Client Use of LegalTech in the Year 2023 – Alicia Ryan, Fenwick & West

This is a Guest Post by Alicia RyanKnowledge & Innovation Delivery Manager, at US technology law firm Fenwick & West. In this piece, Alicia explores how clients may connect with legal technology and the law firms that leverage it well. It is written from the perspective of someone working in the year 2023.

A Tale of Two Clients, Circa 2023

Alicia Ryan, Fenwick & West

Author’s Note 1: In 2017, technology and the startup mentality began to make inroads into the previously impervious legal industry.

We are now seeing the results of strategies adopted by law firms in the 2017 – 2020 period. Some worked with legal tech entrepreneurs and their clients to stay ahead of the changing market. Others took a different approach.

The vignettes below will introduce you to two modern consumers of legal services. They have much in common: similar internal processes, similar legal needs, and similar usage of technology.

They are both happy customers.

Meet Jerry

Jerry is a VP at Manette, a real estate investment firm. His company works closely with Tellsons Law Firm on everything from litigation to real estate purchases. At any time, his general counsel can log on to the Tellsons portal and see up-to-the-minute status and actual-to-budget on all their matters.

Under their Master Retention Agreement, they have a process for automatically creating new matters for routine work and assigning appropriate law firm staff, who get immediate notifications. For out-of-scope work, a budget is agreed, with procedures for variances and awards for meeting target outcomes.

His legal team uses the Tellsons portal for contract management – creating templates for simple documents (NDAs, leases, employment agreements), getting internal approvals, and then live, on-document negotiations with other parties. Documents are finalized and signed inside the portal, and they have a dedicated contract manager on staff at Tellsons who keeps the internal team organized and trained and liaises with the relevant Tellsons attorneys.

The contract portal also assists them with their reviews of contracts received from third parties. At initial intake, an AI engine reads each contract, gives it a risk score, based on the Manette custom playbook, and then highlights key provisions for internal review and pairs them with expert help text provided by both internal and Tellsons attorneys. Jerry is thrilled with how much more streamlined their organization has become, both in terms of their internal processes and in their interactions with what quaintly used to be called ‘outside’ counsel.

Meet Jarvis

Jarvis is a VP at Darnay Digital Health, a mature startup that has recently become a serial acquirer of other companies. Stryver has been their law firm for many years, but Jarvis and his team recently have been able to reduce their legal spend on outside counsel. For day to day matters, they use an online dashboard product that helps them with employee onboarding, equity issuances, and managing their board meetings, including a digital signature management feature. Last year, they purchased an in-house contract management suite that helped streamline their internal approval and negotiation process.

Getting NDAs signed has never been faster. They’ve just added an M&A management component that gives executives a bird’s eye view into their deal pipeline and helps them manage M&A activity across all their departments. M&A due diligence has been outsourced for the last three years to a legal services company using AI-enabled software to give them better results at lower cost.

They still use Stryver when they need extra legal talent to help run and negotiate bigger deals. For smaller ones, they are considering participating in a pilot project with the maker of their M&A software – to bring due diligence and negotiation into their own ecosystem. The tool has a reporting capability that will allow them to look at market terms across their industry, as well as their company’s deal history, to aid in the negotiations, and Jarvis’ general counsel can’t wait to try it out.

Patent landscape review is being outsourced to a boutique law firm that uses a couple of different AI tools to give them better and faster results than they were getting just two years ago. All in all, Jarvis thinks it is a good time to be a consumer of legal services.

Author’s Note 2 – 2018: All the technologies mentioned above exist today. Some are quite new. Some less so. As someone whose professional role stands at the intersection of law and technology, it seems more and more that now is the time when legal tech will begin to take one of two paths: cooperation or disruption.

For those law firms that position themselves correctly, the current environment presents an unparalleled opportunity to bring new product and service offerings into play alongside traditional ones and provide better client service than ever before.