I greatly enjoyed all the impressive product update presentations at ILTACON 2023 I was privileged to attend. I only wish I had time to attend more. So many impressive capabilities in the marketplace.
The goal of this piece is to share the specifics from the updates I attended, which were Thomson Reuters, Casetext, Microsoft, NetDocuments, iManage, and about five micro presentations in the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) Startup Hub I caught. Each update was distinctive, taking different approaches and demonstrating an impressive array of innovation, legal process engineering improvements, practical uses of AI balancing productivity/ethics/privacy/security considerations and, overall, an obvious deep organizational commitment to improving the legal profession.
The updates I attended on Monday, by Thomson Reuters and Casetext, will be memorialized in a separate piece, due to the nature of the recent acquisition and the uniqueness of those happenings suggesting it made sense to couple them.
Here’s a report on the company updates I attended Tuesday and Wednesday, listed in chronological order. I hope you find it useful in helping to convey some of the details which will be forthcoming in legal tech by each of these integral members of our community.
To kick things off, allow me to define the ILTA Startup Hub, for it is a fairly new element of ILTACON and may not yet be known to some. The Startup Hub is a featured showcase of legal IT and tech startups, disruptors and visionaries that were all together within an exhibitor destination at ILTACON 2023. Each participant had access to some of the most powerful groups of legal IT and tech decision makers that hopefully can help propel their company’s business forward via awareness, funding opportunities and business development contacts.
The common thread between the companies is they are entrepreneurs, and the newness of their company qualified them for inclusion to this group. There were slightly under 30 companies providing product pitches on Tuesday and Wednesday during the conference in the Startup Hub.
Startup Hub – Participating Companies
Here is a list of the participants, shown in chronological order of their 20-minute micro-presentations to the conference showcasing their unique capabilities.
Clearbrief, Legatics, Aiden Technologies, Syntheia Pty Ltd, Bargaining Table, Inc, BoostDraft, BriefCatch, Capacity (Eillipis Limited), CiteRight, Dashboard Legal, DeepJudgeAG, DraftWise, Entegrata, EvenUp Law, Henchman,io, Index Solutions, Inc, LawAccounting LLC, Lega Inc., Oddr Inc, Organizing 4 Innovation, Avvoka, Privion, Quikdata, Redgrave Data, Sapling Data, SigParser, Sotera Digital.
Startup Hub – Service Categories
As you can imagine, the set of services these companies offer runs the gamut in terms of legal technology use cases spanning a wide variety of needs in the market. And a significant element of the offerings was AI based. There was even one company featuring AI governance tools helping to safely implement and govern the use of large language models (LLMs) like Open AI’s GPT-4, Google’s Bard, and Anthropic’s Claude, a governance service which certainly seems to have great potential given the happenings in the world of AI.
The main categories of legal oriented value included software and asset deployment/management tools, litigation cost capture and analysis products, several legal writing / drafting / document automation / citation tools, contract drafting and transactional support offerings, multiple software products using business analytics to capture data for litigation support analysis and collaborative purposes, a few security and compliance tools, software to connect and accelerate accounting/billing functions, and a few others. A few of the companies were even from across the pond, a true international gathering spanning two continents of legal innovators.
What the Future Might Hold
It was thought provoking to speak with those creators who are rethinking processes in legal to deliver innovation at the micro level. Generally speaking, scope is the key difference between these quick-hitting presentations and those of established providers covering broad areas of legal (practice and matter management, document management, client relationship management, finance/time entry/billing, contracts, etc.). The distinctive element of these micro-presentations was that they were dialed into specific legal process opportunities and offered, at times, a targeted and perhaps not previously imagined path for executing legal work tasks.
Will all these companies survive in the long run? Sadly, probably not. But that does not mean they were not filled with awesome ideas and work product ideas. And the 20-minute micro presentations designed to articulate feature sets and how processes are improved surely helped connect these entrepreneurs with investors, members of the press, larger legal technology consulting companies and potential law firm and corporate law department customers in a compressed, targeted timeline.
In my opinion, the Startup Hub was a big hit — a tremendous addition to the ILTACON content umbrella.
Now, on to some of the established players in legal tech.
Microsoft Company Update
The Microsoft company update was delivered by Ben Grimes, VP & National Sponsor Professional Services, Tracie Larson, General Manager of Major Accounts, and Paul Edlund, Chief Technologist, Microsoft Central Region.
Tech Focused Live Demo
The Microsoft presentation was a highly technical update, indeed, it was the only live demo I observed in the product sessions I intended. This presentation literally executed from an engineering perspective many of their new capabilities, with a strong slant towards security, connectors and the ability to turn settings on and off as needed to appropriately define the scope of searches, data lakes, the reach of security governance, and like considerations.
One of the key messages throughout the presentation was how Microsoft is making a concerted effort to listen to the legal industry, understanding there are unique security requirements in our domain and illustrating that they are diligently working to provide the necessary functionality to turn access off where needed within Azure to satisfy the industry as more data storage and application function shifts to the cloud. It’s been a long journey, one which started many years ago when legal was just beginning to consider cloud platform technologies. But every year marks the implementation of more of the necessary security and governance functionality to close the gap. This supports a gradual shift moving to the cloud for some law firms, or the clients they serve, as they gain the requisite necessary level of comfort with the architecture.
Naturally, the elements of the Microsoft product update supporting the company’s AI functionality featured Copilot and how it is integrated within Word, one of the core technology tools for most lawyers. Microsoft presented an interesting example of asking Copilot a question asking for the retrieval of information about the ILTACON conference and ILTA CEO Joy Heath Rush. Once developed, the audience was shown how that created content could be moved from Word to PowerPoint via their transform functionality. It seems to be an impressive productivity tool, as the software first developed the content and then repackaged it for different purposes.
What else was reviewed in the demo? One snippet was the presenter illustrating some neat shortcuts, like typing WORD.NEW or PPTX.NEW into a browser and launching Word or PowerPoint. There was also some discussion on AI scope, including how the business Copilot product allows for broader searches, essentially including any content where connectors are enabled to allow results. And finally, it was noted that a security Copilot product is coming, something which has great potential for powerful functionality because of tight Intune integration. Finally, a Microsoft Fabric slide showed a broader picture of various Synapse data services, Power BI, OneLake and other elements of their intelligent data foundation. The update was a fine overview of many of the emerging capabilities of Azure both in the functionality and security categories.
Document Management System Updates
Let us now segue into one of the most critical technologies used in legal, document management systems. Here, I attended sessions by the two industry leaders, NetDocuments and iManage. I should stipulate that I am a member of the ILTA Strategic Liaison Committee to iManage, who along with NetDocuments is an ILTAMAX sponsor. All of that being said, this material is written in my capacity as a member of the ILTA Press, meaning I’m striving simply to convey the key elements of both company updates, each of which was very exciting and impressive. The summaries are listed in chronological order, the NetDocuments company update occurring Tuesday afternoon and iManage on Wednesday afternoon.
The company update was delivered by Josh Baxter, CEO of NetDocuments and Dan Hauck, the company’s Chief Product Officer.
It focused on multiple product developments and capabilities, all of which fall under the umbrella of their single platform ndMax offering. Some of the highlighted areas were the ability to automate workflows, summarize documents, and work within a single platform. The company is also making the ability to control who can use gen AI and when it can be utilized as a strategic priority for the legal industry. There are many areas of advanced functionality and legal process improvements in the ndMax suite.
NetDocuments – Product Info
One of the first products discussed was the Pattern Builder product, originally announced at the prior ILTACON conference. In the past 12 months, Pattern Builder has expanded in use and functionality and now helps automate many more types of workflows than at original launch. It also can, of course, support extensive document automation. This component of the product portfolio comes with prepackaged apps, but there is also the ability to customize and create complete bespoke unique applications which adds to the ecosystems of legal oriented solutions in the tool.
One of the other interesting components of NetDocuments is interoperability functionality, one example being the ability to save data from documents which are processed, entities identified, and ultimate the function to create fields which and transform into data tables exists, which supports the ability to move data contained in documents into database systems.
Some key capabilities associated with governance and security were also reviewed. This included commentary relating to privacy, control and flexibility, and the fact it is vital to offer security controls applied to AI because of outside counsel guidelines and requirements — not unlike requirements associated with the cloud.
NetDocuments – Industry Perspective
NetDocuments also discussed some of critical success factors for our industry, noting how legal is a prime target industry for AI because of complex, large datasets. One is security, for it cannot be overstated enough how it is important to understand the customer in the legal space, including a special understanding of data compliance and ethical compliance considerations when serving the legal vertical. Another is usability, features and functionality are also important to those busy people working within the legal profession. To that end, the company strives to make using their app store and AI functionality easy, and to render consistent responses to AI prompts.
That is a perfect segue into another key area, that being prompt engineering. NetDocuments, like many top-flight AI legal vendors, understands that prompt engineering is as much an art as it is a science. Accordingly, offering prompt engineering training and helping the end user develop AI familiarity and expertise are considered very important pillars within NetDocuments.
NetDocuments – Use Cases And Functionality
What are some specific use cases where NetDocuments is helping to deliver a product with great usability? The Contract Playbook Pattern Builder app is integrated into Microsoft Word and the functions run in a Word panel to help streamline the process of applying business rules and law firm expertise to a legal work task. This was impressive indeed. And the very user-friendly capability of loading a document, selecting a level of summary one wants (small, medium large) and generating a document summary was also an eye opener.
Finally, it is important to note that Microsoft and NetDocuments have a strong partnership, which is beneficial in the sense that both parties are working to prevent harmful data in their AI models. Of course, sometimes you have “harmful data” like that in legal, for it is not uncommon for poor behavior, profanity, or inappropriate conduct to be dealt with in the context of legal cases (even if that type of data is typically excluded from most AI models from processing). Prohibiting AT to not using ingested data to train LLM, not retain data which is sent over, and not having human review of the data are all over strong elements of the Microsoft and NetDocuments partnership.
Finally, the update closed with functionality where it takes only seconds to generate a deposition summary, of whatever length one wants, which is generated by generative AI and Pattern Builder. In terms of the end user value of this, data from the deposition summary which stored in NetDocuments can be converted to entities and fields, and subsequently loaded to matter management systems time and billing, systems, etc. And, just to complete the cycle and cover this functionality again, templates for the extraction of data from documents can be downloaded from studio apps, and ultimately can be expanded to create customized, bespoke apps in Pattern Builder to extract data in a customized manner. This can be done with a variety of legal documents, some examples being lease agreements, complaints, deposition, etc.
NetDocuments – Summing Up
Clearly, NetDocuments is product geared to allow members of the legal profession to review any document and create a useful summary from the document. They allow users to run some of the available automation tools and apply a firm’s expertise to a document or task, such as utilizing a clause bank or logic within the contract playbook to automate a contract review. NetDocuments looks forward to continuing their product development function and continue to deliver value to the legal profession via the development of innovative products and expanding their network of legal-focused apps to serve the industry.
iManage Company Update
As my ILTA committee colleagues at iManage might say, perhaps I am saving the best for last.
Introduced by Sergey Polak of the same ILTA Strategic Liaison Committee, Neil Araujo, iManage Chief Executive Office, took the stage to deliver the much anticipated and well attended iManage update, along with Shawn Misquitta, EVP of Product Management at iManage.
The introductory story Niel told – how he and Sergey worked together over 25 years ago on an installation together – was telling and speaks volumes to iManage’s deep connection to the legal profession. They’ve been working side-by-side with most of the largest law firms in the world for decades, and their domain knowledge within DMS and the legal profession is unparalleled. As are their Wednesday evening ILTACON parties.
iManage – Some Informative, Impressive Metrics
First, the company shared some healthy and robust usage metrics. One leading indicator was how cloud revenue has growth 38% year-over-year. Currently, the company serves over 4,000 customers, including 81% of the Am Law 200. And iManage is 1,000 employees strong, very impressive growth from the 51 employees in place at the time they became a standalone company. iManage has many long-standing relationships with leading law firms developed via close alignment with the legal industry for many years.
Here’s a few more numbers. Currently, 61% of iManage’s customers are in the cloud. And by a 5-1 margin, iManage cloud is the choice of ILTA members. The company has 100,000 users in Global 100 law firms and there are 1,400 midmarket firms in the cloud. Overall, iManage supports 700M transactions per day, 450M/month new documents and emails, and stores over 11B documents.
And here’s one final number about sustainability about which the company is proud. Approximately 3,000 tons/month of CO2 is avoided as a result of moving on-prem to iManage Cloud, the main driver being energy efficiency. Great progress on another front near and dear to the hearts of many.
iManage – Company Priorities
The presentation then shifted to iManage’s priorities. These include the following areas.
Platform and cloud maturity – With a product running on the Microsoft platform, integration with Microsoft 365 and platform AI services, high performance and scalability, enterprise grade security and continuous product updates are all part of iManage’s DNA. There are no more “old versions,” that’s been replaced by a culture of constant improvement via frequent product updates.
Workflow – The company spoke to many products in their portfolio delivering process improvement and value to the legal profession. These include iManage Tracker, iManage Closing Folders, Power Automate integration, all initiatives focused on specific areas adding great value within the legal ecosystem. A ton of great progress is being made to help streamline and improve legal processes.
Data Governance – iManage renewed their dedication to security and governance outlining their efforts related to zero trust and zero touch cloud architecture, many of which are supported by their Security Policy Manager product and associated threat alert tools.
iManage – Perspective On The Legal Profession
Collective Knowledge. What is iManage’s perspective as it relates to one of the core elements of their business — collective knowledge? The company update outlined efforts to support data enrichment via extended metadata, enhanced search and findability, automated classification, and knowledge curation. As well as one of the near-term product development goals is working to make the product perhaps a bit more like Google in terms of changing indexes, improving search experience, and examining technologies they can bring to bear to help improve search.
iManage and AI. In this area, iManage described the many ways they are using AI within their portfolio to bolster functionality. Insight+, a knowledge search and management solution built natively in the iManage Cloud platform, which was announced at ILTACON, is a big part of that. As is iManage AI, a powerful new AI engine built natively into its knowledge work cloud platform, which was also announced at the conference.
Process Improvement. One of the company goals is to empower users to be more creative and do more interesting work because the computer can do the “boring stuff” people don’t like to do. So, to that end, embedding AI into the iManage platform so the platform might automate repetitive, boring tasks and improve the user’s experience is a priority. As is the challenge of unlocking access to data to help improve the quality of the responses one might receive from technologies like Copilot or other Generative AI.
Knowledge Study. The company also announced the near-term release of a major study – The iManage Knowledge Work Maturity Mode – which iManage hopes will help customers to engage with them to better frame their own roadmaps with how organizations work.
iManage – User Experience
As the presentation entered the final 20 minutes, the company highlighted some additional items. Working in a single platform — to bring together documents, knowledge, AI and governance — is a key value proposition of iManage. They also expressed a desire to eliminate friction via having deep integration with the Microsoft environment. What exactly does “eliminate friction” mean? Tasks such as co-authoring (powered by improved data chunking), Microsoft Teams collaboration, more automation, and better workflows.
This is accomplished due to the fact iManage users can interface with their documents in various tools — Teams, Outlook, Web — regardless of the interface, the Security Policy Manager applies approved governance controls against documents in all the areas.
iManage – Look to the Future and Final Thoughts
In terms of the future, iManage is excited about the possibilities presented by connectors and Power Automate (a set of building blocks — from Microsoft and other third parties like Docusign and others in their ecosystem) which is one of the functions generating the most interest by users when iManage runs user sessions. They are also motivated to continue to expand knowledge reuse via technologies such as transaction management execution.
And, finally, there are promising developments related to engagement centric task management in the platform. iManage Tracker, matter centric cost management tools and matter centric task tools are all part of a suite of services delivered by the company targeting this area. This is due to the belief it is super-convenient and efficient to have task lists matter centric and have the task list be user centric — and associated within the DMS — to reduce platforms and improve one’s ability to work easier. The ability to transfer emails and other materials directly into Tracker is also interesting.
A few final words on the new iManage AI capabilities. Insight+ introduces the concept of managing taxonomies so that a knowledge administrator can set this up to support legal work. iManage is working with the SALI Alliance to try to use industry standard taxonomies as well. Taxonomies allow one to generate workflows to help users appropriately classify their content, which in turn should make it easier to search content and find information in new, better ways.
As it relates to the iManage AI product, some of the areas discussed included classification and enrichment, and email AI Assistant, and other generative AI capabilities. The hope is that functions such as document classification and email filings should be accelerated and simplified like their Mailbox Assistant. What is one use case for this? Perhaps the common “problem” of working through a document shared area or mailbox to classify content when an attorney leaves. These technologies now offer an opportunity to automatically file emails for attorneys who left a law firm, so you do not need to keep a mailbox for a very long period of time.
A final thought on generative AI within iManage was that they expressed a thought that using LLM on curated data sets yields the best results and reduces AI hallucinations. That, coupled with the company’s ability to protect the security of content, trust settings, ethical walls, and grounding for context, offers an ability for iManage to accept a set of documents to iManage AI and then process questions about the document sets. This accelerates how work is done, especially when one needs to go through large volumes of data.
How might the iManage company update be summed up? iManage is hopeful their product features and future improvements will make work smoother, smarter, safer.
I know this is a lot of information. My apologies for that, it’s not easy to cover all the salient points of a very rich hour presentation and my goal was to be a bit more detailed and share many of the specifics covered in the meetings — things which might not bubble to the surface in a 1,200 word piece on ILTACON in the public domain.
Kenneth Jones is the Chief Operating Officer of Xerdict Group LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tanenbaum Keale LLP that offers technology-based services including SaaS litigation and matter management applications to the Firm’s clients.