21st February 2024

Looking ahead, Dan Lear talks with Stephanie Wilkins about what evolutions the next 5-10 years may bring to the legal profession. Stephanie explains the focus of her panel discussion, particularly discussing AI’s current and potential applications in the legal world as it moves from theoretical to practical uses. 

Dan Lear is vice president of partnerships at InfoTrack.

Stephanie Wilkins is the Editor-in-Chief of Legaltech News at ALM.

Transcript

Dan Lear:

Hello and welcome to another edition of On the Road with Legal Talk Network. This is Dan Lear. I’m the VP of Partnerships at InfoTrack, and I’m the host for this episode, which is being recorded live on location at Legal Week 2024 in New York City. Joining me now is Stephanie Wilkins. Stephanie, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of On the Road.

Stephanie Wilkins:

Thank you for having me.

Dan Lear:

So I could go on and on about what a fabulous person you are and all the amazing things you do for the industry, but I would rather you tell everyone because that way I make sure I don’t miss anything or leave anything out. So why don’t you tell the world about who you are and what you do?

Stephanie Wilkins:

Okay. I’ll probably be less effusive than you are about myself, but I am Stephanie Wilkins. I’m the editor in chief of Legal Tech News here at ALM who’s putting on this whole show. So

Dan Lear:

Our gracious hosts,

Stephanie Wilkins:

Yes, this is really our particularly legal tech news at a LM. This is our big lift of the year. It’s a tech show. So we’ve been doing a lot of work. We’re a little bit tired, but it all pays off to be here this week. It’s a great level of energy going on. I’m excited to be

Dan Lear:

Here. And you’re a busy woman here. I mean, you were hosting an awards last night. This isn’t tech, this is more a fantasy. Are you a Harry Potter fan? Yeah, of course. Okay, so you need the time Turner is what you were mentioning, right? Yes. So that you could go back and do multiple things while you’re hanging out here.

Stephanie Wilkins:

Yes. There are also moments. I wish I had an invisibility cloak so people couldn’t find me. But yes,

Dan Lear:

This is not the Harry Potter fan podcast, but we’ll just leave that for those of you out there who are fans of Potter. So let’s dive in. Your panel is the future of the legal industry. Yes.

Stephanie Wilkins:

The future state of the industry.

Dan Lear:

Let’s just set it up quickly, talk about who is on the panel, what roles these folks play in the industry. Tell us a little bit about the framework for it.

Stephanie Wilkins:

For sure. So every year in the morning, the main session at nine o’clock tomorrow morning, they do the current state of the industry with a lot of data and a lot of what’s going on. And that sort of cues up us to do the future state of the industry. So picking up from where we are now and what we expect to see in the next year, we have a moderator and then there are five women on this panel talking about the future

Dan Lear:

Because Fantastic. The

Stephanie Wilkins:

Future is female. It is. And so we have all the different perspectives. We have law firm perspective, legal ops, perspective. I do the tech perspective. Then we have somebody who works in all of those verticals, but is also an expert in DEI. She won, actually won an award last night for DEI and diversity and inclusion, which is great. That’s fantastic. So we’re just going to sort of run the gamut and see what we’re seeing now, the trends we’re seeing going forward, what we expect to see, and I sort of sprinkle tech in through all of it.

Dan Lear:

So this is a very broad question, but you and I have chatted a little bit, so I know to some degree where you’re going to go with this, but I want the listeners to stay with us and to be candid, given who you are and where you sit, I think you’re in a very interesting place to sort of speak to the future state of the industry. So as you think about this panel, what does that look like? And we’re obviously not prognosticating 50 years into the future, a hundred years into the future. We’ll probably we’ll circle back into 12 months and see how accurate we were, but so talk to me about what you expect to discuss in the panel and what you think is coming up and what the future looks like.

Stephanie Wilkins:

Sure. I know it’s funny you said we’re not looking 50 years into the future, but I feel like I always joke that one year in AI years is seven years. Everything is moving. It’s

Dan Lear:

Like dog ears. Yeah,

Stephanie Wilkins:

Exactly. Everything moves so fast. So I mean, unlike any other technology we’ve seen just the acceleration of this and the change is happening so quickly. We’re seeing transformation in other levels we never have before. So it makes our jobs even harder to predict what’s coming because it all changes so fast. Totally. But it really is, I mean, from the technology perspective, I mean, I would say last year at Legal week, we had just had chat. GPT had come out and GT four, and it was very buzzy. Some people were resisting it, some people were all in. It was just a lot of hype and not a lot. I mean, people didn’t know what to expect from it yet.

Dan Lear:

Not really here, but some were scared, right? Yes. Well, no,

Stephanie Wilkins:

We had an opening session. We had a standing room only last year and this year AI workshop, and people just fully admitted last year. Some of them were just scared. I mean, a lot of people don’t change as it is, and this one’s coming. So then this year, I mean, AI is everywhere. It’s in almost every session, and which is obviously important. I do think it’s critical to the industry and it is going to revolutionize everything we do. But then even going forward in the next year, and I mean this is a bold prediction, so like you said, don’t hold me to it. No, no. I like it. I like it. But I actually predict that next year we won’t even necessarily have every session be called AI something, something, because it will be so ingrained in such almost table stakes at that point. It really is going to integrate itself into every aspect of the law. So I think we’re going to go back to talking about certain topics or processes or whatever, and AI is just going to be a given. I think we were talking earlier, it’s like the cloud, right? Totally. You used to specify, oh, this is in the cloud, and now it’s just no one even mentions it anymore because it’s ubiquitous. Right. Well,

Dan Lear:

And let’s actually drill down on that analogy actually kind of a fun one mean, and AI maybe has a little more cultural baggage. We’ve all seen, or many of us have seen the Terminator or these other movies. But if we don’t go into the future state of the industry, but instead rewind 10 years and place ourselves back in 20 13, 20 14, there was a lot of scare mongering about the right, is it secure? Where is this data? How can I get it? How can I know it’s going to be there? Can you trust the people who have taken it? So it does feel like a lot of those same questions

Stephanie Wilkins:

Absolutely

Dan Lear:

Are just coming up only as related to ai.

Stephanie Wilkins:

Yeah, absolutely. And I think in the last year we’ve made a lot of progress on those questions, which is good. I mean, there’s still ways to go, but we’re less in the trying to convert people stage so much as people know it’s here and they know they need to understand it. So it’s just the whole legal industry is in sort of an education mode that I haven’t seen in a long, long time. People are just learning and people are collaborating. I mean, people that are typically rivals or competition are getting in the same room and talking about how to use this and what you can do with it.

Dan Lear:

And I think unlike the cloud, and this is not to denigrate any of those folks who run cloud businesses out there, I apologize to some degree and the cloud is more than this, but to really kind of dumb it down. And just for our purposes of our quick conversation, to some degree, the cloud is sort of a replacement for the filing cabinet that you had in the back room, and instead the data all lives in one place as opposed to another. To be fair, AI is a lot closer to what lawyers do or legal professionals more broadly do than put stuff in a filing cabinet. So there is reason, at least for a different kind of consideration about it than maybe there was for the cloud.

Stephanie Wilkins:

Well, yeah, and it’s interesting. I mean, whether or not they knew it, lawyers have actually been using AI for a long time. This is just a whole new iteration of it, a whole new flavor of it. It’s fancy. It feels like magic, but I mean, AI has been around for a long time, and everyone’s just talking about this because when chat GPT came out, it felt like magic and it’s so much bigger than legal. It’s taken over the world because of its powers. But again, the same thing I was saying, how it will just be table stakes in the future. Every lawyer is not necessarily going to have to know they’re using ai. They just want to know they’re using a tool to get the job done and get the results they need. AI is just going to be in there. So whether or not people, if they’re afraid of understanding, I mean, it’s complex for sure. We study this to be able to write about it. Not everybody has to be a technology expert, but it’s just going to be part of what you’re using.

Dan Lear:

So let’s flash forward a year, or at least consider this in the terms of how your conversation will go in the panel. What does it look like to begin to see AI integrated and to see that conversation sort of dissipate? Let’s talk just a little bit more again, or maybe even flash forward 10 years, right? Yeah. How does AI become in 10 years? The cloud is today? Yeah,

Stephanie Wilkins:

It really is. Successful use cases. I mean, a lot of it, the first year of it was theoretical. What can we do with this? I mean, I always say it was more of a, not all of it, but there were definitely, as all these providers, 10,000 came out with all these tools, and some of them were just a solution looking for a problem. And that’s not the way this works. That’s not the way any technology should work. Totally. Especially in legal. I mean, you start by saying, I have this problem to solve, and then you figure out the right tool to solve it. And that’s the same with ai. I mean, I feel like there was this inclination originally for people to be like, can we throw AI on that? And they’re like, well, that’s really not, I mean, I get it. It’s attractive, but that’s not how it should go.

And so the more and more, I mean, people are focusing on practical use cases for it and sharing those. And when people see how it’s solving specific problems and they’re getting ROI from it, that’s how it’s going to change things. I mean, I think back to totally date myself to the early days of eDiscovery when I was an attorney or I was doing legal research, and I would literally, I would spend an entire weekend, 25 hours over the course of two days to try to find that one case a partner said existed. And now with these tools, you can do that exercise I did for 25 hours in an hour, and it would’ve saved a lot of mental stress. I would’ve given me my weekend back when I’m still lawyers. We’re still going to be busy. I mean, there’s always more work to do. I dunno, any lawyer that ever says, oh, I felt like I had all the time in the world to perfect everything. I mean, there’s always going to be plenty of work to do, but it’ll integrate it. Once you start seeing the payoffs, people will want to use it more.

Dan Lear:

Well, this is a conversation I think I have had. I’ve been kicking around in this space for a while and seeing a few of these different types of technologies come and go. And I think you can start with even books or, I mean books existed for pretty, but still access to those or better access to case law or legal researcher, electronic legal researcher or email or telephones or anything that comes along. Initially, there is a lot of hesitation and question about what does this look like? How is this going to transform? And then lo and behold, fast forward however many decades and the profession marches on and legal professionals still have plenty to do. Yeah. Maybe what they’ve done has changed a little bit, but lawyers always seem to be able to keep themselves busy. Yes.

Stephanie Wilkins:

There is no shortage of work. I mean, honestly, I think these technologies, AI in particular, will allow lawyers and other legal professionals to do their top level work up to their license. Nobody went to law school to dig through boxes of paper, even though that’s what a lot of us did. And then when it became electronic, it was still clicking and clicking and clicking, and it was just, and on top of it, putting in your own hours, you think of every single thing that goes into a job, any job. So much of it is B and manual and rote and just not actually additive. I mean, it’s necessary, but it’s not actually you doing your job and producing the results. So if these technologies can knock out those things, it can let legal professionals actually focus on their real projects and their strategic advice. They’re look forward looking. I mean, helping your clients see what’s coming down the road rather than just churning out work. Totally.

Dan Lear:

Awesome. Well, I think we’ve reached the end of the road for this episode of On the Road. Thank you so much, Stephanie, for being with us.

Stephanie Wilkins:

Yeah, thank you for having me.

Dan Lear:

If our listeners have questions or want to follow up or they want to reach out to you, you’re a pretty visible person, but how might they do that? Is there a preferred social media for you?

Stephanie Wilkins:

I’m on LinkedIn, whether or not I want to become on LinkedIn all day every day, but our site is Legal Tech News, so that’s law.com, legal tech news. I think our contact information is on there, but I am on LinkedIn. You can ping me. I don’t promise I will respond immediately, but I do check it and

Dan Lear:

Yeah. Awesome. Well, I want to thank our listeners for tuning in. If you like what you heard, please rate and review us in Apple Podcast, Spotify, Amazon music, or your favorite podcasting app. Until next time, I am Dan Lear and you’ve been listening to On the Road with Legal Talk Network.

Speaker 3:

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