Another law firm aims to innovate in-house

Thomas Maremaa
November 28, 2017

Named the number one most innovative law firm in North America (2016) by the Financial Times, Orrick recently opened Orrick Labs, an in-house team of technologists dedicated to developing leading-edge, innovative legal service solutions. When their customized client service portal turned out to be a big success, the firm decided to keep innovating. Says Chairman and CEO Mitch Zuklie, “We have many more ideas for using AI and other applications that are not available on the market today that could be transformational in the way we deliver services. We see the opportunity to move more quickly and decided to dedicate an in-house team to this unique effort.”

Zuklie describes Orrick Labs as a “small skunkworks-style operation with its own business plan. […] I expect its first deliverables will have both internal and client facing applications.” Technology Architect Jackson Ratcliffe says the goal of the new venture is: “Short term, we’re focused on developing a better, cloud-based system for our lawyers and our clients to collaborate. Longer term, [it] will help the firm bring design thinking and machine learning to our practice in a way that we hope enhances the delivery of legal services and the practice of law.”

One underlying theme to much of the ground-breaking technology currently revolutionizing the legal industry, including ROSS, is its ability to let lawyers get back to lawyering. Says Zuklie, “Law lags other industries in the use of technology and we hope Orrick Labs will help change that. By customizing technology to the way law is practiced, we hope to enable our lawyers focus on the more interesting and strategic legal questions. By listening to our clients and making data and tools available to them, we hope to empower in-house teams and also to make our services more transparent.”

Some of the things the team will be working on include building a cloud-based infrastructure for collaborative sharing and the organizing of client and case information. “We’re calling it the legal dashboard system, or DASH, and it will be customized to the way our teams work,” says Ratcliffe. “We implemented the precursor to this system for the Orrick Technology Companies Group and it is now in use for more than 850 clients globally. With that infrastructure in place, we’ll add cloud-based AI, as well as other web services like DocuSign, translation and OCR.”

“AI, the cloud, new entrants in the market and services like ROSS Intelligence are further accelerating those changes and disaggregating the way services are delivered.”

I asked Zuklie if he felt law firms could survive without being innovative or adopting new technology. “I think we’re at a tipping point, where advancements in technology, client demands, and a war for talent are creating an environment for innovation. AI, the cloud, new entrants in the market and services like ROSS Intelligence are further accelerating those changes and disaggregating the way services are delivered.”

Zuklie believes everyone will need to adapt. “Every client I meet with asks: ‘What are you doing to innovate and add value?’ Some lateral candidates and law students are focused on this as well. Whether a firm decides to invest in actually driving innovation will depend on their strategy. […] We have a long history ourselves of innovation on talent, process and technology. It’s part of our culture and we believe it’s key to our success.”

Thomas Maremaa

Growth Marketer at ROSS Intelligence