Watch Now:

Designing Your Legal Tech Stack

Join us in this latest episode of ‘Go with the Workflow’ as we discuss the the 4 Core Legal Ops Technology Capabilities and share valuable insights on navigating the prioritization of technology for your team's unique circumstances and strategic business outcomes.


Evan Wong, CEO & Co-Founder at Checkbox

Zack Hutto, Director & Legal Operations at Hyperion Global Partners


56 Minutes

View Transcript

Evan Wong (00:00):

Welcome to go with the workflow where we interview world-class legal leaders and experts in workflow automation to learn from their hard earned experiences in making work more efficient and more meaningful. Today my guest is Zach Hutto. Zach has spent more than a decade working with general counsels and chief legal officers advising them on the business of law, helping solve operational and management challenges within the legal department. If you've never heard of Zach before, I'm sure you've read of his work. He was the director at Gartner where he authored the highly referenced Market Guide for Corporate Legal Operations Technology, which I'm a big fan of and is now the director of Legal Operations consulting at Hyperion, part of the Epic Global Group. On this episode, we talk about the importance of thinking about your legal tech stack strategically with some long-term view rather than just bringing in the technology that might be right in front of you today and the complexities in sorting through overlapping functionality across these technologies. The live audience took us down a turn on how to overcome it's common objection of wanting less applications in the enterprise and rejecting purchase requests for legal specific technology. We then rounded out the discussion on legal intake, triage and internal matter management. There were so many golden nuggets throughout this discussion, so I hope you enjoyed this episode.

Now when I met Zach, by the way, one of the things that really stood out for me is just how smart this guy is, but also how good he is at distilling his vast amount of knowledge about legal tech and his brain into engaging dialogue, and I'm sure we will see a bit of that super power here today. So Zach, thank you for coming onto the show.

Zack Hutto (01:50):

Yeah, thanks for having me, Evan. You are as always far too kind, but glad to hear be here with you.

Evan Wong (01:57):

Awesome, yes, looking forward to the conversation now, Zach, I was actually really excited to bring you onto this show because I know you're someone who clearly understands the legal technology landscape and I think when we think about designing our legal tech stack, sometimes one approach might be there's a problem in front of you and you bring in a technology to solve for that problem, but of course you, and I know it's much more important to think about it from a longer term sort of long horizon perspective to think about what is the tech stack strategically and therefore how do all the pieces fit together? But there's also so much noise in the market and all the different vendors and technologies tend to overlap in functionalities at some point, like Workflow does a bit of CLM and CLM does a bit of workflow and Elm does a bit of CLM. What do you see and how do you navigate this noise?

Zack Hutto (02:51):

I mean, I guess I have to ask, is that a bug or a feature of the market, right, all the overlap, all the confusion. It is really remarkable where we stand right now with legal tech to think that a decade ago or about 15 years ago or so, when I first started working with corporate law departments, we were dealing with much simpler technology landscape. You would have your e-billing solutions like I want to say Serengeti legal tracker of course a T 360 data cert, what have you. Those types of solutions were well known. Then you also would often have your legal document management solutions like an iManage or net docs, and there have been many, many more, I want to say Hummingbird and World Docs and many others that have maybe gotten a little bit less attention of late if not just outright exited the corporate legal market.

But we went from this fairly simple arrangement where if we could get our external legal matters captured in electronic form so that we don't have to worry about dealing with invoices and if we could have some kind of file capture mechanism that's more sophisticated than let's say a shared network drive on the corporate network, then we're good, we're golden, right? And that worked for quite some time until the vendors that are incumbents in the space started to realise there are these adjacent capabilities, right? We could not just capture external matters that council is handling our behalf, but we could also start to capture internal work in a more sophisticated fashion which had been neglected for quite some time. We can start thinking about workflow as you mentioned, and how we can at least capture steps in the workflow, let's say approval chains and the like without having to shuttle emails around which nobody enjoys.

We could also potentially unlock some automation opportunities. If we can move in that direction, we can think about document analysis and retrievable capabilities. And so as vendors looked at this space and as corporate law departments looked at their technology as well, they started to realise what happened to be two very strong core pillars, actually had quite a bit of white space around them, and so it's led to this situation that we find ourselves in today where some of the solutions that have long been in the market have attempted to grow their footprint, increase the kinds of capabilities they're bringing to the table, and at the same time, we have seen new players that have come onto the market. We've seen acquisitions of the new players buy the incumbents. We see other new players that are still growing, that are thriving and doing well and starting to challenge some of the longstanding incumbents in the market.

And so at the end of the day, you have what ends up being this really complicated mix of solutions that's out there. I think you put it well, this isn't a matter of just saying, well, we have the immediate need to be able to manage our invoices electronically. Let's check the box, no pun intended for who I'm speaking with here, but instead we need to think about where could these solutions go longer term as we think about expanding capabilities as well as where can these solutions fit nicely in an expanded ecosystem? And both of those questions are often left to the side as many teams are just looking to make the tech acquisition and move on. And not only that, they're hard without real definitive answers, it requires some introspection and ultimately some deliberation over what kind of outcome you want to move toward.

Evan Wong (06:40):

Yeah, absolutely. I think as well you talk about a lot of the convergence of acquisitions and I think a big part as well as vendors in the market is we want to help customers and we want to help where the market is going. And often we as technology providers get pulled in so many different directions that we start in one space, but maybe we kind of stretch out and start to and that stretch from maybe from one type of technology ELM into areas of contract management and the CM contract stretching itself into workflow. And so you start to see these overlaps and that gets really confusing because if you've got one system already and it does a little bit of something else, do you then go and buy that something else or are you happy to just stick with that low tech version as a feature? What are your thoughts around that? How do you think about, is there such thing as one system to rule them all? Is there a OneStop shop approach or are you a best of breed fan and does it even exist? Does the OneStop shop even exist at all?

Zack Hutto (07:46):

Yeah, you could probably have a sense for where I'm going with this based on my chuckle there is this appeal to the one platform to rule them all. Everybody loves that idea for a number of reasons. It at least gives you greater clarity around what your application set looks like. It gives you one throat to choke if you need to go worry about support or deal with contract negotiations and try to get the discount and all the rest. It usually often gives you more consistent user experiences too, so that can be a benefit as well.

I won't continue down the Lord of the rings rabbit hole, I'll resist the temptation, but in practise, while there is a very strong notional appeal there, we don't always see that playing out in reality. Now whether you're looking at some of these vendors that have basically pieced together their application set through acquisitions, which doesn't always result in consistent user experiences, it often results in as fragmented a set of applications as what you'd be getting if you went for a best in pre approach and there often is a little bit of that jack of all trades master of non-dynamic that you end up having to accept when you move to a single platform solution, right? So that's less than ideal the one system to rule them all. At the other end of the spectrum, I also have found it to be rather ineffective to take the best in breed approach to its logical extreme where we have a specific application for every minute little piece of work or activity within the law department because when you go down that path, you end up getting into this horrible complex web of solutions.

You can very quickly reach dependency hell where one little building block ends up shifting due to a new rollout of a different version of a solution and everything else breaks and you end up with all kinds of problems with the conflicting user experiences, integrations, all like what I found often works best and at the risk of sounding like someone who hates both ends of the spectrum, I do quite frankly there is a middle approach that I found to be most effective by the most sophisticated law departments that I work with and that is kind of a recognition that we don't want to run after this application proliferation kind of world where different pockets of the organisation are using different tools in different ways and there's no consistency in the tool set while at the same time we can't get everything done with a single monolithic platform.

And so the most sophisticated law departments that I've had the pleasure of working with have taken a bit of a rationalisation focused approach. Let's focus on fewer solutions rather than more, but at the same time, let's not force ourselves into unnecessarily awkward arrangements where we try to get everything done in a single solution because while there are some ELM players on the market, won't name names right now, but I'm sure you could probably guess a few of those who are out there who offer e-billing and matter management and some form of light contract management, albeit not CLM, and they have some automation technology probably in a really complex scripting language. What ends up happening is that you have to accept all these really less than ideal trade-offs along the way, which can tank the success of that investment. And I make mention of those trade-offs very deliberately because at the end of the day, as much as I would love to say that the optimal solution is to have not 42 solutions, have four or two or three pick a number, right? It'd be great if I could just pick a number and say these are the set. The reality is that there are trade-offs involved with whatever kind of configuration you might want to move toward and you have to very carefully weigh those trade-offs in light of your own preferences and your law department's preferences in order to get to the most defensible and most efficient arrangement for your own team.

Evan Wong (12:20):

Absolutely, and even you talking through that thought process shows that this is a strategic consideration because you could very well end up on one end of the spectrum because you're not thinking about the long-term implications from an infrastructure perspective as you've drilled out your tech stack. Actually Terrell from the audience is a question for you and very pertinent to the point of you mentioned it's not good to have proliferation of applications and I think that's a very, very much the opinion that an IT team would have, especially when legal tries to bring in new tech and Terrell's question is that first they love the analogy that you've covered. I'm not sure if it's the lord of the Rings analogy or the one you mentioned, but the question is how do you convince your IT team that there is no one system to rule them all? So how do you convince the IT team because they're always going to come down with an enterprise tool and say, we can already do that and of course they can because the whole point of IT tools are that they built to be very flexible, can weave and kind of solve many different use cases across the enterprise, but probably again to your point, not do it very well and didn't have legal in consideration when that tool was developed. So how do you convince the IT team

Zack Hutto (13:36):

Well beyond telling 'em they don't want to repeat the sins of ERP implementations, which you may be running down the path of with all in one solution for legal. What I found to be rather fascinating here is that in some ways while there is a bit of learning that it can do to understand legal personas, to understand that whole set of workflows and the like, legal actually can learn a little bit from IT here as well where some IT organisations a decade or so ago if not more started bringing certain disciplines to the forefront to navigate some of these issues for not just the IT function but for organisations as a whole. And this whole movement that I'm referencing came from this realisation that a lot of different tool sets can do a lot of different things and we want to prefer fewer over more just for consistency sake and ease of management.

And the way that IT teams at least a decade ago had started to consider these issues was to think about the jobs to be done, if you will for the technology. And in particular it was this whole concept around a business capability model that was really groundbreaking for a lot of IT organisations who may have very deep technical expertise, deep infrastructure expertise, but maybe less business knowledge for the functions that they were looking to support. And if you're familiar with the concept, a business capability model is really nothing more than this framework by which you can capture really what a function is here to do and then there's some nesting involved to get more into the details. And so what is legal here to do? Well, legal is here fundamentally I would argue, to reduce cost for the organisation or manage costs, right? Whether that's outside counsel cost or damages and liability exposure, what have you.

There's also an element of managing risk, right? We absolutely need to do that within the law department and there's an element of also if you think about enabling business growth that's there now, the language kind of varies, but the business capability model framework had been well established within IT organisations as a way to try to break down at the highest levels what does a function do, and then beneath that, what do you need to do to enable to get the job done at the highest level? So how do we manage costs? Well, we need to be able to ingest electronic invoices, right? We need to be able to analyse those invoices, we need to be able to send the invoice out for payment. We need to do those kinds of things. And what I have found to be most effective, coming back to Terrell's question here is that if the law department can use these frameworks that have been well established within, not all IT organisations but many, there's a huge opportunity for legal to speak the language of it and to better meet in the middle while at the same time gaining additional clarity for the in-house law department because I've seen in many cases you ask a team of five lawyers, what do you say you do here?

I'm going to bring all the movie quotes here today or references. So for those who might've missed that office space reference from the Bobs, but what do you say you do here? If you ask that to a team of lawyers, five lawyers are going to give you five different answers. And so there is value in the law department as well documenting and mapping out what it is we do. It's that kind of framework that often provides the answer for why we will likely need not just more than one system, but also legal focused systems as well. Because if you look at how you ingest invoices and well, what do you need to be able to do to do that? You need leads based ingestion capability, you need all these other capabilities as well. You very quickly begin to spotlight the fact that while a document management solution can serve as a rough matter management solution for instance, it's not going to give you the invoice management capabilities.

And even thinking about those enterprise platforms, which some have argued, why couldn't our invoice system for the enterprise manage our law firm invoices, they're all invoices, right? While that is true, you end up having to sacrifice more than most law departments would like, and so for the average law department with reasonable legal spend with outside counsel, the idea of giving up that line item level visibility into what counsel is doing on our behalf is typically a trade-off they're not willing to make, which then points to the legal centric solution. So I say this all to say the more that we can define what exactly we're looking to get done and maybe even borrow some of those good practises from it, in doing so, the better that we can start weighing some of those trade-offs in a more informed fashion rather than just trying to pit vendor A against vendor B. As we all know, that's a bit of a bear in and of itself.

Evan Wong (18:49):

Yeah, I completely agree and look, I'm always in these conversations of why this specifically will take versus the IT enterprise tool, and if I were to sum up kind of what you were talking about, it's about getting specific, it's about specificity because if you go to the IT team and to your point you say, well, this is an invoicing tool, they'll say, well, we have an invoicing tool. If you say, well, this is a workflow automation tool, we already have a workflow automation tool, chances are your enterprise IT has one. So if you're describing what you're buying at a very sort of categorical high level, you are almost certain going to get shut down because they will think that you're going out and buying IT tools when in reality, if you describe very specifically the jobs to be done in the frame of the legal department and why the nuances of, again, example, yes, you have a workflow tool, but in legal we deal with a lot of documents and therefore this is a document centric workflow tool and your enterprise tool doesn't do that. That's why we need one or even matter management or intake tools like ticketing systems. Yes, we have, I'm not going to name enterprise ticketing systems

Legal, we have client privilege and confidentiality requirements and often a lot of those ticketing tools is visibility for all. And so I think if you're describing it at the category level, you are always going to get the immediate knee-jerk reaction, which is we already have that. You're not allowed to buy it, but if you get specific and down to the jobs to be done, then you might have a much better chance.

Zack Hutto (20:26):

Yeah. Well, and what's really fascinating there too is that I have found not to invoke the Goldilocks principle yet again, but I will, there's a very real risk in going too specific. So the high level, we need to manage invoices, we need to build a workflow that's not terribly helpful. I think we can all agree on that. I often find organisations though getting trapped in the minutiae. We need these technical functionalities like integration with Tableau or Power bi. We need this technical capability focused on mobility. For instance. We need this technical capability X, y or Z, and I've often found that that hyper focus on technical specs can also be a bit misleading as well because that can enable you, it can allow you to lose sight of what you're trying to get done at the end of the day, which can result in these situations where yes, you might have a good feature set match for these technical capabilities in a given tool, but how would it come together? Are there going to be gotchas, if you will, the trade-offs that we're going to have to accept? It's hard to weigh those effectively unless you have that midpoint well understood and well-defined as well to document the job that we're trying to get done.

Evan Wong (21:52):

Totally. Yeah, and Alexia from the audience again has an interesting different angle and I think this is, it depends I think from organisation to organisation, your culture as well between your teams and your IT team, but I'll just mention alexia's suggestion here, which is maybe it's about having a conversation with your head of it that it might not be the best risk profile to have one system sitting with it because if that system fails, then everything else below and the throne that they sit on will also fall with it. I'm using a slightly less violent analogy

Put there, but if it is able to diversify, then they can also mitigate their risk. So I like that. I like that suggestion because I think Alexia is coming from a point where it's not just about what we want, but it's also thinking about what are the interests of the IT team and how can we help them actually achieve their goals and their successes as well or avoid failures. I want to jump, that was a great little sidestep, but I want to jump back onto that article that you wrote because like I said, I'm a huge fan and as part of it, I'm going to share my screen and bring it up for a second as part of it, you had this diagram, and by the way, for everyone listening and watching, this was about a year ago, it was January, 2023, and Zach wrote this amazing article that really put the map of where legal technology sits, and this was one of the diagrams. For the people who haven't read or seen this diagram before, can you give a quick overview? What was your thinking? What does this diagram actually mean?

Zack Hutto (23:36):

Yeah, well, this diagram came from gosh, hundreds of conversations that I had had with a number of law departments about that complexity in the market that we mentioned earlier, Evan, and as we were looking at what solutions are out there, it became abundantly clear to me and to our team that we really needed to focus first and foremost on capabilities, the jobs to be done really, or at least a rough proxy for the jobs to be done rather than diving into what can sometimes be these artificial distinctions between categories out there in the market. I think as you mentioned, you have some CLM that does workflow. You have some workflow engines that do CLM, you have X, Y, and Z with all the other bleed over. And so what we sought to do is to define what are those core capabilities that a law department needs to deliver within the team, which resulted in this set of hexagons here across the page.

And so for most organisations, it really does start at the left with some kind of ability to capture electronic invoices and manage spend, right? Traditional e-billing technology would typically address that. And then often there's that external matter management concern as well, so we can have something that's often within the e-billing system matter management's a close akin to e-billing, but it's really focused slightly uniquely on capturing the activity and actually what's happening in the matter rather than just capturing the billing itself. Those are really important areas for a law department to address, but we had been finding across companies there were a vast range of other capabilities that departments needed to address as well, whether that is intake and triage and what we were coming to call service management when we were authoring this research. That's the idea really that there's that whole vast set of internal activities that are really poorly managed when you look at traditional matter management solutions that have that external focus.

There also are all of these workflow and automation opportunities that teams had been attempting to tackle over the past number of years, whether that's in legal centric solutions like a TAP for instance, or a checkbox or what have you, or in more generic enterprise solutions like a power automate the old Microsoft flow. And then from there, as you look to the centre and then to the right, there are these ancillary and sometimes adjacent capabilities that departments needed to address as well. Collaboration being a pretty important one for many teams over the last few years. Covid really opened many organisations' eyes to how important it is for us to be able to work in a digital fashion given that we're not all in the same office together, although the seeds of that movement had been planted far earlier. There's the doc management component too, which is important for many teams, even if we perhaps need to shift away from our document centric view of the world, which has predominantly many law departments, and then you have these others that are there further to the right.

And as you get into some of those, the lightest shaded diagrams there, you're looking at areas which conceivably could be covered by what we had come to term, these corporate legal operations technologies think of them as ELM plus, but there could also be scenarios in which for the areas at the far right, you may actually be better served with a specialty workflow specific application. And that usually comes about in places where there's enough definition to the workflow and also a great enough volume and complexity to that workflow as well. If you can fit those three fact patterns, then some companies, in fact I'd say many, they benefit from a CLM solution which can cover multiple different personas in the contract lifecycle on both sides of the contracting equation. If you don't have many contracts, then maybe it is good enough just to store the contract in your document management solution and to capture the contract request through an intake and matter management arrangement.

And the same kind of pattern plays out too with IP management. But what we were hoping to do here at the end of the day is to better illustrate what capabilities might we need to procure for our department and then that can give a better foundation for understanding which solutions can address which of these items. And that has been an awfully challenging conversation for most law departments I've worked with to navigate when you have all of this overlap. And I'd also say all the volatility that we've seen out there in the market over the last five to 10 years.

Evan Wong (28:57):

Yeah, it's really interesting the way that you describe how you've represented what we're looking at here because what you're saying is these aren't necessarily technology categories, even though some of these may look like it, these are just capabilities that the legal department must have and you might be able to have elements of these covered by one type or one category of technology. The one that I'm particularly interested in, because I've seen this big trend over the last maybe 12, 12 months or so, I've seen it really blow up, is one of the core ones that you've mapped out, which is intake, triage and service management. And when you mentioned service management, it's interesting that you even gave that little bit of a disclaimer to say that's what you called it at the time because I feel like whilst it is service management, the industry hasn't yet fully picked up on that language. I think they tend to use phrases like the legal front door or god forbid, sometimes people use legal ticketing which send shivers down some people's spines.

And then sometimes people, often what we find actually is people might even just call it matter management, but with the intention that it's internal matter management, which is actually quite different from that first piece on the left there that you have as external management. And maybe you were very intentional about putting the word external there for that reason. And so there's a big trend of people looking now at intake, at triage, at insert the label that you want for service management. What have you seen? Have you seen this trend in the last 12 months and maybe even before that, how did we get here? Because you've been in the industry 15 years or so looking at this kind of stuff. Where did we start and how do we end up here?

Zack Hutto (30:46):

So I have seen it evolving over time. I've seen the direction, the interest in an intake that internal matter management for quite some time, and it's interesting, I've had these kinds of conversations not just with clients but with colleagues current and former others out there in the industry, and there's a really strong precedent for that concept of service management. And I think you're exactly right. It was very intentional in describing that as something different from matter management, which most organisations would use to describe the external side of the equation. When you look at the average law department, you're roughly evenly split, roughly, roughly give or take five or 10 percentage points of spend in terms of allocation between outside and inside. What about the inside component? Historically, there has been very little emphasis there, and as we're in this world with rising demands, greater volatility and greater budget scrutiny, we need to do whatever we can to make that efficient.

But going back to your question, where does it start? I recall, gosh, nearly 15 years ago working with one company who had tried to address that issue of what we do with the internal work in relatively low tech ways. At least they were trying to do what they could with what was available to them at the time. And this one technology company that we were working with had recognised that a lot of the requests coming into the law department, whether it's over the phone, through email, through the knock on the door, many of those kinds of questions often were not even questions for the lawyer that had been contacted. In some cases, they weren't even questions for legal. So it's not just a matter of having to be an IP counsel and actually this is my labour and employment colleague down the hall. In some cases, this is a matter to take to our corporate HR team.

It's not a legal issue at all. And that's without even mentioning the fact that most organisations often see as well, this large volume of inquiry of requests, what have you that could potentially be dealt with through FAQs, decision guides and the like. Maybe it's just a simple matter of sending the expense policy. For instance, this technology company that I was working with back then again about 15 years ago or so had realised we struggle to manage this internal activity because we do not have a funnel by which we're directing the activity into the law department. And this wasn't one of those exercises like some in the market today claim to be the omnichannel experience only one kind of portal into the law department, but they did want to push more work through a narrower set of options than the free for all, which often is the case by default.

And so they actually ended up creating a shared inbox within their exchange system They had a couple of paralegals across different time zones who are managing that shared inbox, and they were using that method to one, do what some out there in the industry today called the diversion, right? If we can identify the issue, that's not a legal topic that needs to go to HR instead or needs to go to finance, let's go ahead and let's get that on its merry way. There were a large portion of requests that also could be answered by a policy document that could be sent an FAQ that could be sent and the like. And what they found is that there were very few relatively speaking requests that needed that lawyer's involvement. Not only about 30% if I recall correctly, of the total volume flooding into the department.

And so that opportunity has been out there for at least the better part of the last 15 years. And that's just an example that I know of shared inboxes could be even further back. If you think about just having the raw kind of capabilities, what's rather interesting to me is that I have noticed in line with your comment around the increased conversation chatter around intake and triage and service management in the market today. I have noticed a few developments both on the demand I guess and the supply side on the demand side of the coin. From the internal law department perspective, like I mentioned, we are continuing to see high watermark after high watermark after high watermark of work volumes for virtually every law department that I speak with. If you're one of the few that are seeing reduced volumes of legal work, please find me because I'm really interested in hearing what's happening.

But that's just not the fact pattern that we see broadly. And so like I mentioned, there's been that increased desire to best manage our internal resources as best we possibly can, and that demand side change also happens to coincide with some increased investments that IT, for instance has been making in systems like Jira and ServiceNow, other ticketing systems. So there's precedent there on the supply side of the equation. And when you think about some of these more modern workflow solutions which look and feel very different than your traditional BPM platforms, which were much more complex Durango, there's been a greater availability of more intuitive solutions that can be used by organisations. And I'd also argue there's probably a little bit of a tailwind push off all this generative AI hype that's also benefiting many of those solutions out there in the market. And so you put that together, increase desire to manage what we're doing, it's recognition that we need to be as efficient as possible and then all the enthusiasm and activity in the market, I think you have a perfect storm that hopefully is going to result in some real change for how law departments bring in work and how they triage and manage that work.

I'm not going to be one who's so naive as to say that this is going to be a solved issue in any short period of time, but this has been a long time coming and even a little movement here could be transformative for organisations that are able to put those capabilities in place.

Evan Wong (37:51):

Yeah, that's quite the journey. So you're saying that we started with a free for all just kind of very business and relationship focus, which we still are as legal departments. I think that's just the origin of it and it's kind of like whoever comes to you help them out regardless of what they're coming to you from. At some point I think we wanted some visibility, we wanted some efficiencies in the way we taken requests. We moved to the centralised inbox, which by the way, your story was from 15 years ago, but I still see so many legal departments that still operated in that way and everyone's still got their legal at inbox, but then over the last few years they've shifted to more of the BPM or form-based front door I think is where that term really formally came through as we transitioned from the centralised inbox to the foreman. And now you're saying, but what we're pushing into is with gen ai, the ability to have maybe more conversational intake and that's kind of the evolution of that piece and with that latest piece of technology and some of the hype and tailwinds behind that, the conversation is reemerging.

Zack Hutto (39:02):

That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And like I said, I'm hopeful that discussions around intake and front doors will lead to some more significant change around triage, which kind of then requires some rethinking about who does what work, not just within the law department but within the organisation and ultimately that service management element as well. If we can better capture the internal demands on the department, understand where we're finding peaks and troughs, risk patterns, variances from historical patterns, we can better plan our resources and potentially even better mitigate risk to see around the corner. All of that goodness can come from these investments, but it's hard to do any of that. I'd argue without making the first step of investment in intake.

Evan Wong (39:56):

Yeah, I'm actually really bullish. I mean our company is really bullish, obviously on legal intake because there's these kind of first order and second order effects where immediately your GC or your leadership gets access to a level of data and visibility that you don't have because often when you think about the data that sits in a legal department, it really does start with intake. Almost every single piece of work that someone eventually touches had to start somewhere. It originates from the request. And so if you can nail your intake, you can actually improve your data programme within your legal department and then second of all, and avoid

Zack Hutto (40:38):

A lot of the data capture burden that would otherwise go on time strapped lawyers to do data entry. We don't want to do that. Right? Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt, but I mean there is a lot of good motivation for moving in this direction.

Evan Wong (40:55):

No, I'm glad you interrupted with that because I've seen, again, a lot of legal departments who may want to go on that data programme and it fails because it relies so much on data entry from, to your point, very busy lawyers who just want to get through their ever-growing to-do list. They're not going to sit down afterwards and fill in a survey or create that record for you or populate that spreadsheet. And so the more that you can kind have that data captured and automated either through AI or through decision tree at that front end, you're going to get your data with least amount of resistance and the highest amount of adoption.

Zack Hutto (41:31):

Right, absolutely.

Evan Wong (41:34):

Super helpful. And I know at the end, just at the tail end of what you were talking about with the gen AI piece, I'm going to pick on you for a second. Exactly. I did some reading on you of course, and a few years ago you had another piece of writing that you wrote, and it was in 2019. In 2019 you made a prediction and predictions are always very risky because you look like an absolute legend when you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. I think in 2019, you said by the year 2023, so I think we've just passed that upwards of 25% of law departments would be handling their requests through conversational chatbots. You said this in 2019, this was obviously pre pandemic and pre open AI and chat JPT, so that's really cool that you were already thinking about that, but I don't think we quite made it there yet. I feel like if I did a survey, I don't think a quarter of legal departments are using chatbots at the moment. What are you seeing? Are you still bullish on that trend? We can't go backwards in time and make that true, but do you think that's where we're heading still right now?

Zack Hutto (42:49):

Yeah, I know that that figure, that projection fell a bit short and it's funny, I know there's often a bit of a retrospective analysis. Did we hit the mark? Were we a bit off? I think we were very quick to say. Yeah, we kind of missed that one a little bit. I mean, on the one hand, I do think Covid ended up derailing, and I've seen a number of investments that did get derailed over the course of covid that could have led us to a different position today that may have been more in line with what we were projecting back in 2019. But yeah, we did end up falling short. I do see ultimately that conversational interface as a natural evolution for many in-house law departments, there is a very strong appeal that I'm hearing law department's voice in being able to have their business clients interact with that kind of conversational agent rather than having to input bits and bobs into this form.

Nobody likes the form or at least few people like the form. And so if we can lower that barrier to entry through the use of a conversational interface, it can be highly beneficial. Now, what's really interesting today is as we think about some of the much more sophisticated generative ai, large language model driven solutions that are out there in the market, I'd argue there maybe are greater headwinds today or at least risks that we're more aware of that we were less aware of historically. You think about chatbots as they existed in 2019, they were largely on the rails conversational interfaces, largely decision tree driven, many canned responses. You didn't see that kind of generative response capability broadly within solutions out there in the market. It just didn't exist Then. What's rather fascinating to me is if I were to fast forward to today and think about whether it's open AI's models or whether you're looking at LAMA or any of the models that are out there in the market, the risk of manufactured misguided information and also the risk of falling prey to prompt injection techniques, they're higher, they're real.

And I recall seeing an article a few weeks ago, maybe a couple months ago at this point, capturing this new development at a car dealership. Car dealership on their website had put in a chatbot interface and someone had gotten the chatbot, I think it was for one of the big domestic automakers that got the chatbot to recommend a Tesla vehicle instead, which as most listeners probably know, is not sold through car dealerships. So it was not one of their models. And they also ended up through a prompt injection technique getting the chatbot to offer this fully loaded truck for something like $5. And that's a deal, said the chatbot. And so you end up with all these greater capabilities at the same time you end up having this whole different risk profile, which I suspect will end up taming, tempering some of the enthusiasm around the conversational interfaces.

I'd also say, as a brief aside, I read Microsoft's own investments in the copilot studio capabilities. I'm not sure if many have checked that out, but you have to explicitly enable generative AI responses to their chatbot builder tool in copilot studio that turns on that functionality, which is distinct from the more kind of decision tree logic driven capabilities that we've long known and that are a bit more predictable. And so I do suspect long-winded way of my saying this, yes, we will get there. Yes, conversational interfaces provide that more intuitive way of bringing information in of interacting for business clients, but as we have great developments, we also have new risks that we have to manage, which will be an interesting part of the journey, I think for some time to come here.

Evan Wong (47:17):

Yeah, absolutely. And I think to be clear, I think it's actually really impressive that back in 2019, you were already seeing this trend before the blowup of these LLM models, and I'm bullish like you are. I think that this is still a legitimate trend. I think we will get there, and I've already seen a lot of more legal departments that have the kind of organisational culture to embrace this sort of user experience alongside the risks that are considered. I've already seen this pull and people are doing it in practise, it's already happening. And I think there's some great work done by the big tech giants like Microsoft because it is already embedded in so many people's organisations, but then there's also a lot of tech providers at the legal industry level that are also embedding gen AI and these conversational interfaces everywhere. And I think at some point it's almost inevitable. I think there's a bit of a transition period as we get comfortable with it all and develop our own risk frameworks and governance frameworks. And we did this fine with cyber security when SaaS came around many years ago, and we'll do it again with gen ai. We'll get there. Yeah, so it'd be interesting, maybe you and I can make a prediction, not 25%, but maybe 75% of law departments are using conversational intake by, I don't know, 20 throw a number out there and we can revisit and be,

Zack Hutto (48:48):

Well, 75 feels a little high. I might say 50% of law departments would have that kind of capability. Let's say. I think three years out is not unreasonable just given the current pace and direction of investments, let's say three to four years. So that puts us at 20 27, 20 28, and I say 50% rather intentionally because there are a large number of law departments that for whatever reason just may not benefit as much from that investment. Small companies, I think of in particular very high touch businesses that are built around that model. Now, there are downsides to staying on the sidelines, but I always get a little wary whenever folks get to very high penetration rates for some technologies because it gets a little squirrely when you get to those upper numbers.

Evan Wong (49:49):

It is very true, and Charles's jumped back in again and said, sometimes we just don't have the money. And that's just the reality as well. There'll be, no matter what technologies available, there will be a segment of the market that just don't have the funds to invest in that particular type of problem to be solved. So you're right, 50% is probably more sensible. So you and I will maybe catch up again in a few years and we'll look back at this and we can see, I'll

Zack Hutto (50:11):

Put a pin in my calendar.

Evan Wong (50:15):

Awesome. Hey, so final piece of parting advice. The topic today was how do we think about designing our legal tech stack? And I think we touched on so many different elements throughout. It's been a great discussion. Can we bring it home? If someone currently is thinking about really strategically now, what pieces do they put in place and the capabilities, what's your rounding out piece of feedback?

Zack Hutto (50:40):

Yeah, number one, I will say very strongly, you cannot make ideal technology investments without very clearly understanding what it is we're trying to get done. And so my strongest piece of advice would be take the time to map out those capabilities that you're looking to solve for. Now, it's not typically going to be horribly unique or horribly bespoke. The model that you brought up earlier with the corporate legal operations technologies capabilities, companies generally need to address those capabilities, but different pieces matter more to different organisations. The articulation of what we really care about can sometimes vary or how we talk about it can vary and there could very well be some unique pieces that go missing from the kind of standard slate that we see across many companies, but we need to start with something that can represent what we're trying to accomplish, what jobs we're trying to do.

That is really the key that I've found for having more informed discussions around what kind of trade-offs willing to accept, what kind of technologies are going to fit best for us, where we want to make that plunge into, let's say a conversational intake interface and where the juice just is not worth the squeeze for us. And there will be plenty of areas where it simply will not make sense to invest based on your current fact pattern. And that's okay. It's okay to make that deliberate choice that not now, not for us, not under these circumstances. We shouldn't shy away from that, but it all comes back to understanding what we're trying to get done so that you can go out into the market so that you can understand how this application will address the need. And that is a crucial piece of the puzzle as well.

When we think beyond just the walls of the law department. I see far too many companies looking at technology vendors and no shame on the vendor community, but there's a flawed question that many vendors are presented and that is, tell me what your application can do, which is not a bad initial opening question if you're just getting to know what's out there, you're just getting to know solution, fine, let's have the feature demo, right? That's all good. Well, but I've often found that it's the most effective law departments with their technology who go one step further, not in the initial conversation necessarily, but they go one step further in subsequent discussions vendors to really get into how this application will address the needs that we see. Because otherwise you can have a beautiful user experience, beautiful user interface. You could have a really flashy killer app functionality on hand, but if it's not actually solving for a problem that you have at best, it's going to be just kind of window dressing, right?

At worst, it actually can derail your technology stack and derail your ability to secure future rounds of investments within the law department within the company for the next technology investment. And so to some, I'll say, take that hard, look at your own needs and then use that to drive your discussions as you go out into the market. If you can do those two things, you'll end up already in the top 75th percentile of law departments that I've worked with. And there's a difficulty in doing those two things, don't get me wrong, but you'll be vastly further ahead of the average bear that often does end up doing exactly what you said at the start, looking at the chaotic market, looking at near term needs. And as one GC put it to me a few years ago, I'm not sure how much I love this analogy, but she said, I feel like buying legal technology is like ordering off a Chinese menu. I want one item from column B, one item from column C, one item from column D, and I could see why one might go about that, but it doesn't work for enterprise technology, let alone legal tech.

Evan Wong (55:04):

That's fantastic advice, and with that, we'll wrap up there, but thank you everyone who came along to spend time with Zach and myself. We know everyone here, very busy people, but thank you for coming and listening in and learning and always improving together with us. And Zach, of course, big thank you to you. I've really enjoyed the conversation and can't wait to have our future conversations as well and look back at this in a few years and see if we nailed that 50% that you and I are polish on.

Zack Hutto (55:32):

It's been fun. Let's do it before 2027 or 2028. How about that? Yeah,

Evan Wong (55:37):

Sounds good. Yeah, that's a bit too long. Yeah. Alright, perfect. Good stuff. All right, have a great day everyone. Take care.

Zack Hutto (55:43):

Thanks. Take care.

Evan Wong (55:45):

Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Go With the Workflow. If you found a valuable, you can subscribe to the show on your favourite podcast app like Spotify or Apple Podcast. Also, please consider giving us a rating or leave a review as that really helps other listeners find the podcast too. That's all for now, so we'll see you at the next episode.

Digitize and scale the delivery of your services