Scaling and Amplifying Legal Work, Part 1: Collaboration

Written by: David Curle

October 26, 2020
Next Gen Lawyers

6 minute read

This article is the first of a series of four that focuses on key industry trends that are driving and enabling a scalable approach to legal work with the help of AI.

Kira Systems has introduced Smart Field Sharing, which enables users to easily and securely share their custom-built text smart fields with other Kira users, inside and outside of their organization.

Kira’s smart fields are machine learning models that efficiently and accurately extract common clauses, provisions, and data points from contracts, such as change of control clauses, or early payment discounts. While many users leverage Kira’s out-of-the-box standard smart fields, some use a feature called Quick Study to create their own, customized smart fields that embed their own practice-specific knowledge and expertise in the models.

Why is this new ability to share those custom smart fields important to Kira users? What does this capability mean for the future of legal services? Let’s use a simple analogy from the world of music.

Lessons From The Music Industry

Picture yourself as a musician in the mid-19th century. If you wanted to make a living of your art, your available revenue streams were mostly limited to live performances. In order to practice your art, you needed to round up an in-person audience, and deliver the product right then and there. And if you wanted to earn more money, you’d have to repeat the process.

By the early 1900s, however, musicians had an alternative that expanded their reach: they could record their music by mechanical means, then sell those recordings to consumers who could listen to them anywhere, anytime. A little further into the century, the popularity of commercial radio meant that recorded music could be further distributed and enjoyed on a widespread basis. Today’s streaming music model, of course, has multiplied the ways that music can be distributed even further across time and geography. There is even an experimental AI-based tool from OpenAI called Jukebox that can generate original music and lyrics, reproducing an artist’s sound and style without an actual performance by the artist.

Technology has separated the work of creating music from the consumption of music, and musicians can earn revenues from a single performance many many times over. And what we call the “music industry” today encompasses many different types of specialists beyond just musicians and listeners, all of whom collaborate and work together as part of a music supply chain.

Meanwhile, lawyers have had few outlets for such one-to-many distribution. Like 19th century musicians, most need to re-perform work with each client. Some can generate revenue by creating and selling books, templates, and other general-purpose content, but those channels provide small streams of revenue relative to their core legal services. Others might standardize and automate portions of their work to reduce costs or streamline operations. But in general, much legal work is context-specific. Lawyers apply law to the facts of specific circumstances presented by clients. Most lawyers work like pre-gramophone musicians, only making money through actually working, while musicians can earn money in their sleep as their recordings are consumed.

Artificial Intelligence offers lawyers an opportunity to scale their work, in much the same way that the recording industry has allowed musicians to scale and amplify their reach.

With AI, lawyers can teach a machine how to respond in various situations, and then let the machine’s algorithms operate on work for multiple clients. For example, at one time the only way to find and understand the change of control clauses in a stack of contracts was to actually put a lawyer in front of them to read them. With today’s AI-based contract review software, however, junior associates at a majority of the world’s most prestigious law firms have AI doing that work for them. When lawyers build their own AI models using a tool like Kira’s Quick Study, their knowledge and experience is captured in the same way that recordings capture music. But the lawyer’s knowledge is not simply played back; when embedded in AI models, that knowledge is contextual as the model responds to the variety of contract data that clients might present to it.

This blog series will look at four industry trends that are driving and enabling this scalable approach to legal work with the help of AI: Collaboration, Knowledge Management, Disaggregation of Legal Work, and Trust (Data Security, Privacy, and Confidentiality). We’ll address each of those in a separate article in this series.


Complexity in the business and regulatory spheres, and the growth of technology, have driven organizations to adopt more forms of collaboration. Few organizations operate entirely at arms length from suppliers, customers, and competitors. As Mark Cohen puts it in a Forbes article on collaboration in the legal industry,

“In a global marketplace climate where boundaries separating geographies and industries are melting like glaciers and technological advances are enabling new delivery models to transcend traditional divides, collaboration is essential for competitiveness. Organizations that collaborate internally, with others in the supply chain, and - most especially—with clients—are far more likely to succeed than those that do not.

The increasing complexity of industries, technology, and regulation have required lawyers to specialize into increasingly narrow practice areas. From the client perspective, however, legal work still requires holistic solutions that cross legal disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries. Today’s law firms serve complex, global businesses, so contract analysis, for example, requires firms to offer contract analysis capabilities in multiple jurisdictions and languages. That’s hard to do without some level of collaboration.

Much legal work is now delivered by teams with complementary skills sets and tools; few lawyers can master the expertise and knowledge to serve all of the complex legal needs of their clients. Nor do they have the technical and business process skills that are increasingly required, but they can extend their legal expertise by leveraging colleagues focused on, for example, data analysis, and process management. All of these forces are driving lawyers to collaborate with professionals outside their own practice areas, regions, and industries.

In the contract analysis space, Kira’s offerings are examples of tools that embed legal expertise in legal work, but until now that expertise has not been portable in a world that requires more collaboration.

Smart Field Sharing makes legal expertise portable and enhances opportunities for collaboration. This capability gives lawyers and other contract professionals the ability to extend their expertise to colleagues, clients, and partners, save on resources, standardize practices, scale customer offerings, take on new business opportunities, and develop new client service models. Like musicians armed with recording and broadcasting technologies, lawyers are now in a better position to share and amplify their expertise outside the confines of a single client engagement.

As Cohen puts it,

“Collaboration is an essential success ingredient for legal professionals and organizations in the emerging global legal marketplace. Technology platforms that provide data and access to global resources will accelerate change in the buy/sell dynamic. In a marketplace where gigs are fast replacing traditional employment and competitors are sometimes collaborators, legal professionals and organizations must be fluid as to how, with whom, and when they collaborate to achieve impactful client results.”

The next article in this series will explore the role of Knowledge Management in the legal industry today, and the key role that Smart Field Sharing will play in meeting the needs of legal organizations to capture and re-use legal expertise.

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