AI is Transforming Corporate Law Departments: Technology coupled with specialized professional skills drive quality and consistency

Friday, October 27, 2017 - 11:09

Andrew Shimek is President and COO of Neota Logic, a company that offers a software development platform powered by artificial intelligence. Their platform enables legal professionals and others to build apps, automate advice, create and route documents using streamlined workflows. The interview has been edited for length and style.

Can you talk about how artificial intelligence is changing the way law firms and corporate legal departments work?

Andrew Shimek: It’s important to know that AI is not one thing. It’s many different technologies that each solve particular problems. Certainly the definition of AI is not static. What we define as AI today will likely just be categorized tomorrow as “something computers do.” The technology will be incorporated into a standard set of tools every knowledge worker uses. There are a lot of good examples of technology and AI solutions that are driving efficiencies throughout the legal industry today. Expert advisors, while not new, is one hot category. Law firms and corporate legal departments are looking at how to productize their expertise to deliver value efficiently. A process that has, in the past, been delivered one to one with experts talking to clients can now be bundled up in an application to deliver in a one-to-many model that runs a user’s scenario against a multi-jurisdictional inventory of the rules and regulations and provides situational guidance and highlights risk points where the company or individual may be in or out of compliance with rules, regulations and laws. Scaling expertise creates efficiencies and allows lawyers to focus on higher value work.

When we think about some of the expert advisor use cases that are out there, FinTech and RegTech is an area to watch. Data breach is another hot area that we’re seeing. Insurance, Financial Services – really any highly regulated area is a sector to watch.

What are some of the solutions that Neota Logic is offering or has recently developed for corporate law departments?

Shimek: We have a high degree of interest around intelligent document automation among Fortune 500 clients. Many of those clients are looking to target repeatable tasks that are too time consuming for their lawyers. We can rapidly automate those tasks so they can reserve customized, bespoke work and lawyer participation for issues in which the complexity merits human involvement.

Document automation isn’t really a new problem, but it’s still causing a lot of pain for Fortune 500 companies. There’s high interest in documents like non-disclosure agreements, business associate agreements, contracts, partnership agreements and anything that lawyers internally are spending enormous amounts of time on.

When you’re working with a corporate legal law department, who are you typically working with? Are you working with the general counsel or the IT department or the legal ops people? What does it look like, that relationship?

Shimek: We typically work with senior counsel, the lawyers within the department or legal ops. There’s been a huge increase in the number of in-house corporate lawyers in America over the last couple of decades, creating an opening for a whole new function of legal ops, which are the professionals charged with driving efficiencies, and coming up with a new way to deliver legal services. Our platform can sit front and center, inspiring people with a better way to get their work done. For corporate legal departments that have a fully defined legal ops function, that department is a natural partner for us. For other clients, it might be the associated general contractors (AGC), senior council or other lawyers that have been charged with these initiatives.

Can you talk to us more about your partnership with Foley and Lardner for an FCPA solution? How did that relationship evolve and what was the solution that was eventually developed for them?

Shimek: Foley and Lardner had been doing quite a bit of counseling in that area for their client base and looked at developing two different solutions. One was of an enterprise risk assessment regarding FCPA violations on the client side. The other solution was designed to be more of a curbside counselor to associates who might be out entertaining clients, traveling or meeting with heads of states. Associates could input on their mobile phone, “Here’s what I’m doing today. Are there any red flags that I should be aware of about the meeting, the practices or the type of entertaining?” The intention there was to give them advice in real time about what they might do next and to keep them on the right path from a compliance perspective.

You work with a lot of Fortune 500 companies and law firms. Are there other case studies that would be of interest to our readers?

Shimek: We have more than a handful of Fortune 100 clients using the platform as well as top global law firms around the world. We also work with alternative service providers and consultancies who are leveraging our platform to provide innovative apps to their clients who want to rapidly automate expertise, create documents and route using intelligent workflows. This can be a powerful tool when they are trying to differentiate themselves from peers in the market. Beyond those commercial buyers, there is a big access to justice component on the consumer side that is really important to the culture of Neota Logic. This entails leveraging our platform to bridge the gap in underrepresented communities - people who wouldn’t necessarily have access to a lawyer or the means to hire one, but may have legal problems nevertheless. Our platform is helping members of those communities to better identify their legal problems, and then matching them to appropriate resources for resolution. This is another great AI use case that matches our strong commitment to access to justice.

What do general counsel and other legal professionals need to know about artificial intelligence, and how best to develop and leverage the technology that’s becoming available?

Shimek: At the outset, asking the question, “Do I even need it?” Because there is so much hype around AI and what it can do, it’s become a term that means everything and nothing at the same time. It’s important to ask questions like, “Do I have a problem in which pattern matching, prediction or the application of rules would be helpful? How might a technology enabled solution solve it? Am I trying to make smarter data driven decisions? Am I trying to drive business process automation? Is this about cost reduction, or is it about improving quality and consistency?” Asking those questions and understanding which elements are critical to your use case is really helpful and if the answer to those questions is yes, then certainly an AI solution may be right for you. 

Lining up the resources for your project is also important because AI solutions aren’t something you can plug into a wall and they magically work. There are resources required on both the Neota Logic side and the client side, and we need to make sure all stakeholders have allocated appropriate resources to ensure the project is successful.

What is the business case for adopting artificial intelligence solutions? I know there’s cost cutting but are there others, like shorter contract turnaround time?

Shimek: There are quite a few things beyond cutting cost, but certainly a reduction in cycle times for contract lifecycle management is a very attainable goal, and technology can be helpful in reaching such a goal.

The other thing that smart corporate legal departments are doing, is leveraging technology to drive greater quality and consistency in delivery. If you look at the traditional models of one to one, lawyers aren’t always consistent in their answers. Lawyer A isn’t always going to provide the same response as Lawyer B. If you can capture and qualify this advice and embed it in a technology enabled solution, suddenly you have the ability to deliver high quality, consistent answers each time you’re presented with questions.

Lastly, business models matter. Some solutions, particularly the ones that drive efficiencies, can cut against some of the existing business models in legal. For law firms that have traditionally been time and materials based, a solution that reduces time can cut against their traditional revenue streams. So we encourage clients to try to understand how their business model might need to evolve to ensure they have the appropriate consensus in their organization to get behind such a solution, and that the solution doesn’t cut against other goals.

Typically, what are first initiatives or projects? Is it NDAs or contracts?

Shimek: Frankly, law firms are more likely to focus on how they deliver legal advice to their clients. Multi-jurisdictional surveys are a great use case, because law firms spend an inordinate amount of time doing 50 state surveys, which are outdated six months in. Embedding these surveys in an app and coming up with a process to keep them evergreen, and to provide answers to their client base in real time can be a tremendous value.

It’s important to think big, but start small, because AI can be a scary thing. There’s a fair amount of pandemonium around it, which I think is due to the overuse of the term, but the practical reality is that technology-enabled solutions have been and will continue to be very helpful in legal. That’s not a new thing. The effective deployment of AI solutions will give you the ground flow momentum you need in your law firm or your corporate legal department to bring the masses along. Again, thinking big but starting small is a very important principal for success. 


Andrew Shimek is a technology leader with over 20 years of experience and serves as COO, President of Neota Logic. Prior to Neota Logic, Andrew was head of the global eDiscovery division at Epiq, and transformed teams delivering solutions across the United States, Europe and Asia. During his time at Epiq, he also led and drove significant growth in their settlement administration, mass tort, data breach and loan servicing divisions. He can be reached at shimek@neotalogic.com.