Two of the most frequent questions I hear from prospective customers and audiences at conferences are:
1) From Law Firms – “How can I find good use cases for Neota Logic in my firm”; and
2) From Corporate Counsel – “What can I do to encourage my firms to use available technologies to improve efficiency and quality of their services?”.
The answer is very similar to both audiences:
1) For Firms – look for the materials you already have that provide a comprehensive overview of compliance across multiple jurisdictions (think 50 state survey PDFs on your website;
2) For Corporate Counsel – the next time you ask your firm to give you an overview of a compliance schema to assist you in providing advice to your business clients, or ask for a training program as part of a comprehensive compliance schema in an area of the law, suggest that the firm look for ways to turn that content into actionable answers.
The status quo for firms providing compliance support is a mediocre experience for end users. Firms produce a survey of the black letter law and case law across 50 states (data breach reporting requirements or financial services cross-border sales restrictions, as examples) and provide an indexed pdf that runs several hundred pages. This format has fundamental deficiencies: it is stale the moment it is published, difficult to navigate, and requires another lawyer to interpret the law in light of the facts of a particular business situation. Often, these projects are part of an overall compliance program and function as training tools or “check the box” exercises as a shield against future compliance failure, rather than acting as useful decision support tools.
Thankfully, there is a better way. Several firms are offering subscription services packaging advice in discrete practice areas that provide answers to simple questions and form documents, often bundled with some amount of lawyers’ time. Allen & Overy’s “Aosphere”, offers “rulefinders” for a variety of financial and cross border transactions. Cooley’s “Cooley Go” provides template documents for startups (one of several firms offering this service for free or subscription) which are somewhat dynamic based on the startup’s answers to survey questions. A search of most law firm’s websites reveals mountains of information available for free or for purchase. These services are a step in the right direction, and fine as far as they go, but all are providing information and content, not advice and answers.
Juxtapose these examples with firms who are providing truly innovative, self-service automated advice. Foley & Lardner recognized an unmet need in the market for a different kind of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) compliance support. Small to mid-sized manufacturers in the Midwest did not have budgets for Chief Compliance Officers or to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for compliance programs and ongoing training. They were however, doing business on a global scale and facing a lurking risk of non-compliance that could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Enter, Foley Global Risk Solutions (“GRS”), which provides Clients a cost effective, automated, self-service risk assessment and “curb side advisor”, which provide specific advice on the current state of compliance risk based on the type of business conducted and where in the world it is conducted. In addition, it takes into account how a Client company is operating and offers advice as to the acceptability of a specific transaction based on answers to a few straightforward questions. A subscription to Foley’s GRS product comes with attorney time ‘bundled in’ for those situations where the automated system can’t provide an answer. Foley GRS Clients receive accurate and timely advice, on-demand when they need it, for a reasonable, fixed monthly fee.
Akerman LLP recently launched the Akerman Data Law Center (“DLC”). Similar in concept to GRS, the DLC provides Clients with access to advisory services on data breach reporting requirements. Akerman realized that for every Client who commissioned them to perform a bi-annual survey of data breach law there were many who could use this advice, but could not afford it. They also realized that in a dynamic area of law like data privacy, the information was out of date the day it was published, not to mention that it didn’t provide clear guidance to a compliance professional on whether and what she needs to report when her company has a suspected data breach. In this high-pressure, high-stakes situation, a survey is next to useless. Akerman has automated advice in this area to provide subscribers to the DLC with answers based on the facts of the event, that provides specific guidance on what to do in a specific data breach situation.
These examples are a glimpse of what is possible…not in some distant future, but today. It is incumbent upon firms who seek to lead to the future to embrace this change. It is also incumbent upon Corporate Counsel who purchase legal services to demand it. So, if you are a practice area or innovation leader at your firm, the next time a Client asks for a fifty state survey, use it as an opportunity to propose something more useful and reusable. If you are in-house and asking for outside counsel’s assistance with a compliance problem, challenge your firms to come up with something that is better, faster and cheaper. True innovation is happening, providing higher quality, less expensive legal advice; you can choose to drive this change.