Lawyers must keep up with rapidly evolving tools of the trade says MerGen Law's Kevin Weeks
This article was produced in partnership with Alexsei Inc.
For Kevin Weeks, managing partner at MerGen Law LLP in Calgary, it’s simple: if you can’t use your tools, you can’t be a craftsman. That applies not just to furnituremakers, but to the practice of law as well. Lawyers need to know their tools – and understand that those tools are changing, and they’re changing rapidly.
“Remote work has been on steroids with the COVID-19 pandemic, it accelerated it by years which is a huge benefit, but you’ve got to keep up with it,” says Weeks, who’s been practicing for the last four decades. “People don’t understand the exponential – 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 looks linear and then poof off you go – but the way I put it is ‘the more we know the more we know more faster.’”
Weeks isn’t shy when it comes to trying emerging technologies, and the philosophy at the firm is partially spelled out in the name: MerGen, the merging of different generations and communities in law. With the profession changing more in the last 15 or 20 years than it ever has before, Weeks is not one to mince words – see his blog post entitled Ride the AI train or be run over – and says the old adage “adapt or die” aptly sums up the situation.
“It used to be IQ was the big deal, then it was EQ or emotional quotient, but going forward it’s going to be AQ: adaptive quotient,” he predicts.
MerGen has tried many different systems and programs, and is presently landed on Clio with FasterSuite and QuickBooks online, Lawlytics, LawPay, Worldox for document management and Microsoft Teams with voice, amongst others. To the extent possible, the goal is to integrate and streamline workflows. Because the law consists of many systems and processes and much of it is transactional, it lends itself to algorithms. Ambiguous instructions that do a process automatically, with an area of law like real estate it’s akin to baking a cake, Weeks says: there are recipes for the more structured practice areas that can be followed to reach a given outcome and the recipes keep getting better.
Software development allows lawyers to work smarter, not harder, but as much as Weeks has met the advent of technology with open arms and an open mind, he has no concerns that it will ever replace lawyers. The human element of the equation, the trust and experience factors, can’t be recreated but he notes the advancements can be disruptive to some of the players involved. For example, the number of students and paralegals that used to be involved in things like affidavit of records or searching through transcripts has dropped significantly given new tools that may not totally automate the process, but certainly help get it done more efficiently.
Looking to the future should entail a focus on demographics as there will be a transgenerational transfer of wealth over the next 20 years that the world has never experienced and it is already in early stages, says Weeks. With that in mind, there will be many collateral technology driven legal opportunities. A growth opportunity example cited by Weeks is BorderPass, a Canadian immigration management platform company commencing with foreign student visa application assistance.
Another area of practice that’s ripe for disruption by technology is research, and Weeks has been using Alexsei, an advanced A.I. platform that delivers high-quality answers to legal questions in memo format, to expediate the firm’s research process since 2019. He finds the solution quick, efficient and “a good bang for your buck.” Weeks almost always uses Alexsei as a starting point, and often requests more than one memo on a file. He finds it a useful training exercise as well because while the A.I. does much of the heavy lifting, at the end of the day the lawyer still has to ask the right question.
“We’re merging generations and teaching youngins it’s a profession not a job,” Weeks says. “That analysis to craft the question is what lawyers need to be able to do – and learning to do it separates the wheat from the chaff.”
Weeks also finds Alexsei particularly useful in the face of court appearances that have been sprung on him. Because it’s mostly virtual, there’s sometimes only a few days before the appearance and Alexsei allows him to do quick research that results in an “almost the good-to-go brief that you can put before the courts or to opposing counsel – and she can create it while you’re sleeping.”
Once Weeks had to get something to a judge right away to oppose an application, and Alexsei’s memo was complete enough to send over as is, getting him the result he wanted in a way that was super inexpensive and efficient. And Alexsei is only getting more powerful, he adds.
“The solution is constantly learning more jurisdictions and growing its database,” Weeks says. “That’s the best part about Alexsei – she’s getting smarter all the time. That’s A.I.”
Alexsei 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.