Daniel Himmel, ClearyX on GenAI + The Group’s Evolution

Elite New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb created ClearyX to ‘reimagine how legal services are delivered’. Artificial Lawyer caught up with Daniel Himmel, Vice President, Client Services & Strategy at ClearyX to hear about what he does, how the organisation approaches genAI, and how things have evolved since its launch.

Daniel will be one of our many great speakers at the Legal Innovators California conference on June 4 and 5, in San Francisco (see below for more info).

First, please tell us about your role.

I am the VP of Client Services & Strategy, responsible for our service delivery efforts at ClearyX.

Before joining ClearyX I had stints as an M&A attorney and in-house counsel, then joined Kira Systems on their product and customer success teams. While there, I helped advise global corporate and legal clients on digital transformation. My job at ClearyX almost perfectly marries all those prior experiences.

In my current role, I oversee a large, highly-trained team that helps provide those services to our clients, ensuring service excellence for our existing offerings and helping to develop and support entirely new tech-enabled workstreams. In some ways, it’s a hybrid between professional services, product and sales, all depending on the day of the week. Fortunately for me, ClearyX’s unique model allows such a great role to exist.

How has ClearyX developed since its launch?

ClearyX has grown tremendously, both in terms of our team and the services we offer. We started with a broad vision of reimagining legal work, and began that journey by launching an extensive due diligence and contract review support solution. Our team has supported over 80 transactions over the first two years of existence, spanning multiple industries and practice areas.

We leverage technology at every turn and rely deeply on our amazing team of contributors, all experts in their respective fields. Given our success to date, we are now looking to extend our reach beyond transactional support to develop solutions in the areas of contract management, data analytics, and document automation, to name a few.

ClearyX’s focus will always be on people-led solutions that leverage technology to improve work and the client experience, hopefully solving some of our client’s most pressing problems in the process. This client-centric approach has been a key factor in our success to date, with lots more room to grow!

We are excited about the future and are committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the space.

What areas do most of the lawyers at Cleary particularly want to see improvement with where tech (and ClearyX) could help?

Cleary Gottlieb has been such a great partner in our success and development since inception. From the beginning, the Firm recognized the impact technology has on legal practice, so rather than simply deploy technology to improve or bolster the work the Firm does, they have empowered us to think of new ways of working, trusting our team’s expertise and experience to properly assess certain problems and suggest appropriate solutions.

While there are no strict directives regarding where to focus, as regular collaborators they often provide excellent guidance on the major trouble spots for the Firm and its clients. Then we set out to help solve them. What we have seen to date is that those problems are quite wide ranging, from confined point in time challenges with a need for an urgent solution, to longer term innovation initiatives that solve broad organizational challenges over a longer period.

Given the diversity of problems and the work needed to fix them, our flexibility is one of our superpowers, allowing us to shapeshift however needed. No matter the service we provide or the solution we build, we ensure that it is customized to the client and its problems so that we can evolve alongside them as long-term partners.

Naturally, we have to ask about GenAI. So far, what have you seen / experimented with that has impressed you and you believe will make a real difference to the firm?

For us, it’s a mix between evaluating tools that help us do our current work better, while also evaluating what tools may open the door for new workstreams and opportunities. Meaning, it’s a constant balance between solidifying our existing services and experimentation. Luckily, we have a great internal tech team (led by Terry Wallace), support from the Firm’s IT and innovation folks, and a group of employees that are always eager to test new ways of doing legal work.

To date, our focus has mostly been on GenAI tools that support our document review work. While we have yet to find the right fit for our needs and have had some issues with accuracy, we are regularly impressed with the breadth of options and pace of development. On the client solutions side, we continue to experiment with a few providers to see what new workstreams we can develop since the required level of detail and accuracy is a little less imperative with some of those projects.

The best thing about our model and the Firm’s support is that we are fully empowered to explore and test whatever we think may improve our business, so I imagine our tech stack and views on GenAI will continue to develop rapidly. We also plan on experimenting with our own AI integration instead of just third party developed tools, which should help us better address the unique and layered problems our clients face. With so much happening, I’m excited to answer this question again in just a few months!

And, equally, what have you seen with GenAI that looks like a challenge that still needs to be overcome before wider GenAI adoption?

As mentioned earlier – and likely not a novel problem in this space – we think the major challenge is the issue of trust and reliability. Specifically for the type of exacting and detail-oriented work we do so much of in the contract review space. We need to be confident that the tools are providing accurate information to base our analysis on. Even one mistake can have major repercussions when our work is being relied on to underpin large global transactions.

This unfortunately makes the threshold for usability quite a bit higher for us than perhaps other users supporting different types of work. That said, I think one of our great advantages is that we have a team of expert ‘operators’ who have learned to master a variety of tech tools over the years. We are confident that with increased exposure to these new tools our team will similarly diagnose the strengths and weakness to help ensure the AI is working to our required standards and driving value for our clients. It’s one of the great benefits of being a human-led service.

Lastly, why are you excited to be a speaker at Legal Innovators California?

It may sound a bit cheesy, but it’s the community. When I first left legal practice and joined a legal tech start up, I had my concerns that I was entering a niche space with little in the way of community and long-term opportunities.

Over the six years since, that has proven to be one of my worst assessments yet. Every year I am blown away by the new entrants in the market and with that, the growth of the legal tech community in general. And yet, it still remains a tight-knit and hospitable group,  making events like this such a pleasure to attend. I get to learn about companies, like ours, that continue to push the boundaries in the space, helping spark new ideas and partnerships. All while meeting awesome, like-minded legal tech professionals. Plus, who doesn’t love San Francisco in the Spring. Can’t wait to be there soon!

Thanks Dan, looking forward to seeing you at Legal Innovators California!

Legal Innovators California conference, Jun 4 + 5, San Francisco

Day One is focused on law firms, and Day Two on inhouse and legal ops. 

We have many great speakers attending the event, such as Daniel from ClearyX, along with a group of pioneering legal tech companies and service providers – you can see some more about our speakers here. It will be two great days of education and inspiration! Join us and get ahead of the curve on all things legal tech, innovation and legal AI! 

For ticket information, please see here. Don’t miss out on what will be a great event.