From July 17th through the 20th, we held our 2023 Law Firm Summer Reboot Camp here at Answering Legal. This all-digital live event was four days of panels, conversations, and podcasts, covering everything from legal tech to practice management to marketing.
If you’d like to watch all of this year’s panels, click here to check out our YouTube playlist where we have reuploaded the videos. There’s hours of experts discussing the current state of the legal world waiting for you on our YouTube channel!
The Summer Reboot camp is an opportunity for attorneys, at the halfway point of the year, to rethink the way they’re running their firms and set some goals for the rest of the year and beyond. We invite experts from all corners of the legal world to discuss their tips, takes, and tactics for lawyers to consider for the rest of the year.
In case you weren’t able to make it—or if you need a refresher—below we’ll discuss five key takeaways from this year’s summer reboot camp. Here’s a little spoiler: by the end of the blog, you might be tired of hearing about AI.
1- AI Is Everywhere In The Legal Field
Of course, the talk of the camp was AI; there’s no getting around it. 2023 so far has been the year of AI, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon. Our experts pointed out that lots of legal tech has already been using AI technology but under a different name.
As Ashley Carlisle, Chief Marketing Officer at HyperDraft, Inc., said: “A lot of [legal tech companies] have had AI in our products for years and people were not interested. In fact, when we first started, our name was HyperDraft AI, and we ended up changing it.”
These features are being renamed to benefit from the AI trend, but they were always using natural language processing to help lawyers get things done. In addition, AI tools are being added to legal software as we write.
Matt Spiegel, CEO at Lawmatics, said of Lawmatics’s AI tools: “[Lawyers] need to write emails, and they have no idea what to write. So we gave them the ability to write email content using AI.”
Our tech experts and marketing experts were largely advocating for its use in running a law firm, but some of our experts were not ready to advocate for its use in the practice of law quite yet. We’ll discuss why up next.
2- But AI Can’t Do Everything, Yet
Camp guests brought up several times the fairly recent incident of a law firm being fined for citing a case that ChatGPT completely made up. This false information, known as a “hallucination”, is what happens when a large language model like ChatGPT knows what kinds of words should be in a sentence, but doesn’t have the information it needs to plug in. These errors sound real because the AI model phrases them the same way it phrases real information.
Thus, our experts were a bit cautious about AI’s usage in law firms. Joe Patrice, senior editor at AboveTheLaw, said that “In AI, generally, how it’s been trained is going to be a huge problem.” Whether or not tools like GPT-4 are trained enough to pass the bar exam, they may not have the understanding to reliably interpret that information. As any legal layperson could tell you, legal language is not the same as the natural language these models have been trained to use.
However, Patrice went on to discuss how larger firms are using their own data to train large language models to be more reliable for their firm. These tools and others designed with the law in mind may trickle down to smaller firms soon.
Most of our experts agreed that the AI revolution is inevitable and that lawyers had nothing to fear from it. But, while AI is a useful tool for running a law firm, the technology is not quite there yet to rely on it for practicing the law. Of course, some of this year’s experts represented legal tech companies that are working on that technology right now! Things may change sooner rather than later, but for right now, caution was advised.
3- Law Firms Should Be Making Videos For Marketing
Videos on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are a growing marketing tool for law firms. These videos can be anything from client testimonials to videos of an attorney in their car talking about a particular topic.
But you don’t necessarily need to break the bank building a recording studio. Phillip Fairley, President of the Rainmaker Institute, was of the opinion that quality didn’t matter all that much. “[People] want a background that’s real. They want you in different spots. They want reality,” he said.
Even though Gyi Tsakalakis, President of AttorneySync, disagreed about how much quality matters, he said “The good news is that even to set up a high-level production studio in your office is super cheap.”
The exact type of video depends on your law firm and your practice area. Bankruptcy and criminal defense attorneys, for example, might have trouble getting clients to go on camera and talk about their experience with their firms. But those same firms might have great success making short videos that explain how to handle a police interaction, or the effect asset value might have on a bankruptcy case.
Making sure you have the resources set up to direct the traffic from these videos is very important. As usual, high-quality, well-engineered websites and landing pages are a key part of making sure these marketing initiatives are successful.
This is yet another area where AI can be a useful tool. AI-powered tools like Descript allow lawyers to make high-production quality videos much more easily than with traditional video editing tools.
4- The Exploration Of Alternative Fee Arrangements Is A Must
The legal world has been grumbling about the billable hour model for years. Practice management gurus can pin any number of burnout cases on the pressure the model puts on lawyers. Attorneys themselves often complain about the work conditions the billable hour creates, where time is literally money.
Alternative fee arrangements have been steadily growing in popularity for years, but at this year’s summer camp plenty of guests were giving high praise to firms that were able to make a change. Mathew Kerbis, the Subscription Attorney, had plenty to say on the subject, both in the chat throughout summer camp and onscreen, and Laura Cowan, the Two Hour Lifestyle Lawyer, did as well.
Both of these attorneys are champions for alternative fee arrangements, and gave some much-needed first-person accounts of how those arrangements have benefited their firms. Mathew Kerbis in particular often speaks of how AI has made it possible for him to make the most of his business model, and how it will be even more effective in the future.
At the end of the day, of course, your firm’s fee arrangement depends on what works best for your firm. But with AI possibly making legal work faster in the future, there may be a change in norms on the horizon. Our camp guests recommended taking a good hard look at what business models might work best for your firm. You never know; you might find something that makes your life much easier.
5- The Future Is Getting Harder and Harder To Predict
One thing that was common throughout the summer camp: our experts were cautious about making predictions. At last year’s summer camp (before the explosion of generative AI in late 2022 and early 2023), camp guests were much happier to make predictions about the next few years of legal marketing, practice management, and more.
But the advent of AI and its rapid advancement has made it harder to judge how current trends will evolve into future reality. A year ago, our experts were aware of AI and the changes it might make to the legal world, but if asked, they would have said its impacts were five years away. This year, it’s hard to tell what will happen three years from now.
Between the explosion of AI and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s getting harder and harder to tell where the legal world is heading at any given moment. For lawyers, that means you have to stay on your toes.
The next few years will be full of technological advancements that might shake up the legal landscape in ways that are hard to expect.
As Roy Sexton, 2023 President of the Legal Marketing Association International, said, “Be attuned to [AI tools], avail yourself of them, and work them into the brand and culture that makes sense for you. But be smart enough to know how they work so you can integrate them in a way that doesn’t seem daunting.”
Be Prepared For Anything With Answering Legal
AI was all over this year’s summer camp. Its benefits, its pitfalls, and its impact were all hotly debated across all four days and in every area of legal life our experts discussed. But if there’s one place people won’t accept a substitute, it’s in person-to-person interaction. AI voice models just don’t compete with the real thing, and given how much people dislike voicemail and phone trees, we don’t see that changing anytime soon.
That’s why every firm should make sure to have 24/7 live coverage of their phone lines. Having a live person available at any time to speak to potential clients will result in a greatly increased lead capture rate. And if you’re going to hire an answering service, you’d better hire the best.
Here at Answering Legal, our virtual receptionists are highly-trained experts at answering for lawyers. They spend months training before ever picking up the phone for a law firm. That means they’re prepared for any kind of call you might receive. And with our virtual receptionists answering calls for your firm, you’ll be prepared for whatever the future might bring.
And if you’d like to watch this year’s summer camp, click here to check out our YouTube playlist where we have reuploaded all of the videos. We loved having each of our camp guests over to speak their minds, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s summer camp!
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