Full Practice Management

  • August 01, 2017
  • David J. Bilinsky

There is finally a new development in the legal technology field (CosmoLex) that is squarely aimed at Canadians. For some time now I have been hoping for one product that combines full practice management (think Amicus Attorney or CLIO) with legal trust accounting that complies with provincial law society trust requirements and general accounting (think PCLaw or ESILAW) that complies with the Canadian tax system. Before this, users were forced to compromise by linking two products (such as linking CLIO with the Canadian version of Quickbooks or Xero or Amicus with PCLaw) with the requirement for double entries and resultant errors.

They state: “CosmoLex covers all bases, including Document Management, Email Management, Calendar & Tasks, Contact Management, Case Workflow, and Matter-Centric records. For new customers: “We even include a no-monthly fee LawPay account (we’ll cover the $20 LawPay monthly fee forever!).” Lawpay is the credit card processing system that allows you to select whether a payment goes into general (to pay a rendered account) or trust (as a retainer).

Cosmolex Canada was developed with the assistance of the Law Society of Alberta. Unlike BC, lawyers in Alberta must use an accounting system approved by their Law Society (which I believe, at the moment, only includes PCLaw and ESILAW). So, this is a big development. It will allow accounting based on the accrual method and will allow Canadian users to set HST/GST/PST on a file by file basis if necessary (for those situations where you are billing a client in another province).

Cosmolex is cloud-based and currently hosted in the USA. It remains to be seen if they will develop a Canadian data centre to host Canadian clients. At the moment, this places Cosmolex on equal footing with Amicus Cloud and CLIO, which are also hosted in the USA.

Pricing for Canadians has yet to be announced but in the USA it is $49 per user billed annually or $59 on a month to month basis. It includes free data migration (for everyone on a different practice management or accounting system) and free login for an external bookkeeper or accountant. It also includes free unlimited storage and free unlimited support.

Applied AI

Much has been written about Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and the law. Certainly, IBM’s Ross is a huge development in the application of AI to the law. However, Ross is still only being used by the bigger USA law firms. But there are developments that allow all sized firms to benefit from AI. Richard Tromans in an article “AI in the law – The industrialisation of cognition” talks about RAVN Systems in the UK.

He states: “Its most prominent offering is a Cognitive Engine, using what RAVN calls ‘Applied AI,’ which we can perhaps call AAI. This can be differentiated from ‘Theoretical AI,’ which is the stuff of much conjecture and fun, but nothing in the way of actual products (yet).

In short: AAI is the real face of new legal tech. It actually works and people are using it right now.”

What does it do? “[W]hat this software and its clever proprietorial algorithms do is make ‘useable meaning’ out of ‘unstructured data’ such as written text or tables, which have not been sorted or made interactive, e.g. a printed-out lease agreement, or a PDF contract document. In other words, data where a person would have to sit down, read and ruminate for a while to make any useful sense out of it.”

He gives an example of a firm tasked with reviewing 1000 lease agreements. That would take a paralegal or team of paralegals mind-numbing days if not weeks to process. “In one brief example, 40 pages’ worth of lease agreements were filtered of their key meaning and data, which was then presented in a readable and intelligible dashboard of information, in less than two minutes.” Furthermore, the machine doesn’t get tired and doesn’t make mistakes.

The real question is not whether this kind of AI will be applied in law firms – it is really only a matter of time. It is how will law firms respond? The early adopters run the risks of learning a new way of doing things and increasing costs or potentially reaping the rewards. The holdouts run the risk of consigning themselves to the obsolete pile – relying on a business model that is no longer economically viable. Only the future will tell....

© 2017 David J. Bilinsky