Silicon Valley stalwart law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has launched Orrick Labs, an in-house technology incubator tasked with developing efficiency technology for the firm. The “lab” is currently working on a firm-wide document management dashboard platform and intends to develop other technology to support firm operations.

Jackson Ratcliffe, technology architect for Orrick Labs, explained that the idea for the incubator derived originally from the technology strategy at Venture Law Group, a firm that rode the boom and bust of the late 90s dot-com wave. “Their whole focus was they had the most advanced tech that any law firm could have,” Ratcliffe said, noting that the firm was one of the first to embrace email and client-facing document management. Many Venture Law Group veterans, including Ratcliffe, landed at Orrick in hopes of building a similar strategy for the firm.

Ratcliffe’s first project for the firm was a comprehensive dashboard system tailored to Orrick’s Technology Companies Group, displaying key information and documents for clients in a given matter all at once. “That project has gone extremely well. We have almost 900 clients set up on it now. Now they want more,” he said.

That “more” resulted in a set of internal conversations about potential technology solutions. Ratcliffe suggested that to really capitalize on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud-based cybersecurity infrastructure, the firm had to begin developing cloud-based strategies.

“If we really want to go to the next level and do all the things we read about in the news rags, AI and such, we need to do more,” Ratcliffe said. “The on-premise solution we were using, I just couldn’t do anything more with it.”

Orrick signed off on Orrick Labs to support some of this new technology development. After hiring on two additional technical staff people, the Orrick Labs team is now hard at work building out the infrastructure for further technology to be built upon.

“The three of us are building a next generation platform to better organize legal documents for clients and at the matter level,” Ratcliffe explained. While Ratcliffe’s dashboard project was initially designed for the Technology Companies Group, Orrick Labs’ next project intends to build out technology accessible across the firm. “Any practice group, if they need a collaborative site, they can provision it,” he said.

“Ultimately, the goal is to make sure all the information we have internally is presented on this dashboard. It’s a lot of internal confidential data; we want to make sure we respect our clients privacy and confidentiality,” Ratcliffe added.

While sexier technology like AI-based contract analysis drive a lot of excitement, Ratcliffe explained that implementing that technology without having the right infrastructure in place isn’t particularly useful, and it certainly can’t be done with legacy on-premise tools many firms rely on.

“You can’t build AI with on-premise tools. You have to be using these big neural networks that the big vendors have,” he explained.

Many legal technology startups are looking to design and sell technology similar to what Orrick Labs aims to build, but Ratcliffe explained that there are key reasons to develop and tailor that technology in-house. “The biggest reason is integration with existing systems. Right now, if you look at most law firms, the sites or services they have for these collaborations are islands unto themselves,” he explained.

Ratcliffe noted that practice group leaders are eager to contribute ideas and feedback to Orrick Labs’ technology. “The tone and interest and excitement is very high. It’s really a firm project, and culturally Orrick is committed to it,” he said.


24 November, 2017


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