SALI – An Update on the Standards Project

By Kelly Harbour

The SALI Alliance seeks to improve the legal industry by moving it towards standardising how we describe legal work through a common language represented in an open-source taxonomy.

This standard classification system, the Legal Matter Specification Standard (LMSS), will provide all players with greater transparency and increase the effectiveness of budgeting and resourcing to drive better outcomes and value. The LMSS is actually more than a taxonomy, it’s an ontology: LMSS not only describes areas of law, services, industries, and player roles, but it also captures the relationships among them .

On November 16, the SALI Alliance held its third open community drop-in discussion with approximately 50 attendees from across the legal industry ecosystem. The SALI team provided an overview of LMSS 2.0, discussed implementation, and held a live Q&A. The key takeaways are summarised below.

Status of the Release of LMSS 2.0

The SALI Alliance expects to release its next major version, LMSS 2.0, by early 2022. For those unfamiliar with LMSS 2.0, a short video on the SALI Alliance home page outlines what is included. In broad strokes, LMSS 2.0 builds upon 1.0 in the following ways:

  • A deep dive into litigation: causes of action, document types, phases, and more. This permits robust definition and categorisation of a wide variety of key aspects of disputes.
  • Engagement terms: defining a matter’s business arrangement such as fee structure and scope.
  • Events: key milestones in a matter.
  • Courts: added hundreds of new state-court codes, now numbering over 1,700 jurisdictions
  • Areas of law: additions and adjustments specific to Canada, proposed by the Canada working group.
  • Standard mapping: mapping existing standards (e.g., UTBMS, PACER nature of suit codes) to their corresponding LMSS codes.
  • Unique IRIs: enable organisations to use the codes as “tags” and will facilitate easier implementation between all organisations – clients, legal service providers, and technology companies/ vendors.

Any interested party can review the full standard including the pending release of 2.0; membership is not required.

Ongoing Adoption & Community Engagement Is Driving the Evolution of the Standard

The momentum of the SALI Alliance is certainly building. They have picked up more than 10 new members and endorsements this year, including the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). The team is involved in conversations with some of the largest law firms in the world, with global expansion of the code set accelerating through the engagement of firms in Canada, the UK, and Germany.

David Cunningham, Chief Innovation Officer at global law firm Reed Smith, recently shared that his firm is mapping to the LMSS as part of a new global intelligence data warehouse initiative. Many, many other firms and vendors have also told SALI that they are implementing LMSS.

There are a number of globalisation efforts underway already, including planning for labels for each node in multiple languages, linked to the same unique identifying code; adding country-specific terms (e.g., ‘public house’ as an asset type within the Hospitality type); and forming a global bankruptcy group to expand the definitions beyond U.S. law.

There are important advancements happening on the technical side, as well. An API group is building a draft specification document in circulation, and LMSS 2.0 leverages graph database technology to map complex many-to-many relationships between data elements. Because a number of legal industry applications run on traditional relational databases, SALI adopters can start with 1.0, or they may consider using 2.0 in a manner akin to ‘tagging’.

One of the most interesting updates during the roundtable came from Intapp, provider of technology to 96 of the Am Law 100 and thousands of other organisations in professional and financial services. Intapp has a team working on weaving the LMSS into several of their core products, including leveraging AI to automate some matter classification.

Rafael Banchs, a Senior Data Scientist at Intapp, discussed the company’s progress in using AI to classify narratives from timecards into phases and tasks.  According to Banchs, at this point classification of any single timecard using AI is only about 70-75% (human classification is 75-80% accurate), though classification by phase and task is much more accurate when aggregating timecard data across a matter’s lifespan.

Beyond LMSS 2.0, the SALI Alliance is planning a deep dive on M&A transactions, continued expansion of the core code set, and revisiting industry classification. The LMSS currently largely reflects the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes; future releases will also likely map to/from Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) based on community feedback.

For more information on the standard, adoption, or getting involved, contact

About the author: Kelly Harbour is Director of Member Engagement at the SALI Alliance, and is also Director of Client Relations & Innovation at US law firm, Goulston & Storrs. She is also a founding member of the Changing Legal think tank.