white intranet. So that's me in a nutshell, right?
Thank you so much to nature. Fascinating career. Andrew, you've you've done some interesting things in your time as well. Tell us about it. I have.
I'm getting long in the tooth. I guess you stay around long enough for U.S. things, but now I'm director of data analytics at the firm. And I think it's an issue. About two months on me, so I'm not quite a year into the job, but coming up on that before coming into the firm, I consulted for about a five year period. Lastly, at H.R. Consulting, where I collate that innovation and data team, but going back, even before you graduated law school almost 15 years ago now, just scary to say, but but but true, when I was in law school, I worked on it and what at the
time was a fairly progressive project to try to make automation more accessible to the masses. So it's really kind of a cartoon front end that sat over hot docs. It was designed to be delivered by court systems to low income litigants, primarily.
And in doing that in law school, I kind of, I guess, drank the Kool-Aid at that point. And it wasn't really the practice of law that was as exciting to me. It was really more it trying to find ways to enhance, you know, how legal services were delivered and to think about that and in a very different way, much to my now wife's children and my parents. You know, I let them know that I wasn't going to be a traditional lawyer after all that, you know, this is where they're where my passion was and I had a technical background from undergrad, so it all kind of fit together.
But I, you know, kind of went the legal tech route straight on because two things you mentioned the work, the remains for a lot of these things at the time. So you know, what's a hand gesture and interpretive dance to try to convey what you thought was missing and how things should fit together?
And it was a very, very different time, but spent a lot of number of years and knowledge management, both at Cyber Sean and Reed Smith doing some very at the time, you know, progressive things that were that were quite quite novel and interesting.
And then where the innovation program its high part for about three and a half year period, then before going into and consulting the yeah, probably at the tail of my time at Syphar as I got deeper and deeper into the data side of things and started off doing some things that were very progressive, you know, just trying to visualize data and make you know what we had on hand more engaging and thoughtful. Read every book I could find nothing and industry was really relevant to what we were doing. And so, you know, spent a lot of time exploring and learning.
And then, you know, once we try to visualize things differently, we then started dusting off our statistics books from undergrad and relearning ways to get new insights from the data that was on hand. And all that to me, knowing that that was the space I really wanted to commit to.
So having ventured in a lot of different areas, you know, it's one that that appealed to me, you know, in the most material way. And just as I looked out on the horizon where the industry is going, just knew that all paths lead down a data road to what extent or another.
And so I went back to school and finish up my master's actually in August of this year. And in analytics, I took one class a quarter for what felt like an eon. That was a long time and lots of nights early mornings, weekends spent, you know, hunkered down, working on code very different than law school. You know what class or any kind of take your foot off the gas for a period of time and catch back up toward, you know, the close of the of the of the course for all these assignments who had a pretty regular basis on everything, you know, fairly technical.
And it was a lot of learning on a lot of fronts and great good to have behind me. But it was a wonderful experience, but all that kind of came together and here I am. You know, it's just that you're helping to lead a data group that's really focused on, you know, pushing the envelope, you know, for for our lawyers and for our clients. We have, you know, a kind of mixed team. So myself, we've got a manager of data science, data architect and head of enterprise search and figured out it's much more broad than just enterprise search. It's really information retrieval. But you know, the team is growing and expanding and, you know, we're excited about what lies ahead.
Yes. Well, thank you both for those details and introductions. And I think hopefully the audience can see that we have a great panel here today. So you both have the benefit of years of experience in the legal industry, across multiple firms and different situations. So how have you seen the need for data change over the years?
I think that one of the big stories that we've seen really it's coming from, you know, from our clients, right? They just have an increased need for free data, and they're asking us some really deep questions about the work that we're doing for them.
You know, it's not like in the past, you know, when I was talking earlier about my experience, you know, walking into a partner's office and being able to to pull a bound volume off of the shelf and look up a question that a client had.
And and and I think the types of things that they're asking us have just changed so much over the years that you can't just find we'll get one data point to to answer a question that they have for you. And we also can't afford to, you know, to have associates spending half a day, you know, going through old documents and volumes and pulling the group about this. Anybody remember the last time we did something like this? So I think the speed at which, you know, clients are coming to us, the complexity, the depth of the questions that they're asking price has really started to change things.
Yeah, for sure. I think that the speed and the responsiveness has certainly changed over the years.
Andrew, whether I was talking to a partner not long ago and she was saying, Look, you know, we have more deals happening, there's more complexity and we're getting more questions from our clients. And no matter how much gray matter you have, it's just impossible to keep all of that in memory at one time. And then you only know what you've touched and you've experienced directly. So, you know, there's a need to understand things in a much more quantified sense than ever before.
And you know, the insights that come from that are much more apparent than, you know, probably in years past. So, you know, our lawyer's expectation expectations are changing and the client expectations are are changing and all that's kind of creating a very clear need to collect more and then, you know, squeeze more out of the data that we've got.
You want to continue driving that, but excellent client service. Great that you know that we're known for and to be able to I think to do that just requires that we start to think differently about the data, about the data we're collecting, how we're organizing it, how we're presenting it and making it accessible to people so that they can deliver to our clients.
We put along it's time and we thought about data and the industry, really. We only thought about financial data. You know, it's how many different ways we can carve up our billing and collection information. And that has changed significantly where we have a very different dimension kind of added to the mix now that I don't think in the industry, it's quite as prominent and that is around, you know, practice specific data. So for any of our core practices, you know, we're collecting more and more data about the nature of the services we're providing and we're coupling that with financial data, but also with people data with marketing, data with intake data in new and creative ways. But it's the fact that we're looking well beyond finance, I think has changed in my time for sure.
Mm-Hmm. Yeah, I'm seeing that across firms as well. I think that's absolutely true. The other thing that I would say, I mean, certainly the pandemic probably helped speed some of this up because you could no longer just go next door and ask someone a question that was already true for global firms where so much knowledge was local and you might not understand what your colleagues across the pond were. We're doing as well, but I would think the pandemic certainly sort of accelerated some of those needs. And the other thing that I've seen, yeah, have you seen that Tunisia?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, time zones are a thing of the past now, right with the way that we're working and people are, you know, working all hours, our clients are spread across the globe and and like I said, you know, you just you can't wait for someone to wake up to to be able to to deliver an answer and to to find information, right?
Absolutely. The other thing I would say that I have seen across multiple firms is diversity is starting to become a driver for additional data needs. Think firms are starting to really look at equity and talent development assignments? Retention is obviously a hot topic, and so I've certainly seen diversity, you know, in the last couple of years become a new data need as well.
Every firm can try to take steps forward. And, you know, are, you know, aggressively trying to trying to do so and some of these other areas, you know, now in order to provide the insights or to look at the problem in the right way, you're not just looking at data from one particular department. You actually need to look at data elements from across multiple different lanes in order to, you know, fully answer the question or explore things in detail.
And I think that's quite a different, you know, to when we think about how data is evolved. You know, the past might have been a financial question. It was a marketing question. There might have been, you know, people or talent question, but it was rare that you were actually, you know, combining that in an extremely material way outside of, you know, client names, people names, et cetera. And now, you know, really is trying to merge data across multiple different systems in a much more fluid way than in the past that now creates. Well, challenges and, you know, a lot of benefit, if you can do right.
A lot of opportunity. I think one of the things you're probably seeing, I mean, one reason why we're growing data teams right is because, you know, the data that we're interested in, you know, whether it's for diversity, purpose, administrative purposes, you practice group purposes, right? It's not just, you know, I just need to know what happened, you know, in the last five years. Yeah, that's interesting. But it's like, we want actionable data, right? We want to we want things that we can actually use are being interpreted to say, you know, it's no longer not a shield anymore. It's a sword that we're starting to, you know, to use in our firms and in our practices. I think that's an important thing to note as well.
Right? Yeah, definitely evolving from description, from descriptive right to more predictive.
Somewhere along that curve? Yeah. So in order to do that right, in order to use data as a sword and really talking about Andrew, you talked about combining this data from all over the firm. Really? Simpson Thatcher is completely transformed its KM team in the last year. So tell us a little bit about that team and how have roles changed to reflect the importance of data?
Sure. Let me just give you that kind of like a quick overview of kind of like what we've done with the knowledge department and then I can kind of talk about what we're doing with our teams because I think we've developed a very special partnership between our teams between, you know, knowledge management team that I'm leading in the data analytics team, that you know, that Andrew is leading and we're just like really thick as thieves now.
But so, you know, the new knowledge department at Simpson, it really started, I think, a couple of years ago at one of our firm partners' retreats and two of our partners, Linden Man and Ben Shay. They're the co-chairs of our Knowledge, Innovation and Technology Committee. We made a presentation to the partners about the growth, the rapid growth of technology and the legal practice, and how it was starting to to change and disrupt in a positive way that the industry and they encouraged and the firm accepted this challenge to really embrace this and embrace the change, become proactive about it.
So they decided that, you know that to kind of get the firm to where they wanted it to, to be, that they needed to make some significant investments in knowledge and innovation and in data. So enter the new knowledge department. So our team, you know, we have some of the functions that are part of the traditional law firm that you would expect. You know, your research team, your managing clerk's office is handling our litigation filings and support our practice technology group morphed. They were, you know, largely focused on e-discovery and expanded to start to cover other types of technology as well, which we expanded knowledge management, which kind of sits in the middle. I think, you know, there certainly have been firms that have been investing in knowledge management and knowledge management lawyers.
We made a big push there. But then on the newer side, there's the innovation team and Andrew's team on the data analytics side. So that's the the core groups that, um, that are now part of the knowledge umbrella.
And as part of that, Tunisia, you the firm really has been investing in KM, lawyers are practice support lawyers as they may be called across the globe. Mm hmm.
Yes. Yes, we really are. It's yeah, it's really interesting. I, you know, I started out as a knowledge manager lawyer many years ago, and I remember I'll do it myself. I was around 2006 and where my good friend Debbie and I, you know, we were both new knowledge management lawyers in the New York area, and we decided we need to get some peers together.
And we created the New York KM Group and we were really, really tiny at the time. And that, you know, the recession hit and a lot of firms started letting their knowledge management programs go around 2008. But then, you know, now it's back again.
There's been a resurgence in the the last time I went to one of our group meetings, there were like over 50 people that were participating. They're really starting to see growth. I think, again, of knowledge management lawyers.
But I think, you know, for us, even within that space, you know, the role of the knowledge management lawyer is starting to to evolve. It's, you know, when I started, it was really we need someone to just work with the practice and help them gather the precedents and, you know, make sure things are going into the databases correctly. And I think the role has really started to evolve, and we're really looking at our knowledge management lawyers to be trusted advisers to the practice. I mean, they have extensive experience and we are fortunate enough that they've decided to use their skills and their talents for the benefit of the lawyers inside of the firm instead
of turning outward and, you know, and using those skills for the billable work. But I think the role as this really evolves over the years, I think the skills that we're starting to see and our knowledge management lawyers has changed as well.
So they are, you know, the data literacy of our knowledge management lawyers incredibly high. So they're really able to work closely with Andrew and his team to develop some of the solutions that we're trying to to implement.
I'd say on the data side, I mean, half of our projects I would call horizontal or, you know, kind of kind of firm broad firm initiatives rather than the kind of targeted narrow focus efforts for the things that are, you know, much more targeted and focus, you know, many of those are aimed toward a particular practice group or even a narrow lane within a practice group, so we have a lot of things where it's not just you need data expertize or, you know, some kind of architectural experience in order to make it work, you actually need to know that lane pretty well. And what's been great is that, you know, our team gets a pair with Tunisia's wonderful and talented team to really home in on, you know, what's the crux of the issue? What would move things forward?
And really, what comes out the other end is kind of this mix of, you know, multi-disciplinary thinking and, you know, a solution that as pretty, you know, thoughtfully created. And, you know, they've been quite, you know, received very well and and we've been pretty successful at that.
Now it's mentioned less than a year of kind of collaboration and and expertise, and you're kind of moving in this direction. But you know what we've been able to do in the last six months in particular has been pretty phenomenal and we're excited about where it goes.
And it really is kind of an interesting overlap between, you know, subject matter expertise, technical skills, you know, legal, you know, business and domain expertise to try to create things that move the needle. And I think, you know, kudos to the firm for kind of seeing the plane space the way it has and essentially all the different units to come together. And obviously, you know, we're telling the story between, you know, my team and tennis team primarily, but the same thing exists for all the different subgroups of our innovation department. How a collaborative work on things that, you know, drive value for the firm.
Hmm. Yeah, it was really a great investment in terms of, you know, especially in data and helping serve your clients. So our title today talks about a single source of truth. And, you know, I think we all have to be willing to disrupt ourselves. So from your perspectives, what does that even mean? And is that even the right goal, right? Maybe, maybe it's not.
Well, it's interesting. before this commission Tenisha actually tried to make notes on what does that mean? Because I think actually coming into even that title mission, I would look at it through slightly different ends of the telescope and actually may be worthwhile to answer for you to kind of describe, you know, when you think about single source and you know what that means for, you know, a team at your team as a proxy for our older population, like what it was that was that signal. And then I'll come to my own. My take was a little bit different.
Sure, sure. And you'll see why it's such a wonderful pairing between the two of us because I think when the perspective that I come from coming from and in my team is that, you know, all our laws, what they want one place to go to get an answer to a question. And I should say it doesn't. And that doesn't mean that they need, you know, one massive system that could answer any possible thing, but they need to know when my client comes to me with a question about this, about a particular matter that we've worked on. There's one place for me to go and I can pull all of the information together, all the different data elements that I need to be able to answer that question and that it may be that I need another system to, you know, to answer like detailed financial questions.
And that's OK. It's like, you know, we don't need a ranking monster system that does everything for us. But what the real thing is, you know, they don't want to have to go to the document management system to figure out where the documents are and then go to the client matter.
Look up the system to, you know, to do a search for matters and then go to the search system to actually put in a different set of parameters to figure out all of the pieces that they need. They want to bring all of that into a single solution so that they can find those answers very quickly at their fingertips.
And I think on the data side, you know, when you hear a single source of truth, you know, everyone's thinking, you know, data warehouse, you know, maybe lake or lake house or anything on how you're looking at it. But it was interesting as we finished our trading initial notes that, you know, she took that immediately. As you know, from a lawyer standpoint, I probably took it a little bit more from the technical side and, you know, to echo what she had said.
I think that's really the complementary nature of our teams and your kind of skill sets coming together, but it is, you know, data management and law firm. So and I say this, not about that, sure. But having been a consultant and worked with a fair number of law firms in the past, data management, you know, when you look at our industry, it's well behind other other industries. As we're thinking about cataloging all of our data, you know, looking at metadata management tracking lineage, you know those are things that we don't do systematically all that well.
And so I think the way people have looked at it is that a single warehouse would solve all the issues and it definitely helps. But it's really, you know, these data management data governance layers above that that are so important because reducing things down into like truly a single source matters and and helps you continue to want to see that come down. What's really more important are those orchestration layers above any of your individual core source systems. And so, you know, we probably all need to look at it a bit more through the lens of your lawyer on.
As you know, I need a clear single place to go to get the majority of my question answered, and that's how it should be. It should be looked at. Now all that being said, I mean, we, you know, we've been very thoughtful as a firm on how we built our data warehouse for all of our financial data. And we've got another subset that's operational in nature for other systems. And they're well done. But we're going to take some steps forward and modernize and enhance some of that. And, you know, in the coming year plus, depending on what part of the project you're looking at.
So lots of work to try to make sure that that background environment is as efficient as it can be because we have new needs. You know, it's and it's not just moving data across one system to the next to make sure that the people names are correct and all of the, you know, the background data is, you know, where it needs to be and each individual system, it's now we need a ready data for reporting. We need to do more advanced analysis where you know, we're leveraging ML and stats and heavyway and natural language processing on some other fronts.
And all that requires data and is kind of structured and prepped in a different manner. And those are things where we're trying to make sure that we can enhance this so we can scale better.
It's just some of the things are a little bit harder than what we'd like it to be. But you know, we definitely want to get to a single source of truth, you know, from both ends of the telescope, you know, from the technical side and from the consumer side.
Yeah. So I would like the analogy was that it's like the highway system into a city that we were talking about, right? There's there's multiple ways to get there, but I want you to give me the wave. I want you to give me the ways app for data. What's the best possible way for me to to get to the data and to get to the answer, you know, really that that I ultimately need.
Yeah, right data. Right place, right time. Right. That's that's kind of what we're all looking for, bringing ticket data together. I think the important point is that data used to be so siloed, right, critical data would live in these multiple departments, but they really wouldn't cross paths all that much. Or there was a ton of redundancy in what marketing was capturing about clients and what a financial system was capturing about clients. So how how have you seen that change, right? Our firms eliminating these silos? Are they investing? You know, honestly, this isn't really just about technology. It's about process, right? Following the process of data, of a piece of data within the firm. How are you seeing that change?
I think we we have to make investments both in those individual departments to make sure that the source system that they manage and oversee are as complete and coherent and comprehensive as they can be. Well, what's happening now is that, you know, all leaders there need to look horizontally and figure out how do we move things across lines in a better way. I don't think in the past that was as important. I think the questions that came from leadership larger could be answered in one system or another. So you didn't necessarily need to be to do that. But I think everyone's much more aware, not just in our firm, but in other firms that we now need to look horizontally and create connective tissue in a more formal manner.
One of the one of the things I look at as being our responsibility is to try to help bring some of that along. You know, it's difficult, I think, for any functional leader in a law firm to lower their guard and to share completely and openly. And they probably shouldn't. You know, it takes trust and buy-in and understanding to get people to be able to, you know, kind of open the curtain a little bit and let people in. And you know, one of the things that we try to do is show that we operate with purpose and care and are very thoughtful about how our data would be used. And I think that helps, you know, kind of bring some of these systems all the closer and some of the departments a little bit closer as well. You know, you need, you know, people that have the right technical fluency that can operate and kind of move things across and drive the right the right elements from one system to the next.
But you also need someone that can talk shop across lanes. It can't just be a technical player. You know, I think our lateral, you know, awareness within a law firm helps, you know, from what our our teams put together. And, you know, we're able to kind of pull that. You know what? Historically, in law, firms can be, you know, very separate clear lanes learn things a bit more and make it better. But every department naturally has its own system.
And you know, they are responsible for making sure that data is current and accurate. And we need to figure out how do you matrix that in the right way? And I think at our firm, you know what? We've taken really big steps forward and in the last year or two to do that and, you know, excited about what's what's around there, right?
Yeah, I have to say, I've worked with a lot of firms on this, on these types of questions.
And really, when firms understand that the different vertical systems can still own the data right, that they might be considered the data, the source of the data and own it, they don't mind bringing it together when there's a purpose and when they're security and when they understand that they're still sort of the owners of the data, right ? We're not taking away ownership. We're just trying to combine it in new ways and get new insights from that. From that
Talking openly about controls, what limitations and making sure there's the right recognition that look and anything that you have in law firm runs a spectrum of like holy smokes, sensitive and sensitive. Like that's that's your range and there's not a lot that falls inside of that. And so, you know, it's coming into it eyes wide open and being, you know, really thoughtful about, you know, how you convey that you understand the sense of nature of that, that data that you'll take care of it in a way that is basically just an annex or extension of their own department. And that's something we, you know, we try really hard to make clear as we're working with groups. So it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to come in and, you know, have command from the top saying give us all your data. You know, hands up, you know, kind of thing is not you're not going to work. So and for us, we have to be, you know, as much a partner and extension of your team as we can.
And you know that building trust takes time and you know, it shouldn't be given freely. And we have to earn that. But you know, I think we're continuing to do that and I think there's recognition within the firm on how we fit and how we can be helpful in a variety of fronts. I think our challenge is going to be one of scale. You know, as you know, I think our skill set and perspective becomes much more clear. I think people want more and more from us, which is good and it's a problem we want to create from our right.
It's definitely, you know, we're around. We've got a lot of very willing collaborators right now. Yeah. You know, one firm described it as one of us knows, all of us know. And you know, I just love that description of it because I think for a long time in law firms, we've had marketing go and ask a partner or question and then pricing and then KM and they're all asking about the same matter. They're essentially asking about the same questions, you know, might be slightly nuance to it, but ask once, capture it. Let's have a place where we can all find that information and really, it serves our clients more effectively, but it also makes us more efficient as firm.
Right to the point that you made earlier, it's not just about the technology, it's about those processes as well about the people. And that means, like you said, you have to have the the relationships that we're building across, you know, across the organization and we have to have the right processes in place to say. OK, you know, I know we all need this data. So let's agree on what those pieces are. Let's agree on, you know, who needs to to collect them at what point we need to to do it. You know what the system is going to be and how we're going to manage it over time? That's always a part of these projects as well. You can't just throw the technology out there, but those the people in the process are so critical to the work that we're doing to.
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. It's so great that foundation as a platform has come into the market because for a lot of in a lot of ways, in the past, you didn't have a way to harmonize all of that data. You had this kind of, you know, I think we talked in terms internally is like this archipelago of things that are loosely connected and a part of the same island chain, but they're really a little bit different. You know, we haven't had a way to bring that all together into a single mass, you know, foundation for certain classes of data the world can collect, you know, really can't be home for a lot in a way that we can begin to harmonize what data elements we're collecting when we collect them and then what? What can and should we do with that going forward?
And so as we think about where our practice data lives, we know that it's, you know, the essential home, you know, for us, you know, in the future.
Mm-Hmm. Yeah. Makes a lot of sense. So how do you think all of this right? The hot topic. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been to some conferences. I'm reading the little news. It seems like it's all about work or talent. How do you think firm intelligence and data and all of this that we've been talking about? How can this impact lawyer retention and happiness, right? Not just that lawyers stay, but that they're happy and fulfilled and work.
And do you let me start with that one either? Well, I think practice intelligence data is so critical to transforming the way that lawyers are working today that we have a real opportunity right now
to, I think, you know, we're still Andrew's words, right? What do you call it to create a better platform? To be a lawyer is really what we're trying to do. We're trying to come up with, you know, with tools, with solutions, with processes that we can put in place that are just eliminating the drudgery that associates have to to go through on a day to day basis. Those things that just, you know, that that take hours of time but could be automated, you know, or done by lower cost resource. How can we start to use the data and the things that we know about the work that we're doing to implement some, some of those things? So we have our lawyers working at the highest level instead of getting, you know, getting trapped in some of that, that lower level work that just doesn't doesn't feed the soul, so to speak, and that you know that other firms are just pouncing on it.
I mean, the work for talent is real. And I think, you know, know we were talking the other day at some point, you cannot pay them enough money to keep working like this. We have to do something else.
Yeah, that's right. I mean, you know, part of part of our objective is, you know, in the long run, how do we ensure that we're the best platform to do high level work? I mean, we do incredibly complex deals and very challenging litigation. And you know, the people that are that are involved in that, you know, it takes a special individual intellectually and, you know, from an expertize standpoint to be able to navigate that world. How do we make that seamless for them. as possible. Let them work at their highest and best level. You know, it's an East Point. Take away some of the things that create friction or, you know, feel, you know, perhaps from a different era, almost from a technology standpoint when you're navigating your day.
I mean, I know in some firms, you know, you've got, you know, the 2021 world you live in and then you go into the office and it's 1997 like, we wanna make sure that that's never the feeling. You know, at our firm, we continue to raise the bar to make things contemporary and feel, you know, can grow the rest of the world and how it's changing. We need to be very thoughtful and purposeful in how we do that because, you know, our our firm is, you know, unique in its own ways and the way technology and data support it needed, you know, map to those nuances and differences.
And you know, but it you know, we think if you nail this in the right way, you know, does it make it easier to be a lawyer and do high level work here than elsewhere? Yeah. And that's, you know, it's definitely our goal
To make it more rewarding. It's like, I think, you know, for years we thought, you know, so we'll see a turn. It was just part of the industry, right? As part of that, the practice. And it was something I think, you know, we all accepted. We, you know, our retention programs and we all work really hard to to keep our associates. But you know, it was also a little bit easier, you know, years ago to to bring on and to hire new people. And and if you know, that's just not the case anymore. So we have to do a better job with retention. And I think, you know, we're making someone just an incredibly rewarding place to work. It's a really exciting time to be part of the firm right now.
Yeah, absolutely, because of those and, you know, in large part, because of the investments that they've made in this kind of technology and in this kind of thinking in this in this innovation. So there's a lot of interest in what's coming next, right? We've talked a lot about the state of data today, but there's lots of interest in artificial intelligence based on your experience. What do you think we should expect next.
In artificial intelligence or general artificial intelligence? What's what's going to happen next in terms of what's going to be important in data?
I can tell you what I want. And Andrew, can you tell me? It's actually possible. I think, you know, for a campus like one of the things that I hear, you know what, I talk with my colleagues across the board is that, you know, we're all looking at vast volumes of documents and we're trying to extract data from it. And it's incredibly challenging, painful to have lawyers spend time trying to pull that information. We just don't have enough bodies to do that, and I think we're all anxiously awaiting for the next tool that can really get in there.
Like, do surgical work? You know, it's like, I don't even I don't want a whole paragraph. I want a very specific point within that paragraph. And we want AI to be able to do that for us.
Well, there are a lot of advancements in there, like before I come to that, I mean, I think, you know, first we have to pull a couple of things out of the air bag. So if you think about some things that used to be a part of AI search and we used to think of search as being a part of it, we don't really anymore. But mechanically, there are a lot of elements that relate to things that we associate with AI chat bots. You know, in some ways, we've kind of put that into a box into a corner in a different way, and they're not always linked to AI. And I, you know, we've got facial recognition, you know, in other industries, it used to be AI, now something a little bit a little bit different. We need natural language processing to be kind of pulled out of the AI umbrella and turn into a thing that's much more concrete and specific.
So under the natural language processing umbrella, you got a variety of different tasks, and the task might be entity extraction or document segmentation. How do you hone in on a given clause or text summarization? So whether extracting particular elements of text to come up with a summary or using some abstractive technique to come up with some different kind of subclasses of natural language processing. Each of those have taken a massive step forward in the last two and a half to three years. You know, the state of play has changed tremendously. And basically, none of those advancements have really rippled into our domain quite yet.
And so the kinds of things that Tunisia is talking about, deconstructing documents and pulling things out, that's much more doable than ever. And the performance you can get out of that is much better than it ever has been before and not by now, by a subtle gain year over year, but a big step forward coming from kind of transformer revolution. You might have heard of birds or things of that class have really changed that. And what I'm excited about and what we're going to be continue to work on, on the census side, is bringing that into our world where we have very complex documents, everything we deal with and we're talking about some very difficult instruments that are trying to accomplish very sophisticated business goals and pulling out the the individual element that you need is not easy. And so one of the things we're going to be focusing on is that.
There are challenges behind trying to make that a reality but it's much more doable than ever. Some off the shelf tools can be an enabler and a help. But in many cases, you're talking about leveraging a variety of different algorithms and approaches that are that are out there in ways that are that are tailored to your organization. And that's where we'll be focused.
Yeah, yeah. I would say, you know, here at Litera obviously, we've invested in lots of new tools and technologies and algorithms. And I think also really thinking about how what we can learn about our talent as a law firm is something that we're interested in as well. I think we'll see lots of exciting progress in those areas.
We're doing a number of things in that space that are pretty cool. I think there's a whole lot of room to get creative on the talent side from an analytics standpoint.
Definitely. Definitely. So what's your strategic focus for 2022? We have, I think, about two more minutes. So what interesting projects will you be pursuing? I know I'm fascinated to see what happens at Simpson next.
Sure. I think on the knowledge side, just a couple of things working on new intranet building that out, you know, working Andrew’s team to to see how we can use data to, you know, to really push content and information to our lawyers on a more timely basis instead of, you know, people having to search for things and look for things, really pushing them to them at the moment of need, something that we're going to to be looking at new knowledge bank repositories, making it even easier to be able to get to the president of the documents that you need. Again, you know, very data driven process like we talked about earlier. It's not just a matter of it's like, let's just pull all the documents together in a collection. I really want to be able to search and slice and dice that information, you know, using all of the different data points that we're starting to to collect and within our practice intelligence systems.
So there's a couple of other big things that we have going on on the KM side and we got big architectural goals and we got some reshuffling that will be exciting and hard. Lots of big, audacious natural language processing goals, which are kind of added to a little bit that we'll be tackling. We have a number of practice specific solutions that we've rolled out this year.
You know, our intent is to make sure that we continue to extend and expand in that regard and kind of raise a watermark for each individual practice on what we're able to do there. And you know, there are some exciting things on that front. And then as it relates to search, we launched a new search platform this year, and it's been very well well-received and uptake has been good. Lots of really creative ideas on where we can go next with that to make sure that we're leveraging our internal content and it's effective then and it's in as a rich way as we do as we can.
Well, I just want to thank you both. I'm excited to hear about those projects, but I really want to thank you both for joining us today at the Changing Lawyer Life. I really can't think of two better people to talk about, you know, the way that lawyers and law firms and data are changing. So. Thank you both again and really appreciate your time today. Thanks. And it's great being here at the office. Yeah, thank you very much.
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