A tale of two firms: An Alexi case study

How technology adopted for different reasons led to the same benefits

A tale of two firms: An Alexi case study

This article was produced in partnership with Alexi Inc.

Brian Galbraith’s firm has been paperless for fifteen years, and he hasn’t had a physical office for four. Working remotely even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns, his firm’s lawyers lived in different cities and connected with clients across the province over Zoom, leveraging technology to improve accessibility and broaden the firm’s client base. The firm’s leadership team anticipates a hybrid situation is here to stay, with staff coming into the office a day or two a week and lawyers coming in only as necessary.

“Technology is a big part of how we provide services to our clients – we’re currently improving our intake systems to make them more digital and easier to use,” says Galbraith, owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law with offices in Toronto, Barrie and Newmarket. “Technology will continue to be a main driver of what we do and how we do it.”

Notoriously slow to change, the pandemic snapped at the heels of those most reluctant to integrate technological advancements and eventually, as time wore on, law firms had to adapt or shut down their practices. They embraced the use of technology out of necessity, and Galbraith anticipates that while many lawyers will want to go back to the office and to in-person meetings, most will continue to leverage technology to operate in a hybrid environment.

But in other parts of the country, a different narrative is at play. Lorie A. Chambers, partner at Kreklewich & Chambers, practices in Melville, Saskatchewan, the smallest city in the province with a population hovering between 4000 and 5000. As a rural-based practice, it’s not necessarily that lawyers don’t want more technology “it’s that our clients aren’t embracing it as quickly as in the bigger centres,” she says.

“They prefer to do things old-school with handshake contracts and face-to-face meetings. Most of the practices around here are still paper-based – in the surrounding area there’s one lawyer I practice with who is completely paperless – and we also have an aging bar, with an average age of around 50 and many lawyers practicing into their 70s.”

Though the pandemic did make Chambers and her counterparts more aware that when the world shuts down paper-based is not feasible, what really pushed her to embrace one innovative tool was the challenge the Melville firm has in attracting articling students and young lawyers.

“I got my call to the bar in 2000 and I’m the last articling student that’s stayed here. We’ve had a few articling students or young lawyers get their feet wet here in rural Saskatchewan, we pour our lifeblood and expertise into them and they leave. I think the misperception is you can’t make a decent living out here but it’s the opposite. This is a very lucrative practice and likely young lawyers would go up the pay scale quickly here because there are so few lawyers. There’s a lot of work to be had, and the quality is just as good if not better as the bigger centres because there’s such a variety of law-related problems out here.”

Chambers gravitated towards Alexi an artificial intelligence platform that delivers affordable and high-quality answers to legal questions, because she didn’t have younger associates or articling students to do that research for her. Over the year she’s been using it, Chambers says the quality of the product is very good and the memos are “100% exceeding their value compared to how much I’d bill out, or even an articling student would bill out, for the time it would take us to do the same research.”

Chambers finds Alexi useful for clients’ quick questions, which they have many of, that touch on something more obscure. Whenever she needs to know the latest authority on a subject or to see if the law has drastically changed or not, receiving a comprehensive Alexi memo in a day or so without having to open a book or do further research is perfect.

“In situations where I’m researching very thoroughly and need a specific case, I go past the Alexi memo – but the memo still saves me at least two or three hours of my own research by getting me the main cases.”

Galbraith also uses Alexi regularly, noting it’s a “fantastic resource to get information about caselaw and legislation, and we share the memos within the firm.”

“If there’s a legal question that arises, we get a memo done and we know the answer with confidence – we aren’t guessing,” he says.

Through the use of technology such as Alexi, answers are arrived at faster and issues are resolved more quickly, leading to a more efficient and cost-effective service. Chambers admits if she had a steady stream of articling students, she likely wouldn’t have tried Alexi – but now that she’s seen the benefits of it she wouldn’t go back. Even for the articling students, it takes some of the lengthy and labour-intensive process off their shoulders by giving them a starting point: instead of spending 10 or more hours researching an abstract issue, Alexi cuts their time down, but because they go on to do the finer search after they’re still developing the critical skills they need.

Galbraith agrees that Alexi is a time saver, gathering legal information swiftly so it’s at the lawyers’ fingertips. This frees them up to focus on the client’s issues.

“I think it makes us better lawyers because we’re on top of things, and that energy can be better spent doing what we’re intended to do – share our experience and advice with the client,” he says. “Alexi has upped our game considerably.”

Chambers notes that it’s amazing how technology has advanced even just in her lifetime, and if technology like Alexi can develop so quickly and perform its task so thoroughly, “the future of practice is terrifying and exciting at the same time.”

“Call me in 10 years, and we might not even need actual humans to do the research at all,” she laughs. “Call me in 20 years, I’ll still be practicing – and it’s exciting to think where technology will be by then because of how quickly it’s advancing.”

Alexi provides high-quality answers to complex legal questions at scale. We are a team of AI scientists and lawyers advancing the state-of-the-art in how artificial intelligence is being applied to the law.

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