#LegalTechLives with Martin Tully, litigation partner, Akerman LLP and co-chair, Data Law Practice

Thomas Maremaa
November 16, 2017

Martin T. Tully is a litigation partner with the Chicago office of Akerman LLP and co-chair of the firm’s Data Law Practice. He is a veteran trial lawyer with more than 25 years of national experience representing companies and individuals in complex commercial litigation concerning a broad array of fields and industries.

Empowered by his commercial litigation practice, Martin is nationally recognized for his knowledge and experience in the fields of electronic discovery, information governance and data security/data privacy. His expertise helps clients to stay ahead of the curve in each of these fields with respect to developing law, technology, and best practices, whether in the context of active litigation and regulatory matters, or in seeking to avoid them. He is also adept at leveraging both technology and strategic partnerships with technologists to achieve client objectives.

Martin advances thought-leadership in Data Law through his active membership in various groups, including the Sedona Conference Working Group on Data Security and Privacy Liability (WG-11) and he has published and presented extensively on the subjects of e-discovery, information governance, cybersecurity, and legal technology. In addition, Martin has been recognized by Chambers USA, Nationwide, for Litigation: E-Discovery; and has been acknowledged by Who’s Who Legal as being “steps ahead of his competitors” and “widely regarded for his ‘superior knowledge’ of electronic discovery and information governance.”

You are both a mayor and a lawyer! How did that happen? And tell me how the roles differ — and how they’re similar.

Yes, I have been privileged to serve as the Mayor of the Village of Downers Grove, IL (pop. 49,000) since May 2011. I was twice-elected to that office after having previously served two terms as a trustee on the Downers Grove Village Council. It all started years ago when I agreed to volunteer as a board member of my local homeowners association. Amazing how one thing leads to another!

As a litigator, my job is to advocate for the best interests of my client and there are usually only two perspectives in every dispute. I am charged with demonstrating that my client’s perspective is the correct one, while the other one is wrong. As mayor, my job is to advocate for the best interests of an entire community of often multiple and diverse perspectives. I am charged with reaching a reasonable consensus outcome on a given issue that is inclusive of input from many perspectives and which should not depend on proving one side “right” or the other “wrong.”

As a veteran trial lawyer, what case taught you the most?

About 15 years ago I had a three-week jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. After receiving a complete defense verdict for my client, the judge discharged the jurors but then invited them to stay and meet with the lawyers on both sides, if they wished, to share their views on the conduct of the case. Incredibly, all of the jurors remained after the trial and met with us for an hour in the judge’s chambers sharing with us their invaluable perspectives and impressions regarding the parties, the witnesses, the lawyers, the arguments, and the evidence. It was a rare learning experience and opportunity for introspection and self-improvement.

What attracted you to law in the first place?

I was on the debate team in high school and was fortunate enough to make it to the State quarterfinals as a freshman. I got hooked on being an advocate in an adversarial setting and decided right there and then I was going to law school so that I could make a living by going to court.

For those who have never been involved in a jury trial, tell me one thing about the process that is exaggerated in TV and films — and one way it is the same.

On some TV law shows, it is made to appear as though the client walks into the lawyer’s office in the morning and by that afternoon has a trial, and by the end of the day has a verdict! This greatly distorts reality, which is that most civil cases take between 3 to 5 years to go to trial.

I have seen the courtroom “stylings” of some fictitious trial lawyers depicted in film and television have an ostensible influence on the style and mannerisms of some real lawyers in actual courtrooms. Talk about life imitating art!

“A lawyer’s duty of technical competence requires appropriate knowledge of these issues and the use of technology to effectively and efficiently meet client obligations.”

Please explain the most significant advances in discovery and why it has made a difference in our profession.

Long gone are the days of simply going through a few file drawers or bankers boxes of paper to determine what is relevant to a dispute. The sheer volume of data that is being created every day, in increasingly varied forms and locations, with even individuals now commonly having 1TB or more of data (and growing), mandates the use of ever more sophisticated tools and technology (“fight tech with tech”) in order to make sense out of chaos. To continue to be effective — and competent — lawyers must embrace and leverage these tools as things continue to evolve.

Of course, you’re interested in the best practices around electronic discovery, information governance and data security/data privacy. Do you find there is a greater understanding of all three nowadays? And has this understanding led to mass adoption of these and other tech?

Awareness and understanding of these issues are slowly increasing across the bench and bar, but nowhere near at the pace that technology issues are constantly advancing. Ethical obligations will drive the move to this greater understanding. ABA Model Rule 1.1 states that “[c]ompetent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” In 2012, the ABA amended commentary language to read that, “[t]o maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

Also, lawyers and law firms that proactively leverage technology to automate the delivery of legal services where practicable will have a huge advantage over those who are reluctant to do so.

Martin Tully Legal Tech Lives with Andrew Arruda CEO of ROSS Intelligence

Do you believe companies are investing enough time and money in technology? In particular, are they putting the right people in place to deal with the changes in tech?

Some companies are all about the tech, while others see the benefits of investing in tech but face obstacles (budget, culture, internal expertise) to taking full advantage of what technological advances have to offer. Shortages of relevant talent and expertise will likely be a challenge in the near term.

Same question about law firms and the legal profession.

As an industry in general, lawyers and law firms have historically been reluctant to embrace change and slow to adopt new technology. But there is a spectrum across which some lawyers and firms have been savvy about embracing technology and truly innovative in leveraging technology and non-traditional service models to enhance and improve the delivery of legal advice.

We at ROSS see AI and law as important partners, especially since AI significantly increases efficiency and continues to evolve. How do you see AI and law developing?

When AI is mentioned in the legal environment, it is often met with disbelief, fear, or irrational exuberance, although I say that none of those reactions is warranted.

True, there are compelling reasons for law firms to embrace the use of AI. Lawyers and their law firms need to recognize the opportunities to deliver greater value to clients by removing some of the more administrative elements of the process of delivering legal advice, and assign the lawyers to higher value, more sophisticated objectives. The technology also creates opportunities for lawyers to develop new skills and increase their value in the marketplace, demonstrating a commitment to innovation in their clients’ best interests. Further, infusing AI into a law firm can make it a more desirable place to work and serve as a method for attraction and retention of legal talent.

But will robots actually replace lawyers? One dire prediction is that due to the growth of AI in law, there will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, and that only specialists will remain: “So if you study law, stop immediately.” But the reality is that legal jobs will not go away, they will just be different. AI will help lawyers work smarter, faster, and cheaper, by allowing them to automate routine tasks and better understand mass quantities of data and make better decisions for clients. Think of AI in the law as “technology-enabled legal services,” more akin to what J.A.R.V.I.S. was to Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies, not what Skynet was to the dwindling survivors of the human race in the Terminator films.

You are the co-chair of the data law practice. That is a fast-moving area of law. What is one advancement in data law that has been the most helpful to the profession/process?

The recent revisions to: The Sedona Principles, Third Edition: Best Practices, Recommendations & Principles for Addressing Electronic Document Production, 19 SEDONA CONF. J. 1 (forthcoming 2018), available here.

Do you believe technology always moves companies forward? Or can traditional firms stay as they are and still thrive?

Down the road, I think we will see three categories of firms: Those that truly innovate and proactively embrace technology to enhance the delivery of legal services even before clients ask; those who are forced by clients to follow suit or be relegated to the dust bin of history; and those may increase reliance upon technology but persist in clinging to the way things have always traditionally been done. I doubt the latter category will survive in the long-run.

And finally, we end all our #LegalTechLives interviews with this burning question: What non-work-related technology would you like to see invented right now?

Teleportation. Failing that, virtual reality remote meetings — “It’s as if you were actually there.”

Thomas Maremaa

Growth Marketer at ROSS Intelligence