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Q&A with Leslie McKnew, Vice President, Litigation, Cisco

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How are newer technologies helping your legal department?
For one thing, by bringing the e-discovery function in-house we are continuing to see savings in time, resources, and money. With their in-depth knowledge of our systems, data, and their substantive expertise, our e-discovery experts are incredibly effective at staying on top of new technologies and assessing whether they will drive increased efficiencies and cost reduction in our practice while meeting our standards. We have used types of predictive coding for document review in certain use cases. And our legal operations team is pursuing machine learning to spot non-standard or outlier provisions in contracts. We also use our collaboration tools as our standard way of working with each other and our law firms. All of our team meetings and nearly all of our internal team interactions are done over Webex video if we are not in the same office. And almost all of our case pitches, check points meetings, mock exercises, and expert interviews have somebody participating over our TelePresence technology. For our mock arguments, our counsel often is not local and neither are our mock judge panels, so we will have multiple locations participating in an exercise at the same time. We’ve also been doing more depositions over TelePresence. In addition to getting the personal connection and feeling like you are in the same room, these collaboration tools allow us to include a broader network of people, save on travel, and simplify and expedite scheduling.

How do you make sure new technologies are adopted and successful?
We have a legal operations team, and they do a great job of collecting feedback on what problems we are trying to solve, assessing new technologies, and ensuring that the technologies actually are a solution to the problem. They have taught us that when you bring new tools in, it’s not just about the technology, it’s equally critical to think about the people and processes. New technologies need to integrate into people’s workflow. If they’re not, you’re just creating more work for them, which is the antithesis of why you’re getting the technology in the first place. In addition, from the litigation perspective, you also need to make sure that when new applications are brought into the organization, they can extract data from your systems efficiently and support data preservation.

How else do you see technology impacting how you work with your firms or the services they offer?
We have integrated our collaboration tools into our workflows internally and with outside counsel. We use our Webex Teams platform to collaborate on and share documents in an efficient way. It takes us out of our email and provides a platform where we can work on documents internally and with our outside counsel in an efficient way. Looking ahead, I think law firms can increase their use of technology to capture all the lessons and knowledge that are in people’s heads and anonymize the data they have about judges, venues, case types, strategies, and costs, and house it in a way that they and their clients can easily tap into it to make data-driven decisions.

Analyzing data for outcomes and trends is critical for structuring the relationships with our outside counsel as well. Fixed fee arrangements are standard for our cases and projects with hourly billing being the alternative (or outlier) fee arrangement. So basic analytics helps us figure out how much work is likely to be involved and what costs would be reasonable. We can articulate the value that we see the law firm bringing to the relationship and determine how to measure and reward success, with data driving the discussion. That’s important, because if one party in the relationship feels that it’s not fair to them, the fixed fee arrangement isn’t going to work.

Where do you see the technology going in the future?
For us, it’s about dealing with the proliferation of data. I think the next level will be pulling that data together to get to an indirect conclusion—making things more predictive, like if we know that when A, B, and C come together, it’s likely that D is going to occur. I think law firms, not just legal departments, will be using those tools. I know there are already vendors working on more powerful, AI-enabled analytics, particularly around specific venues, courts, and judgments. Going into litigation, you could know that you are now in front of this judge who only grants summary judgment 10 percent of the time, so you could factor that into your budget. You will be able to use those broader data sets to reach conclusions and make decisions in different scenarios and situations.