Legal X 2021 was about creating space. Across the three days of Filevine’s annual legal innovation conference ran two themes: the technical and the human.
These two themes are fundamental to our task as legal professionals — working to radically improve our industry. We envision a legal system where professionals can perform rewarding, lucrative, and sustainable work; where clients feel seen and in control of their legal process; and where justice is served. And we need technology to get us there.
“It is the job of a leader to create space for others.” - Ally Love
Ally Love presenting at Legal X 2021
Confronting Legal Demand
Ryan Anderson’s keynote laid out the macro problem facing the legal industry today — namely, that the demand for legal services greatly exceeds labor’s capacity to meet demand. The implications of this problem are profound for both society and lawyers alike. The people we serve can’t choose to ignore the subpoena or the lawsuit — they have no choice but to respond.
The problem is one we know all too well — there is a labor shortage across all industries. And the one in legal is especially acute given the barriers to entry in the profession.
Legal has become a much more complicated space in the 16 years that I’ve practiced. Entirely new niches of law have developed around things like social media, data security, cannabis, and blockchain. Along with government regulations changing all aspects of our lives.
The trends are clear and inescapable. Lawyers have to do more complex tasks with less labor.
The AI Lawyer
Reddit co-founder Alex Ohanian laid out where all of the technology is going. Eventually, a combination of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology will make things like “Hey Siri, I need an estate plan” possible. The bot will analyze records on blockchain and optimize an estate plan for you.
That’s the future. And it’s one worth thinking about, especially because it’s not likely to happen in our lifetimes.
Why is it useful to think about the far-off destination? Because doing so tells us how we should be investing our time and treasure right now. The ones who win the present will be riding the waves of the future.
But it’s also worth taking a minute and contemplating what this doesn’t mean. Ohanian said, and I think he’s right, that this does not mean the end of lawyers. Humans are wired for community. We need each other.
The macro trend is lawyers have been freed from the mundane for the past 40 years as computers entered the office. Lawyers turned to powerful online databases to do research instead of taking trips to the library, paper became PDFs, and the cloud freed us from having to work in one place.
In many ways, technology has sped up the way we work in law offices over the last decade. But the promise that technology would free us from the mundane has remained elusive. Said another way, email hasn’t made us more human.
The Future is More Human
Abby Wombach presenting at Legal X 2021
In the future, the mundane goes away. And the human remains.
One of the things a leader must make space for is the future. Leaders of organizations must be focused on bringing the future into the present. In 2021, that means data organization, optimization, and automation.
At Legal X 2021, Filevine declared war on the mundane. And they staked a bright and bold commitment to the human.
Cain Elliott showed us how Outlaw brings the future into the present through easy formatting and clause libraries. When you combine that with your Filevine database, you are freeing yourself from the mundane. You are creating space to do the human work.
The faster the brief gets written, the more time you have to be at flag football practice with your child. That is human. With the right technology, we can refocus ourselves on what is most meaningful to us as people.
That’s why all of the many new features that Filevine unveiled at Legal X 2021, were aimed at eliminating the mundane. One of the most mundane tasks imaginable is time tracking. Filevine’s billing and time tracking operates in the background while you focus on other work.
There are also smaller but consequential ways that the Filevine team is bringing the present into the future like calculated fields (no more calculators needed), folder uploads in docs, and the ability for administrators to set default tags. Don’t even get me started on how excited I am about hyperlinks to terms in OCR’d documents. Plus the new dashboards and interface will save countless hours of clicking each year.
Focusing on What Matters Most
Ben Crump presenting at Legal X 2021
But this isn’t just efficiency for efficiency’s sake. This brings us to the second and most important thread that ran through Legal X 2021: the human. If the first day was focused on the technical, the second day was focused on the human.
- Civil rights attorney Ben Crump boldly cast his vision of the future as one that is uncompromisingly just for all.
- Love Squad CEO Ally Love stressed the importance of enlarging our circles.
- Sports legend Abby Wambach made it clear that women belong at every table decisions are made.
If we are to tackle the big problems we face as a society, we must tackle the mundane. The team at Filevine has tackled the mundane down to a science. My conversations with their team throughout the conference left me with the impression that they are just getting started.
It is up to us to tackle the human issues, to make space for all at the table, and to lean into the community. Ultimately when we do those things, we do justice. Wanting to do justice is the reason most of us got started at this in the first place.
And we must make space for justice, that is the future of law. That’s where Filevine is — at the intersection of technology and humanity. And community is at the core of being human.
It’s a better way forward.