Intapp research has found that commercial law firms spend on average 8.2 person hours per matter just checking for and dealing with potential conflicts.
Or, put it another way, for every client who asks if you can help them you have to give up one very full day’s worth of billable time of one of your lawyers (or if you have a dedicated and centralised conflicts team, then have a lot of non-fee earner salaries wrapped up in the process). That’s quite a cost of sales.
In the US especially conflict rules can be very demanding, meaning that the work hours wrapped up in the process can be a notable loss for a firm, given that large firms could be handling hundreds to thousands of matters per year – many of which they then have to turn away after putting in the conflict checking effort.
But….(naturally)… Intapp also reckon they have an improved solution to what’s on offer at present. They’ve put something together that is built on top of their ‘active intelligence engine’. Intapp Conflicts – they say – is able to ‘filter out the noise’ in the data and let firms see where there really are conflicts, rather than leading them on a fruitless search process.
The company estimates they can cut conflict checking times by 60%. And this amounts to up to $10m in savings for a large firm over 4 years, in saved billable junior lawyer time. Or $2.5m per year.
But, do big firms really care about the cost of conflict checking? It’s not gigantic, even if it’s notable.
The answer has to be yes – combined, the cost of conflict checking totals up to the salaries of a batch of junior lawyers each year.
But, will this offering bridge the gap? It all depends on what Intapp is charging for the solution and how much blood, sweat and implementation tears it needs to get it to deliver results. (Note: no prices were given.)
And how do they make this 60% saving…? Well, they do use the term AI a bit in the pitch, but let’s just put that to one side. After having a look at some of the practical aspects involved, the real value seems to stem from just being a lot more organised about client matter information as it’s collected and then stored for future reference. Then making sure you have a reliable way back into it to sort things in relation to conflicts.
They also have some neat ways of capturing 3rd party data to watch out for things like changes in ownership. This is all connected together to give you a warm, happy feeling as you do your conflict checking. Or at least that’s the idea.
So, in fact, no magic bullet. Just good old better management of client information, so when you need to check something it’s a lot easier to find what you’re looking for and not a matter of calling up accounts, ad hoc, and feverishly asking them to have a look at all the old bills for the last 20 years just to be sure. Add some automated bells and whistles and away you go.
The real challenge in terms of building this, Artificial Lawyer is guessing, is not the technology per se, but the design of the product, so that it can actually do what it hopes to do in a smooth and user-friendly manner as it’s chugging through tonnes of (often very messy) unstructured data, while covering off a number of interrelated needs. After all, if there was a magic bullet solution, a just press the button way to find conflicts in zero time, someone would have come up with it by now….(wouldn’t they?)
[Note: clearly there is a gap in the market here. Intapp reckons they can make a 60% time saving. Anyone out there who can bring it down by 99% will corner the whole market. And that’s a very, very large market to have. Is that impossible? It shouldn’t be, in theory. At heart it’s just an unstructured data search, albeit a very complex one with a lot of rules involved to classify the data that is found.]
One side question: how on Earth do you road test a system like this? Get a licence, use it for a while on live matters and wait to see if there are no hiccups? Run it in parallel with the old system and count the variations in results as a test? (AL will be chatting to Intapp later about this.)
For now, last comment goes to Jose Lazares, Intapp’s vice president of product and business management, who added: ‘Many law firms are looking to derive valuable insights from their data to make decisions faster with greater accuracy and efficiency. This is especially true with conflicts resolution, which is a critical part of the business acceptance process and one in which accuracy is critical.’
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