Ten years ago, it was still common to find on the desks of lawyers collections, legislative codes, bundles of files and archives as thick as dictionaries. Legal knowledge is heavy to acquire, to transmit and… to weigh. Digitization has taken longer than elsewhere to convert law firms to zero paper, but the Covid crisis has also accelerated initiatives there. “Knowledge, or sometimes know how, is our technical expertise. It brings together standard contracts and notices, commentaries on legislation and case law, and the entire training component on technical and legal aspects,” says Bénédicte Kurth, Head of Knowledge at Allen & Overy Luxembourg. The progressive digitization of the firm’s archives and processes has existed for about ten years. It was initially a simple documentary base that has been expanded. “Today it goes much further.”
From collective knowledge to a collaborative approach
“When you have a legal problem to solve, it is based on very specific factual situations. Sometimes similar or related cases have been solved by other collaborators. This database tells our collective story and feeds collaborative solutions”, completes patrick micho, Office Senior Partner at Allen & Overy. Explanation: when all the archives related to the old cases examined (14,000 decisions), contract histories, types of transactions and memos… inherent to the firm have been digitized, the interest is to be able to link them to public updates on the web . Namely: legal updates, case law, draft national and European laws or international court decisions relating thereto. All of this knowledge can be found in a collaborative tool called K-Box. Two gigantic data systems that must find a way to talk to each other so that knowledge is automatically informed by the news of the profession. Kind of like an internal Google Assistant, without the cookies!
A project financially supported by the group. “In our subsidiary, this costs us around 7,000 euros per year for around 200 users. The most significant cost comes from the necessary human resources, in particular our professional support lawyers, responsible for reviewing the documents, sorting, categorizing and assigning the right keywords in the matrix”, specified the firm at the end of this interview.
Digital, me neither
Allen & Overy has integrated the legal training tools into the knowledge system (generalist training is left to the human resources department) accessible to the 150 employees. Since the Covid, and the implementation of telework authorized for 40% of the weekly time within the firm, young lawyers have less presence in the office. Some courses are carried out in total autonomy, others are hybrid. “The whole difficulty is knowing how far to go in the digital offer to maintain a strong commitment from the teams. We know that there must be face-to-face training and a direct exchange of experience with senior employees,” remarks Bénédicte Kurth. To avoid multitasking, for example (a collaborator in overdose of virtual who would do the training while having an eye on his files), or on the contrary to prevent a feeling of isolation.
In competing firms, knowledge is also available in digital format. At the house of Arendt & Medernach, there is an intranet and a database specific to the firm, the two tools being complementary. Commitment to using these tools is rewarded internally. “Employees are encouraged to contribute on a regular basis. This is taken into account during their annual evaluations and an annual competition is organized with a prize for the best contributors”, specifies the firm.
Legaltech to the rescue of tedious tasks
At the house of Clifford Luck, we are talking about artificial intelligence. “AI helps us with e-discovery exercises and document review (due diligence), but we go beyond that. We use our low-cost centers of expertise to provide customers with repetitive services less suited to standardization and full automation,” says Arjan Krans, Senior Best Delivery Advisor at Clifford Chance in Luxembourg. The Allen & Overy Group created Fuse, an in-house Legaltech incubator, based in London. “AI and the tools offered by startups are integrated into the processes of the subsidiaries, in particular for the automation of recurring tasks and the filling of standard forms to be sent to the customer”, comments Audrey Scarpa, Head of Knowledge Tech, the aggregate born of Knowledge and Legaltech.
This database tells our collective story and feeds collaborative solutions.
“On transaction-type operations, we will save three to four times more time when setting up a new contract with the client. Previously, changing a figure on a Word document led to the modification of more than 20 documents… This could lead the employee to finish late at night”, continues Audrey Scarpa, also Head of Risk within the firm. If her two hats are not intentionally linked, the young woman sees a link there: “The two aspects come together on this example, in particular to avoid the risk of burnout”. Automation by tech is also a competitive time saver, as the Arendt & Medernach Luxembourg firm points out: “It allows us to more easily take charge of transactions with a high volume of documentation and to be able to be more reactive in phase closing”.
From successful study to visionary firm
Like everywhere else, technology is used to save humans time to devote themselves to more specialized missions. In large firms, recurring tasks are usually carried out by junior lawyers, who all “go through” before being able to carry out their full-time advisory mission. “We save two to three hours at the start of each project. By relieving them of these automated tasks, we can give them substantive legal advice missions more quickly, ”recalls Audrey Scarpa. According to their statistics, 45% of the firm’s employees use these solutions at least once a month. Status templates have been used 147 times over the past 12 months, or every 2.5 days.
Previously, changing a number on a Word form led to the modification of more than 20 documents… This could lead the employee to finish late at night.
Since thetechnological evolution goes faster than the law, the creation of knowledge tech is also a strategic choice that can take the firm from performance to visionary, according to Patrick Mischo. “The bigger an organization, the more of a challenge it is to generalize new uses. For us, it means upgrading our junior employees, who will be the future partners of tomorrow, and it means bringing added value to our businesses today,” he underlines.
Finally, law firms have understood that showing the example of an integrated competence is inspiring for their clients, and a potential source of business. Regarding the recent activity of organizational consulting developed by Allen & Overy, the firm will be able to advise the client to improve its processes via this type of solution. And perhaps close a circle by bringing new clients to the start-ups incubated by the firm? A win-win strategy.
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From digitized archives to knowledge tech
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