How Orrick's Observatory is Helping Clients Find the Right Legal Tech Solution
Daryl Shetterly is the director of Orrick Analytics, a Six Sigma Black Belt, and helps manage Orrick’s Global Operations and Innovation Center. Daryl’s passion is changing the way Big Law delivers legal services by bringing innovation and business processes to the practice of law. He leads a team of 35 tech-savvy attorneys, 100 plus contract attorneys, assistants who handle project management, analysts who perform data analysis and statistical modeling, and technologists who build bots, scripts, and tools to increase quality and reduce human effort.
It would be great to begin with an overview of the initiative, the central theme as to what you would like to convey to our readers?
I am one member of the Innovation Team here at Orrick. Two years ago, we built an internal portal for our company and branded it as the Observatory. The Observatory permits participants to share their ideas for a process change or a new way to use technology with like-minded people across the firm. As projects gain form and sponsorship, people from different groups within the firm join the project. Often, the idea morphs and evolves as others join the team and add their perspective. The Observatory platform connects people with similar ideas and facilitates brainstorming and contributing to the project in various ways. And our employees are empowered as they see their ideas being recognized and implemented.
Could you elaborate on what drove the need to develop the Observatory?
It will surprise no one that the best ideas come from employees across Orrick who have ideas about how to better handle the work on their desk. In a firm of more than 1,000 attorneys, it is a challenge to connect the handful of people across the firm who have similar ideas and get them working toward a new idea as one team. The Observatory was born to connect these people and ideas. Importantly, the best projects often involve a team of employees in diverse verticals, ranging from intellectual property to startups. Being one of the leading firms in digitalization and innovation, we value technology and collaboration. Our emphasis on integrating technology and finding new ways to do things bore fruit when the Financial Times ranked us the most innovative law firm in America three years in a row.
Remaining an innovative law firm means lots of change for everyone and change is notoriously hard on morale. But change is easier for any of us to accept when we play a key part in defining the new process or technology. At Orrick, we want employees across the organization to be involved in building the firm of the future and that means we need a culture that rewards those who take a risk and think differently and raise their hand and suggest that there is a better way.
Observatory is a technology Orrick built, but it is also used to track legal technology, tell us about that.
The legal technology market is fragmented with hundreds of providers offering a range of solutions, often with low feature differentiation. And these tools tend to be point solutions designed to solve a specific problem rather than a suite of tools that cover a range of problems. Our clients were also struggling to navigate the overwhelming number of legal tech companies offering similar tools. We needed a way to categorize, track and communicate the intel we were gathering in product demos, conversations and the user experiences of our own attorneys and clients who were using these tools. Observatory allows us to centralize feedback and dozens of data points about legal tech startups so we can sift companies by specific criteria. For example, if someone suggests a tool I have never heard of, I can quickly query to see whether someone else in our firm has demoed the tool, whether it is in use at Orrick or a client and who is using it, see feedback and quickly request access. We also made a slimmed down module of the Observatory available to the public because we wanted our clients and the vendor community to be able to visualize the market and give us feedback on tools. You can see it here.
What are some of the trends you are watching in the legal technology space?
There is lots of great activity in legal tech, here are a few trends as an example:
Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) tools come up in almost every legal operations conversation with clients. The technology is evolving quickly. Newly integrated machine learning and self-service options have the opportunity to truly move the needle on corporate law department efficiency. This is especially true as legal departments are budget constrained even though legal work is exploding. CLM tools allow you to allocate resources where it matters. Too many senior in-house lawyers are performing basic tasks related to contract management rather than focusing on working at the top of their license and CLM tools and processes are changing that.
Collaboration technology demand has exploded during Covid and we recently spun Joinder out of Orrick Labs (our technology incubator) to be an independent legal tech company designed to better enable corporate legal departments to collaborate with their legal service providers by combining the four critical pillars to legal work – data storage, task management, communications and document management – into a single digital workspace. The Joinder product creates for legal departments a system of record for ongoing and completed projects, similar to systems of records across companies, like Workday for HR and Salesforce for sales.
Automation is another trend having a real impact on legal. We are using automation to transform a contract into a questionnaire that automatically generates a contract and unbundling a process to build dynamic workflows that automatically guides users through pre-defined best practices. The emergence of automation technologies, both AI-based and “building block” based, allows law firms to take template contract and standardized processes and “teach” a computer program to perform and guide users through that process. For law firms, this allows lawyers to practice at the top of their license, ensures compliance to firm approved processes and templates, reduces the amount of time spent on repetitive tasks, and standardizes work product. For clients, this technology can provide fixed-fee or free self-service portals based on the law firms tried-and-true knowledge and helps provide cost-certainty for high-volume tasks.
What would be the single piece of advice you could impart to your colleagues to excel in this space? What advice would you give in terms of technology procurement from a managerial standpoint?
Great question! A high percentage of digitalization initiatives fail. One reason they fail is that people select a technology without first understanding the job to be done. Before selecting a technology, understand the people and processes that will interact with the technology, the workflows they will use to do their work, how they will interact with the technology and how the work and processes are likely to evolve. Imagine, for example, a law department that wants to buy a CLM tool to save money on contracting. We see organizations with immature processes, no playbooks, and little historical metrics rush off to buy a CLM tool thinking they will fix the people process and technology problems once they get the tech. But only later do they realize the tech requirements will change as they draft playbooks, unbundle tasks and improve processes.
Law departments should consider using the tools they already have, for example, the Microsoft 365 stack, e.g. Power Automate and Power BI, to bridge the gap while they overhaul the workflows, checklists, templates and work with the business to understand what they need. Remember to dig into the broader technology strategy for adjacent tech and departments so you better understand the technology systems the tech you will buy may need to interface with in the future. When you buy a tech tool, have a decent grasp of their product development roadmap. Then when you license a technology you will do so with the correct set of requirements and you will have a technology that will grow with you.