Monday, September 10, 2012

My iPad and Me: Personal Technology and Live-Blogging

I live-blogged and tweeted at ILTA Conference from the setup shown.  It's a Zagg "Solo" keyboard and the latest iPad.  I thought those gadget-lovers out there might enjoy my thoughts on how these tools worked for me (the bottom line:  quite well, still some room for improvement in my approach). I think this kind of setup would also serve well in occasions when lawyers can't be plugged in, don't have much space to work in, or want to impress the less tech-savvy.


The keyboard came with a handy and effective stand for the iPad, which doubles as a carrying case for the keyboard. The keyboard is very light and easy to use. It works with iOS and Android devices via Bluetooth, so there aren't any cables cluttering things up. I've found it handy on occasion to have the keyboard located in a different place (e.g., lap) than the tablet. Setup was a piece of cake, although I recommend looking at the directions. It's a lot more comfortable working in cramped quarters on a separate keyboard than on a screen attached to a keyboard (i.e., a laptop).

The keyboard has a few shortcut keys that are extremely helpful on an iOS device--Cut, Copy, Paste, Home, and the like. I used the copy and paste for hashtags on tweets and over and over again while working on posts.

I'll have to remember that the keyboard itself has a battery. It it supposed to go a few weeks without needing a charge, so that may be a challenge.  It's recharged through a unique little USB cable, which I am nervous about losing.  You don't have to have the cable to type, of course.


The iPad (wifi only) worked great as a blogging and note-taking device.  The battery life is four to five times greater than my laptop, and the display looks fabulous.  I was able (barely) to get through an entire day of five sessions on one charge.

It's also great being able to touch a word or point in the document and have the cursor move there.


A word about the wifi.  If my experiences at the E20 conference and at this one is any indication, conference facilities appear to have figured out how to provide sufficiently reliable wifi.  Thanks Gaylord National and ILTA!  This was an essential aspect of working with the iPad so much, as I don't have wireless internet (3G) on it.


One challenge in live-blogging was figuring out how to write my notes down. I was liveblogging on the Blogger platform. I tried the native Blogger app but, perhaps not surprisingly for a Google tool on iOS it was A) for iPhone only and B) pathetic (did you know that people add "hyperlinks" to blog posts?  The Blogger app doesn't). I also tried working from a Safari browser window, but working with longer posts was not practical because the view would jump around too much.

I then tried using the iPad's built-in Notes app, which is great in that it instantly and permanently saves everything you write and looks good while you are writing. The Notes app, however, gives you almost zero control over fonts or appearance, no bolds or italics even, and it doesn't allow for bullet lists or hyperlinks, common weapons in a blogger's arsenal.

The Notability app on which I'm typing this up solves the font and appearance issues, at least as far as the document on the screen, and also instantly saves whatever you write. It has the ability to embed hyperlinks, but it doesn't copy over into Blogger as HTML, so those get lost in the transfer. Close enough though!

Notability is designed for iPad, which means that you can click an icon and "scribble" on the screen with your finger. I used that feature, for instance, in taking down a draft of the comparison table in the Exemplify review.

The WordPress apps look great, but, for better or worse, Caselines is still on Blogger.  

Poking At The Screen

Editing longer posts once they left Notability still required going to a laptop and opening up a browser.  After working on the iPad for several days, I had gotten used to the touchscreen, and would swipe ineffectually at the laptop screen where I needed to edit next (this left me feeling like Scotty (James Doohan, RIP) on Star Trek IV).

We get used to working with a mouse, and, yes, mousing is more accurate than a finger swipe, but words aren't small targets, and touching something on the screen is simply a lot more intuitive and requires less brain power than maneuvering a cursor. Touch screens are definitely coming to the enterprise--even Microsoft is paying attention to them.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clause Reference and Creation Tool Exemplify

I met with George May, Bill Bice, Rob Anderson*, and Shannon Brown Janicki of legal technology start-up Exemplify on August 29th at the ILTA 2012 conference (see other coverage of Exemplify's launch here).  Exemplify is a large firm solution that leverages the massive "EDGAR" database of corporate filings in order to improve the speed and effectiveness of attorneys drafting transactional documents.  This post is based on a demonstration of the product. I should note by way of disclaimer that I have not practiced as a transactional lawyer, although I work on systems and precedent collections on negotiated litigation documents such as stipulated protective orders and settlement agreements. 

*I thought I had met Geoff Petrie but I was mistaken. 


Exemplify is, I believe,  a new entry in the set of legal technologies intended to assist transactional document generation.  It is a browser-based clause reference and creation tool that compares clauses you provide with clustered iterations of standard clauses created by dynamic reference to the agreements contained in EDGAR.  Its admirable stated goals are to allow a more junior associate to develop a better draft of a transactional document faster, and to allow quick comparison and evaluation of clause language against market and against language from particular firms, financial institutions, or industries. It works at the clause level, a design that matches the way I understand corporate attorneys approach most drafting tasks.

How It Works

Exemplify starts with an empty box in a browser.  You paste in a clause or multiple clauses from your proposed agreement.  It then compares each clause you provided against the model from EDGAR most similar to the one you provide, and provides a redline against your agreement for each clause.

To get to the next closest iteration of that clause you click an arrow, the application constantly showing a redline against your original clause.

It works against a huge database developed by reference to EDGAR documents that aligns thousands of similar clauses from a huge variety of documents.  It has an initially clean and simple interface, that gets only a little more complex as the attorney digs into clause development.

As you work through clauses you can save them and so by the end of clause development work have a complete document ready to be pulled into a document management system and developed into a very good first draft.

Once you are working on a clause you can filter on metadata about the hundreds or even thousands of agreements from which the clause iteration appears. The law firm filter may be most significant for negotiators, but drafters can also filter on financial institution, date, parties, and industry.

Implications For Traditional Drafting Process

An associate creating an initial draft of a transactional document might typically do the work by finding four or five samples; tracking down the particular clause at issue in each; comparing the langage between each; and then copying and modifying the language that best suits the particular deal context.

In my view, Exemplify ought to eliminate time associates normally take to find matching agreements and the matching clauses within them, and ought to also greatly reduce the time spent in reviewing and comparing clauses.

It also should greatly reduce the time taken to find a version of a clause that meets your circumstance (for instance, does the agreement address a Letter of Credit). 

Comparison with Existing Approaches

Substantive KM Resources 

Firms with knowledge management programs have developed libraries of transactional documents and related resources.  Laboriously created annotated forms show associates what the "firm standard" clause is for specific circumstances such as buyer-favorable, seller-favorable, and neutral; memos and articles may provide more information about the context of language changes; and meetings and trainings provide additional opportunities for associates to learn directly from skilled practitioners.  In addition to information about clause language, KM resources often provide practical and strategic advice in context, as on negotiation or proper redline provision.   

These KM resources provide more context and depth than Exemplify can. They have two limitations that Exemplify does not:  they do not necessarily reflect what is "market," and they are not updated without additional input of senior attorney time.   Because of the necessary investment, they are typically  targeted at a particular categories of common documents, where Exemplify will pull in whatever documents are publicly filed regardless of their frequency. I can imagine that Exemplify might help a transactional KM attorney work faster, by putting common clause variants at the attorney's fingertips, with the attorney supplying experience-based understanding of the reasons for the different variations.  

Document Assembly

Traditional document assembly products help attorneys quickly draft one or more legal documents (typically transactional documents) through automated questionnaires that "fill in the blanks" or provide options leading to the program incorporating or excluding specific clauses from the finished document (for a publicly available example, visit my firm's Founder's Workbench site, which will assemble papers for incorporating a Delaware corporation).  As with Exemplify, what results is a much more advanced draft than what is possible with "mere" reference to a single sample.

Development of the document assembly "template" that contains the language options and the like, however, is very challenging and time-intensive, requiring high-level legal knowledge about a document's logical structure and some ability to handle the complex software involved.  Templates are developed through laborious reference to existing firm and individual lawyer standards,  and may also refer to clause language from outside the firm.  Document assembly templates do not dynamically refer to the set of documents out in the market.


Kingsley Martin's kiiac application reportedly greatly improves the speed of developing document templates, but kiiac must be "fed" a large corpus of documents and itself is a complex piece of software not as easily accessed and leveraged by practicing attorneys (I have seen several demos but have no hands-on experience with this tool). Generating a comparison against a given clause requires many more steps. kiiac is complementary with document assembly in that it can show template compilers the standard variations within a subset of a firm's documents.

kiiac is also not tied into EDGAR, which means that it must be fed a document set or corpus and that it can cover all transactional document types, not just those addressed through publicly filed EDGAR documents

kiiac does, however, provide statistical analysis of all variations at once and a "checklist" of all possible clauses, two features Exemplify largely lacks.  It clusters clause options by the degree of frequency rather than by their similarity to presented language.

West KM Transactional

This Thompson Reuters product automates the breakdown of internal transactional documents into clauses and provides some level of profiling of transactional document type as well.  It allows quick location of sample language, but does not conduct the type of comparison of clauses that is found in KIIAC or Exemplify.  West KM Transactional relies on a firm's own documents. 

My firm has West KM for litigation.  This tool is in a way parallel to Exemplify in that it shows the validity of cases and statutes referenced in a firm's internal briefs by drawing on the massive and frequently updated Westlaw KeyCite system, (showing, for instance, red, yellow or "citing reference" flags) where Exemplify assesses a given clause by comparing it to  the massive and frequently updated EDGAR database of transactional documents.

Summary Chart

If you compare the transactional document source with the primary function of these tools, you might get a summary chart that looks like this.  

External Agreements
Internal Agreements
West KM
Document Assembly

Shows Clauses / Documents
Creates Documents
Show & Compare Clauses

Saturday, September 1, 2012

ILTA Interactive Session: "Forget The Wild Goose Chase"

In another excellent interactive session developed by Mary Abraham, ILTA members learned about methods for analysis and self-reflection and time management aimed at increasing the impact of our work on our organizations through presentation and through an interactive card-sorting exercise.  (I promised my excellent table, which included JAG CKO Scott Reid, Mallesons KM head Felicity Badcock, Cheryl Disch, and others, and from which I learned a lot, that I would provide my notes of the results of the exercise.  Here they are.)

Formal Description:  

"Discover a framework for differentiating between busy work, beneficial work and work that truly has a high impact on your firm. Each attendee will learn how to move their focus to high-impact projects." Hashtag #AFT5.

Unfortunately I missed the earliest part of the presentation.  I understand that Jordan Furlong covered the "Force Multiplier" concept previously addressed in Mary Abraham's post on the ILTA KM Blog  and that understanding effectiveness requires looking at who one's activities are impacting and how.

Mary Abraham suggests that the exercise of investigating your and your group's impact should be at least an annual investigation, perhaps even quarterly.

The first part of the card-sorting exercise saw everyone in the room write down the "three activities you spend the most time on" on 3x5 cards. At our table we then formed these into rough groups covering strategic, operational, and tactical types. Strategic activities generally address choices about what work to do, working with organizational leadership, and comparable items; operational activities directly address a process or organizational issues such as personnel; and tactical activities directly get work done.  Strategic activities are most often high-value and force-multiplying, with some operational activities also being high value, and tactical activities may be necessary but are rarely high-value.

The next part of the exercise was to sort the activities into high, medium, and low value buckets.

Finally we discussed strategies and approaches for spending more of our time on high value activities.  Mary Abraham challenged us to try to spend 80% of time on high value activities.

I have grouped the resulting tips and approaches, most of which came from the people at my table, into a few categories. I feel I was lucky to have such a great collection of talent at my table; others at the session may have had very different experiences, for better or worse.

1)  Timekeeper Discipline

Lawyers already have to track their time in excruciating detail. While non-legal staff may not need to record their time in that level of detail, they may find it very useful to keep  track of what they spend time on each day.  Reporting on time-spent metrics is a good basis for lobbying management to change the balance of work.

One HBR professor sets a chime to go off every hour.  He then asks himself two questions:  "Am I doing the best work I could be doing?" and "Am I being the best person I could be?"  Often he finds that one or both of the answers is "No."

Looking ahead, write down what you're going to do each day, on paper.  If you've forgotten until task completion, you can still write down the task and give yourself the reward of crossing it off the list.  If you don't write down what you're going to do you'll end up "chasing the shiniest object in the room" or browsing the internet.

Balance time spent talking and listening to others and "alone" time for reflection.

Also balance brainstorming, seeking leadership or peer approval, and making sure your staff is doing the work is it should be done.

Set aside time for strategic thinking.

Think about your time as a glass jar you're trying to fill with big rocks, smaller rocks, and sand, where the big rocks are the bigger, more urgent projects and the smaller rocks and sand more numerous and less high priority activities.  You have to deal with the big rocks every day, and you should also pay attention to the smaller rocks, and if you have any time left over you can let the sand fill up the jar.

2) "Urgent" Requests

How much of your work must be done in "crisis" mode?  We all have some projects that have to get done right away; working too long in crisis mode can get away us from high-value projects.

Urgency is in the eye of the beholder / requestor, and can be tracked and assessed for validity.  Urgent requests may not improve anything other than the requestor's situation, and often waste time.  Some techniques for addressing that situation include:

  • Delegate as much as you can
  • Figure out who are the "screamers that matter" and the "screamers that don't"
  • Identify in advance who the appropriate people are to do specific types of requests and who can be ready to handle urgent requests that anyone on your team can do
  • Identify appropriate level of service for the request.  You don't have to bring your "A" game to every request.
  • Establish technical workflow systems (e.g., ticket systems), being mindful however that the most urgent and high priority requests may not be appropriate for such a system (my firm has at least three such systems in the areas of User Support, eDiscovery, and Court Procedures)
  • Get comfortable saying "No"
  • Conduct reviews of tasks completed, identifying urgency requested and "actual" urgency as perceived later (sufficient to break down by A, B, or C requests)
  • Track your team's request turnaround time

3) Managing Up

Repeated unduly urgent requests should be addressed as a personnel and organizational issue

Talk about your activity metrics and analysis with your superiors or key stakeholders and convince them they should support delegation or other systems to better manage time-wasting requests, and that they should protect you, if necessary, from attempts to avoid those systems.

Conduct internal marketing around moving yourself to higher benefit work.  It might help if you explain the force multiplier effect.

4) Email

Periodically step away from email.

At an organizational level, try to break out some types of communications into systems that don't demand our attention in the way that email does.  Enterprise social networks for RFIs is one such system.  Email remains a good way to privately ask someone to do something.

4) Meetings

Ron Friedmann suggested having meetings go no more than an hour;  have them standing up; and try to make sure no one is having more than five meetings a week.