Thursday, December 12, 2013

Neota Logic Founder Michael Mills To Meet With Boston Legal Innovators

I'll be introducing Neota Logic founder Michael Mills at the upcoming Boston Legal Innovation meetup, next Monday night December 16th at 6 PM at the District Hall, 75 North Street (in Boston's Seaport District, near the Institute for Contempary Art and the Federal Court House). 

Here's the formal session description:

"Neota Logic is one of most interesting and important companies working in legal technology today. In recent months, it has powered the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition, partnered with Seyfarth Shaw and Littler Mendelson, and helped a NY non-profit streamline its small business assistance program.
But what exactly does Neota Logic do, how does its technology work, and what does it all mean for the future of lawyers, law firms and legal departments?  Find out on Dec. 16th by joining us at Boston's new innovation center District Hall for a fascinating conversation with Michael Mills, Neota Logic's CEO."

I've known Michael for a number of years from a knowledge management peer group we both participate in, and also from various ILTA events.  Most recently in August he was part of an outstanding panel at the ILTA conference on online legal services; in 2012 he spoke on "The Lawyer's Role is Changing"; and back in 2010 we were on a panel together addressing knowledge management and alternative fee arrangements.

I've always found him one of the most clear-headed, thoughtful, and witty members of the legal knowledge management community. I especially admire what he's done in identifying and then developing not simply a system to answer or provide greater insight into a particular set of complex legal questions, but a platform for developing such systems. 

These systems work in similar fashion to document assembly or other "wizards" that walk the user through a series of factual questions, and then apply predetermined legal logic to produce a document draft.  I've seen similar systems that could operate to generate a budget for a legal matter.

Expert systems such as Neota Logic have a similar front end; the end result varies but could be as simple as an answer like "No, you don't have to worry about X regulation" or as complex as "here's a map showing you the states where you have to worry about that wage law issue."  They require a whole new model of development and of legal work, asking lawyers to think not just about a particular factual situation, but all the possible factual situations relating to a particular legal question, and then requiring them to identify what chain of factual questions are required for the system to be able to provide a useful answer.  I've previously called this "dendritic logic," meaning that user's earlier answers influence which branch of additional questions they may have to answer.

As with most cutting-edge technology, scalability is a key advantage ; once the heavy investment of thought and research has been distilled into a Neota Logic solution, it can be leveraged by thousands or even millions of users, for very little if any additional cost for each additional user.

Probably the quickest way to gain an understanding of his company's work is to review the last two Iron Tech Lawyer competitions, for which Neota Logic has donated the software and services.  On the ILTA KM blog, Scott Rechstchaffen describes the spring 2013 competition and results, which focused on legal services challenges (also covered by the ABA), and Neota's own blog described the fall 2013 competition, which focused on administrative law.  See also's Michael Mills interview.

I hope you can join us next Monday.