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How Expensive Is AI for Law Firms Really?

While AI has arrived for work at some law firms, it is still in the future for most.

It's not that law firms are lagging behind in technology. It's just that the high end solutions are too expensive for most lawyers.

Sure, even a solo practitioner can buy a digital assistant for about $200 to manage a calendar and make electronic deposits. But a small firm will spend about $30,000 to install a software robot to handle legal tasks like workflow management and contract review.

And if you need a system to accommodate 500 users, we're talking $250,000 -- to start. After set up, there's the cost of tech personnel and support. It's a half million dollar robot -- not quite Iron Man dollars but more than Robby the Robot.

When clients look for attorneys, they're looking for someone who will win. But finding that information isn't always the easiest. Sure, attorneys may tout their big victories on their websites, billboards, and subway adds, but the average legal consumer can't easily tell if that $15 million personal injury verdict was a fluke or the norm.

That is, until now. A new startup has launched a free website, Justice Toolbox, that lets users look up the winning-est lawyers by practice area and city -- though there might be some problems with evaluating lawyers based on wins alone.

Firm Automates Mundane Tasks With 'Software Robots'

It's not quite R2D2, but it's not just a cute movie robot either.

RPA, for Robotic Process Automation, is the real deal. They are software robots, and they are going to work at the international law firm Seyfarth Shaw.

The firm will put the robots to work managing client information, reviewing contracts and other tasks as fast as they can get trained. That, by the way, is the key to machine learning.

What Should Small Firms Know About AI?

What should solo practitioners and small firms know about AI?

He was only the highest-scoring point guard in the history of the NBA, that's what! He stood toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, crossed him over and scored on him like a boss!

Wait, you want to know about the other AI? Fine. Work with me here.

Like gifted athletes on the basketball court, solo practitioners and small law firms can own the big leagues on the other court. And AI can get you there. That's what I'm talking about. Artificial Intelligence, not Allen Iverson.

Tech Tips to Protect Client Confidentiality

If there is one thing we should learn from the 1.5 billion email hack at Yahoo, it's that email is not secure.

Many Yahoo users responded by changing their passwords, as the company advised, but it was a bit like closing the barn door after the horse got out. Other subscribers cancelled their accounts, perhaps contributing to the delay in Verizon's negotiations to purchase Yahoo.

In any case, it's a problem that is not going away because hackers and cyber-terrorists are not going away. For lawyers duty-bound to protect client confidentiality, it's even a bigger problem.

Another nor'easter is bearing down on New York. It's a balmy 37 degrees in Chicago. Even Los Angeles was hit by cold and rain yesterday, their equivalent of a snowpocalypse. Winter is still here, and it's not going anywhere for a while.

If the bad weather, lack of sun, and bulky coats are getting you down, we understand. It's bleak out there. But you don't just have to suffer through the winter doldrums. Here are a few handy apps that can bring a bit of a spring feeling into your life.

Checklist for Updating Your Law Office Technologies

Usually, technology evolves faster than the law firm. Sometimes, however, law firms evolve faster than their technologies.

This can be a good thing because it may be a sign a law firm is growing. At the same time, lagging technology may be one of the growing pains.

In any case, it is important to assess the firm's technologies from time to time because technology always affects the bottom line. Technology can increase profits if it increases productivity, but it can also cost more than it's worth if it is not efficient.

Here's a checklist for updating your law office technologies:

Analytics Offers You Can't Refuse

If you thought you could ignore business analytics in your law practice, well, analyze this:

Big Data, with more than 25 billion smart devices on the Internet of Everything, is getting bigger by the nano-second. Not even Big Brother can ignore the need for analytics to handle the information overload.

Take, for example, the case of Gary Pusey. He pleaded guilty to insider trading last year after the Securities and Exchange Commission identified him by using analytics to pour though billions of rows of data going back 15 years. The Analysis and Detection Center of the SEC's Market Abuse Unit uses the software to identify individuals who have made repeated, well-timed trades ahead of corporate news.

Basically, they made him an offer he couldn't refuse. So it is with business analytics: you just have to accept it. Here are some reality checks:

The legal industry isn't winning many awards for diversity. The industry as a whole is severely lacking in racial diversity and gender parity, for example, while there are long-running and well-documented disparities in criminal outcomes across racial lines. What's worse, those disparities are growing. The racial gap in sentencing has expanded between 2005 and 2013, according to federal reports.

But some think that technology might be able to solve, or at least mitigate, some of the legal practice's most stubborn biases. In a recent article in the Observer, diversity consultant Monique Tallon looked at how the legal tech industry is confronting bias in the law. Here are some of the highlights.

Federal prosecutors have charged three Chinese citizens with insider trading that netted them more than $4 million in illegal profits.

But these weren't your typical tippees. The men didn't get their insider scoops from their family, friends, or colleagues. They got it from hacking into at least two New York law firms, stealing the emails of M&A partners, and trading on the information they found.