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Navigating Legal Tech Trends: Insights from Joy Heath Rush



As the CEO of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA), Joy Heath Rush stands at the exciting intersection of law and technology and has decided to share her insights with us as part of the lead-up to Future Lawyer USA. Follow along as we explore how she leads the legal community with expertise, dedication, and a passion for innovation. Her goal is to foster a positive environment for both professionals and staff, leveraging her experience in legal technology and unwavering commitment to excellence.

As a proud media partner of FLUSA, ILTA stands as the premier global community for legal technologists, offering a wealth of resources to enhance the delivery of legal services. From fostering connections and providing essential content and conversations to upholding credibility and nurturing a vibrant community, ILTA serves as a trusted and inclusive hub for professionals seeking education, peer support, and career advancement in the legal technology sphere.



 

What are the most exciting developments in legal technology trends and practices in the last few months for you personally? What specifically stands out to you in terms of implementation and adoption practices?


It seems impossible to have a legal technology conversation today without discussing generative AI.


However, what I am hearing from legal tech leaders is that the excitement around GAI has sparked a more general curiosity and enthusiasm about technology overall.  Lawyers want to understand more about how technology can aid them in their practice, as well as help them run the business.  


This is resulting in conversations that sound like this ….


Lawyer:  “Can AI do x for me in my practice?”


IT Team:  “Maybe.  However, we have an existing tool that can do that today.  Let me show you.”


I personally LOVE this!


In terms of adoption and implementation practices and processes, three areas stand out.


First, GAI is still just tech.  Organizations are learning that their implementation plans and best practices apply to GAI as equally as to other types of tech.


Second, the vetting of tech providers in a market where a huge number of start-ups have emerged requires some new questions.  The old adage of “never do business with a legal tech provider less than five years old” may not be possible, much less desirable.  And given the high cost of many AI tools, a risk of making a mistake in this area must be weighted.  We may need to be less risk averse than we have been.


Third, I have been very pleased to see the organic growth of governance around tech selection and implementation. For many years, tech selection has involved a multidisciplinary team (and the security group is NOT always the department of no).  But this team has expanded to include lawyers discussing ethical considerations and information governance professionals highlighting issues around retention and destruction of data.


 

How has the dynamic between law firms, clients and solution providers changed in recent times, given your expert perspective as the CEO of the ILTA?


There are several changes taking place that are notable.  First, many law firms have created a formal innovation function.  This sometimes reports to the CIO, is sometimes combined with knowledge management, and sometimes stands alone.  However, the common thread seems to be that the innovation role acts as the vetting mechanism or funnel for new technology requests coming from the practice.  The person heading this function is generally a lawyer. This role is often tasked with client-facing conversations about technology.


Second, the law department Chief of Staff or Head of Legal Operations is increasingly responsible for law department specific technology.  In that role, they may be involved in the development and discussion of outside counsel guidelines (OCGs) that govern, in particular, use of AI by outside counsel.  Corporations are far from consistent in their guidelines for outside counsel concerning the use of AI, with directives ranging from “no use of AI period” to “we expect you to leverage AI and thereby lower my bill.”


Third, established technology providers find themselves in a tough place in navigating the balancing act between ongoing maintenance and support of existing solutions and new ones that employ emerging technology.  Those on the consulting side are expected to be deep experts quickly on a range of new products, bridging the gap as their clients climb the learning curve.


Finally, everyone is in a pricing quandary.  Many GAI-enabled solutions are expensive.  Some are metered.  Providers need to make a profit (and we’ll leave discussion of PE-backed providers for another time), law firms need to understand what their going-forward pricing model might look like, and law departments are always pressured to manage costs.


The key to making all of the above result in better tech for the legal sector is having meaningful and transparent conversations about data, use cases, and pricing.


 

How important do you think upskilling the existing workforce and bringing in more diverse skills in new workforce hires is at the moment? How is the traditional legal practice handling change management, and what would be your advice?


Upskilling our existing workforce - especially in “hot” specialities such as security and data science - may be the only way many organizations can afford to acquire and retain top talent.


On the question about change management, some things have, ironically, not changed.  Engaging key stakeholders early in the process, focusing on communicating the change in multiple ways over time, and providing appropriate training are table stakes for change.


The challenge at present is establishing a common vocabulary.  AI and GenAI are used interchangeably, for example.  Those leading change need to make a concerted effort to establish that common vocabulary to prevent confusion as the project moves forward.


And, as always, we need to keep a relentless focus on the desired outcome to prevent scope creep.


 

Why are meetups and in-person conferences important and how do they contribute to and impact the conversation around legal innovation?


In-person conversations have two distinct advantages over virtual meetings:  minimal multi-tasking and speaking “under the tent.”


We seem almost to feel compelled to multitask when engaged in a virtual meeting.  When multitasking, you cannot be fully present either to absorb or to engage.    


When discussing technology successes - and even more so technology failures - it is often more comfortable being open in a one-to-one or small group setting where recording and AI notetaking are not present.  This applies even more to security conversations, notably those concerning breaches or ransomware.


In-person conversations almost always speed trust between and among people.  When someone trusts you, they will tell you more than they would otherwise.  A roadmap for success is incredibly valuable.  A map showing every detour, pothole, and damaged bridge can be even more valuable.


 

What is your short-term hope for the legal community when it comes to legal technology practices, and what does the future look like?


My short-term hope is that the community as a whole accepts the fact that technology is an ecosystem, rather than a series of silo-ed products.  The “connective tissue” for legal tech systems must be respected and taken into account as tech moves forward.  As noted earlier, this requires transparent conversations and a recognition that we are all learning.


The future looks surprisingly like the past in that lawyers will provide high quality legal advice to clients - whether internal or external - and that they will use technology to provide that advice more quickly and with even higher quality.


What will likely look different is the mix of human intelligence and effort and technology.


What will almost certainly look different is what we pay for both the advice and the technology.


 

Secure your Final Release Ticket today to hear more from Joy and our other amazing speakers at Future Lawyer USA!










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