A Paperless law firm

Law firms large and small are mired by boxes of paper files that take up a lot of physical space and make finding what you’re looking for difficult (at best) as well as time-consuming. Not to mention space-consuming. Imagine having organized, electronic versions of old and current matters, documents from war rooms past, perfectly organized and instantly searchable. Moreover, imagine being able to work from anywhere, with all of your files easily accessible in one system.

A paperless law firm isn’t a mythical unicorn; nor is it a futuristic fantasy. A paperless law firm is an attainable goal for those bold enough to embark on such a strategy, and more importantly: it’s a very good idea. Being a paperless law firm is a strategy that is both commercially savvy – well in the long-term – and environmentally friendly.

In 2014, Gartner estimated that the cost of filing, storing and retrieving paper for US businesses was between $25bn and $35bn. This cost only hints at the complexity and pitfalls involved.

Going paperless and implementing a cloud-based document management system (DMS) immediately improves things. By converting paper to digital as early as possible, and filing securely in an encrypted DMS, your law firm solves a lot of problems in one go, aside from just freeing up physical space.

So what are the commercial benefits of having a paperless law firm?

A paperless law firm is more efficient in documents and file management

As mentioned before, going paperless requires having a cloud based Document Management System in place that allows all paperwork to be digitised, securely stored and easily found when a document needs to be retrieved.

A DMS frees lawyers and even admin staff from using standard filing convention, with tags letting a document surface in different locations without having to make copies. This simplifies storage and retrieval, and means that you only have the one master document. Should changes to that one document need to be made, they will be reflected everywhere without having to redo any copies.

One of the significant problems with paper storage is that it’s easy for a document to go missing, or for someone to file it in the wrong place. With a DMS, these problems go away. Now, users can only digitally check out a document, but the original copy remains in the DMS where it can’t be lost. Having a DMS in place also provides lawyers with the added benefit of being able to work remotely through seamless 24/7 access to all the information they need to progress their client matters. Moreover, having digital files improves documents’ history, making it easier for lawyers to trace the origins of the digital documents, as well as giving them valuable insights about how many times the document was amended and who made the amendment on each occasion.

Greater document security

The security of the documents stored in digital format is much greater than the security of the documents that are filed in paper. Digital documents are encrypted and protected by numerous layers of security, and access can be restricted to only a few individuals.

In addition to the fact that it’s easier to restrict the access to confidential information stored in digital format, it is also easier and less expensive to make backups, so that if files get lost or a data theft occurs, it’s possible (and much easier) to retrieve the information. By contrast, documents in paper format are much more exposed to accidents – leaks, floods, fires – and are much more easily accessible to third parties.

Saved Space

One sheet of paper may not take up a ton of space, but tens of thousands of pages certainly do. Over the years, law firms can accrue boxes and boxes of files. These files have to go somewhere; they ultimately end up overcrowding office space, which comes at a great cost as well as diminishing office decor. By going paperless, a firm can free up closets, boardrooms, and even entire offices.

Digital files, on the other hand, take no physical space on your premises at all. They’re stored remotely and accessible from anywhere, which means you no longer have to waste overhead on physical file storage.

Less overhead costs

The savings of going paperless extends beyond just the cost of the paper, which can be substantial. The cost of other office supplies like ink cartridges also decreases. Additional upgrades or replacements to expensive office equipment such as copiers and fax machines may also decrease in a paperless office.

The shift toward a paperless environment increases each year as new technology becomes available to improve data storage and electronic communication. Taking action to reduce paper usage may help your business be more efficient and enhance the level of security that guards your most valuable information.

Document Organization

The ability to quickly locate and disseminate information may enhance a law firm’s efficiency and professional image. Spending time hunting through piles of paper slows down response time in an age when most answers are only a few keystrokes away. By scanning electronic copies of receipts and invoices, documents can be sorted, filed, and organized for quick retrieval when it matters most.

Client Communication is Faster and Less Expensive

By maintaining a customer email list, you can instantaneously communicate sales and special offers without incurring postage and printing expenses. With the advanced technology of smart devices, most people have immediate access to emails. While it increases efficiency, electronic communication also decreases storage costs as the amount of paper copies littering your office will begin to dwindle.

Conclusion

Implemented correctly, a paperless law firm can be a great way for law firms to cut costs, improve efficiency and improve service standards.  

Artificial Intelligence More Accurate Than Lawyers for Reviewing Contracts, New Study Reveals

Professors at Duke Law, University of Southern California, and Stanford Law School involved in first research into the impact of AI on daily commoditized legal tasks

Artificial intelligence has overtaken lawyers for the first time in a staple of the legal profession – accurately spotting risks in everyday business contracts.

In a new study, LawGeex, the leading AI contract review platform, has achieved an average 94% accuracy rate at surfacing risks in Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), one of the most common legal agreements used in business. This compares to an average of 85% for experienced lawyers.

The study pitted the LawGeex AI solution against 20 US-trained top corporate lawyers with decades of experience, specifically in reviewing NDAs. The participants’ legal and contract expertise spanned experience at companies including Goldman Sachs and Cisco, and global law firms including Alston & Bird and K&L Gates.

Both the lawyers and the LawGeex AI analyzed five previously unseen contracts, containing 153 paragraphs of technical legal language (“legalese”), under controlled conditions precisely modeled on the way lawyers review and approve daily contracts. This is the first time that an AI has been tested with a typical task undertaken by lawyers on a daily basis.

The highest performing lawyer in the study achieved 94% accuracy – matching the AI – while the lowest performing lawyer achieved an average 67% accuracy. The challenge took the LawGeex AI 26 seconds to complete, compared to an average of 92 minutes for the lawyers. The longest time taken by a lawyer to complete the test was 156 minutes, and the shortest time was 51 minutes.

Study based on contract expertise from top US academics 

Leading legal academics and veteran US corporate lawyers who collaborated in the study include:

  • Professor Erika J.S. Buell, Director of the Program in Law & Entrepreneurship, Duke University School of Law.
  • Gillian K. Hadfield, Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Southern California.
  • Bruce Mann, former senior partner at top US law firm, Morrison Foerster, who has handled more than 300 IPOs and over 200 mergers & acquisitions.

The study was overseen and administered by independent lawyer Christopher Ray. Additional consulting academics include Dr. Roland Vogl, Professor of law at Stanford Law School and Professor Yonatan Aumann, Professor in the Department of Computer Science, at Bar Ilan University.

Gillian K. Hadfield, Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Southern California said:

“This experiment may actually understate the gain from AI in the legal profession. The lawyers who reviewed these documents were fully focused on the task: it didn’t sink to the bottom of a to-do list, it didn’t get rushed through while waiting for a plane or with one eye on the clock to get out the door to pick up the kids. The margin of efficiency is likely to be even greater than the results shown here.

“This research shows technology can help solve two problems – both making contract management faster and more reliable, and freeing up resources so legajeffl departments can focus on building the quality of their human legal teams.”

The study points out that this is not the first time AI was used in the place of has human legal expertise. In one case, another AI startup, called CaseCrunch, pitted lawyers against its own software to determine if customer claims for improper selling of Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) would hold up in court. Another case involved AI software that was used to predict legal decisions made by the European Court of Human Rights. In both of those examples, the AI was used to help guide the lawyers, rather than perform specific legal tasks, which is what the LawGeex software does.

The broader premise of employing AI for legal services is outlined in the study’s introduction, which references a McKinsey report that estimates 22 percent of a lawyer’s job and 35 percent of a paralegal’s job can be automated.  Not only does that mean the human lawyers can be freed to devote more of their time for strategic work and other high-level tasks, but considering that the people spend about $600 billion annually on legal services, that suggests AI solutions like this could change the economic fundamentals of the market.

Could robots beat the drones in providing an alternative to delivery by humans?

Sharing a sidewalk with one of Just Eat’s delivery robots is a bit like getting stuck behind someone playing Pokémon Go on his smartphone. The robot moves a little bit slower than you want to; every few meters it pauses, jerking to the left or right, perhaps turning around, then turning again before continuing on its way.

These are the sidewalks of the future, technology evangelists promise. Autonomous delivery robots, once the exclusive purview of 1980s sci-fi movies, are coming to a city near you, with promises of reduced labour costs, increased efficiency and the reduction of cars.

Sidewalk-traversing robots are one of several possible solutions to the pesky problem of “last-mile” logistics. Venture capitalists have poured millions into startups employing an army of independent contractors to provide instant gratification to urbanites. But the humans in this equation remain a significant cost, and innovators are looking to obviate them with automated solutions.

AmazonUPS and Google are all working on an airborne method, which certainly makes for splashy PR stunts. But in cities, ground-based delivery services are a more practical solution.

Drones simply don’t make sense for urban environments, said Matt Delaney, one of Marble’s three co-founders who called robots “the only sane solution”. He argued that delivery robots could improve quality of life for people like his grandfather, who lost his driver’s license and has to hire someone for tasks like picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy.

While Starship Technologies’ partnership with Just Eat, a home delivery service connecting consumers to their favorite restaurants, has received a significant amount of media attention, robotic delivery has far broader—and perhaps more socially significant—possibilities. Starship’s hub-and-spoke vision, that is a scenario where large amounts of goods – in this case food – are taken to a central location after which an army of semi-autonomous robots take the wares the last quarter mile to individual homes.

Two obvious scenarios of this application of Starship’s innovation are home grocery delivery and bringing much needed fresh food to a growing number of food deserts (areas outside the logistical reach of farms and farmers markets). For the home grocery startups such as Instacart, robots allow workers to focus more on careful curation than transporting sacks of produce, canned goods and other staples to local residents. Much the way newspapers set up substations where the daily papers are taken in bundles to individual districts where they are sorted and doled out to kids on bikes, supermarket chains or other food distribution can create a value-chain efficiency that benefits their bottom lines while providing a valuable service.

Starship Technologies believes the future of lastmile delivery lies with its robots

Sharing the sidewalk with a semi-autonomous robot can be a curious affair. Some pedestrians have tried blocking its path to test its navigational skills; one youngster even tried to feed it a banana. Still, in cities like Washington, D.C., and London, where the ordinary and the illogical routinely share the sidewalks, most are nonplussed by a robot that resembles a tricked-out cooler on six wheels.

That’s a good thing, according to Starship Technologies Chief Operating Officer Allan Martinson, who believes the future of last mile deliveries lies with these “wheeling voyagers. Robots will transform short-distance deliveries in cities where traffic congestion tends to cripple economies of scale,” Martinson says.

“On-demand delivery costs are expensive and they require humans. Using the robots literally puts the package on wheels and strips a ton of cost out of the equation.”

“Our vision revolves around three zeroes — zero cost, zero waiting time and zero environmental impact,” Heinla says. “We want to do to local deliveries what Skype did to telecommunications.”

Tracking capabilities

The robotic delivery system, equipped with GPS, computer vision and proprietary mapping techniques, can pinpoint exact locations to the nearest inch.

Outfitted with nine cameras and ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles, the robot yields for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchairs and dogs. It weighs about 40 pounds without cargo and can carry up to 20 pounds. The robot can move at a speed of 10 miles per hour, but it generally rolls along at pedestrian speed — more akin to 4 miles per hour.

The robots are monitored at all times; if someone tries to snatch it from its path or steal the contents, they’re likely to be quickly intercepted.

“We’ve had instances where someone tries to pick up the robot,” Martinson says. “They don’t get very far. We know where the robots are at all times. The robot is like a big homing beacon.” Users can track the robot’s location in real time through a smartphone app; once the parcel arrives, the person receiving the delivery can unlock the cargo with a code sent via text message.

Lower energy costs

While there is plenty of industry buzz about using drones for package delivery, Martinson says the robots are better suited for cities and suburbs where they can roll along the sidewalks, and feels that the drones are more appropriate for remote, rural areas.

“There are notable differences between the two. Drones require more energy and must be equipped with a bigger battery. The maximum amount of weight they can lift and carry is about 5 pounds. Drones are expensive to build and they’re not permitted to fly everywhere,” he says.

“The Starship robots are rolling, which translates into less energy used — and we’re building them as cost-effectively as we’re able to, to provide greater accessibility.”

With numerous tests ongoing, Martinson is upbeat about the future. “In the areas where we’ve tested the robots, they quickly become part of the urban infrastructure. We’re giving local businesses and grocery stores a chance to free up employees from deliveries, and reduce costs too.”

As with previous innovations, advances in food technology—particularly in logistics—first movers don’t always have an advantage. Lurking in the background are key players such as incumbents UPS and FedEx, as well as newcomers to the asynchronous delivery transport world including Uber and Lyft. In short order, autonomous vehicles of every shape and size will be in plentiful supply; how entrepreneurs in the food industry deploy them will separate the winners from the losers.

Ten years ago, thousands of people were queueing outside Northern Rock to take all their money out. A decade on, 25,000 people are currently queueing to put their money into a bank – one that appears to have won an almost cultish following among young adults. With the rise of mobile payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay, we’re also seeing some other smart banking solutions. If you prefer the idea of sticking to a physical card then Monzo (previously Mondo) is a great option thanks to a feature-packed app and benefits such as no fees abroad.

Anyone without a smartphone (and even most of those with one) and anyone over 40 years old is likely to be unaware of the Monzo phenomenon. So excited are young adults about this new bank account that they are clambering to join. About 400,000 have already done so, happily coughing up a £100 deposit rather than taking the £100 giveaway that other banks hand out to new customers, while a further 25,000 are waiting to get in the door. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old who runs Monzo, Tom Blomfield, confidently predicts one billion customers in five years’ time as Monzo, or something like it, becomes the “control hub” for all your financial arrangements, from savings to spending, from current accounts to utilities.

What is Monzo?

In simple terms, Monzo is a smart bank for the smartphone generation which does away with things like bricks and mortar branches, cheque books and the like; instead it hinges around an app.

In its own words Monzo says it’s: “Focussed on building the best current account in the world and ultimately working with a range of other providers so that Monzo can be an intelligent hub for your entire financial life.”

Users of the Monzo card have spent more than £20m in over 130 countries since launch. There are other challenger banks, such as Starling in the UK.

How does it work?

The Monzo card is a MasterCard debit card. Previously the company only issued pre-paid cards, but now it’s a fully-fledged bank, and users get proper accounts, with sort codes and support for direct debits and standing orders.

In addition to the card you get an app, which you can use for paying money into the account, but it will also instantly update your balance, provide handy notifications (including why a transaction was declined) and more, such as a neat visual way of seeing where you spend your money. You can also use the app to suspend the card if it’s lost or stolen.

What makes Monzo unique?

Monzo is defined by its easy to use user-interface and every function that it operates is centred around usability and visibility for customers. For example, when using Monzo every transaction that is made through the Monzo app appears as a notification seconds after the payment is made, which allows users to easily keep track of their expenditure. Another feature of Monzo which customers love is that the transactions are categorized into eight categories — Transport, Eating Out, Bills, Shopping, Groceries, Cash, Entertainment, and Holidays, plus General and Expenses. The categorization of the transactions helps customers discern how much of their monthly spend goes into each of the eight categories, making it easier to manage their finances.

Targets are the way to stop over-spending in each category. While they’re not available on Android yet, iOS users are able to put limits on each individual category, with the limit resetting each month. The app will then warn you via a notification if you’re spending money too quickly and once you go over that limit.

It is a lot easier to discern where exactly money is being spent with Monzo, over an account with a traditional bank. Users can immediately see if they’ve spent too much money on groceries, for example, in any given month and the app’s notification system will help them cut back in that category and take charge of their finances.  

Perhaps the most attractive feature of Monzo for the less fiscally disciplined is that the app encourages users to save money. Monzo’s feature called “Pots”, which are subsections of an account with Mozo  to which money can be added or withdrawn. These subsections can have names — “First House, Wedding or New Car” for example — and pictures, although currently only pre-determined pictures are allowed. There’s also the “Coin Jar” pot, which can save spare change, the pennies, from purchases into a pot and collect it up over time.

The app also has “Pulse,” where it’ll attempt to predict the money in your account, via graph, over the next month. It’s interesting to see in visual form where your money is being spent, and how long before you’ll hit zero if you keep on the current trajectory. 

Monzo has a ton of other features including no fees when spending money abroad, and Monzo.Me to quickly send money to another Monzo account.  It also allows users to freeze their cards, in case they lose it, in-app, and “defrost” it if they find it, or order a replacement.

So what is Monzo’s vision of future banking?

Monzo believes it can restyle banking for the digital age. Its strapline is: “We’re building the kind of bank that you’d be proud to call your own.” It uses a lot of emojis in its communications. Along with other app-based challenger banks, such as Starling and Atom, it thinks it can offer a different, more intuitive and personal experience than the five big banks – Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, the UK arm of Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland – that dominate more than 80% of the current-account market in the UK.

Tom Blomfield said he thought a new era of banking was on the way, with app-based banking perhaps the only way to manage your finances.

“I think a new area of finance is coming, where we see one banking hub which looks after all our financial needs – student loan, mortgage, current accounts, and savings.”

Tom said Monzo’s target customer is people who use their cell phones to run their lives He said the most important lesson was to build trust with your customers.

“The important thing is to build trust.  We are radically transparent which builds trust and we always look after our customers.  If we experience any problems, we communicate with them proactively.”

Only time will tell if Monzo will replace the traditional way of banking that everyone is accustomed to. What is clear from the outset is that Monzo is created with the vision to disrupt the banking industry in the way that Amazon disrupted the retail industry. That would require large numbers of customers using the app instead of traditional banking and entrusting Monzo with all its banking activities from small purchases to securing a mortgage. It would also require Monzo to be more than just a banking app or to put it simply, it would require Monzo to be everything that the traditional big banks are not. With features that allows customers to get a 360 degree view of their finances as well as the ability to save more money, there is every chance that Monzo will become a product that every customer will want to use.

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