Join the Knackly crew as they welcome Legal Tech Advisor and Guest Host of “Lawyerist” to discuss the future of lawyering and technology. Does automation serve lawyers or clients better? Are legal services becoming productized?  How does a firm find the right tech for them?  How are courts responding to new technology?

We dive into that and more with Zach Glaser!

Knackly Episode 05 Official Transcript
Publish Date: 20 April 2021

[Robotic Blip] Zack Glaser:

It is a shift in the way that we practice and it’s a shift that’s coming, whether we really like it or not.

[Robotic Blip] Zack Glaser:

How do we get people up the hill? How do we go from where people are, which is potentially using WordPerfect, potentially using a typewriter? How do we get them to drawing their decision trees out?

[Robotic Blip] Zack Glaser:

And you guys have one of the best structured databases out there for this type of thing.

[Musical Intro] Michael Lane:

Welcome to the Knackly Podcast, where we help law firms make documents better.

Michael Lane:

So welcome! My name is Michael Lane, I’m the Director of Sales and Marketing at Knackly, and I am your host as well. With me as always are Knackly Founders, Kim Mayberry and Lowell Stewart. Hello guys.

Lowell Stewart:

Hey.

Kim Mayberry:

Hello.

Michael Lane:

Right on. So this is a special episode. Joining us today is our very special guest, Zack Glaser. Zack is a familiar name to listeners because he is the legal tech advisor to the Legal Talk Network. And he is also a frequent featured guest on the hit podcast, Lawyerist. A little bit about him, he’s raised and educated in Tennessee, he earned his JD from the University of Memphis, where he is based today. And in addition to having run his own practice, Zack is an entrepreneur as well. He founded and runs Tech4Lawyers (https://tech4lawyers.com), a legal technology consultancy.

We wanted to have him on board because as such, he’s in a really unique position to understand what lawyers need, what tools are available to help them and how to connect the two together. We’re fortunate enough to have him in our studio to talk about the future of the legal industry and the role technology is playing in it. We’re going to ask ourselves, and each other, is Legal Tech a threat to lawyering as we know it? Or, will it make legal services more available to the people who need it the most? Can it be both?

So with that, let’s get started. Hi Zack. Welcome!

Zack Glaser:

Thank you. Thanks for having me guys. I appreciate being here with you all.

Michael Lane:

It’s terrific to have you. We appreciate your time.

Zack Glaser:

Excellent.

Michael Lane:

So let’s dive in, let’s talk about document automation. We’re definitely going to get to that. Let’s do that a little bit later, because that’s what we love to talk about the most. Right now to begin, how about what I alluded to: the changes in the legal industry. What are you seeing, how is technology playing its role and what do you expect that role to be in the future?

Zack Glaser:

I think technology, in the legal sphere, is starting to have a change that we’ve seen in some other places recently and a lot of us, we want to call this the Uber for blank. But really what it is, to me it’s a shift between this idea of the standard partnership between computers and humans. The machines handle basic math, record keeping and data transmission, and it frees up people to make decisions, exercise judgment, have creativity and take care of customers. But I think we’re starting to see that blend now, or I think we will start to see a lot more of that blend to where computers and this automation is becoming smarter. And it’s a little scary for all of us, but I think that’s the direction that we’re going is having people making some of the more high-level decisions, as opposed to making your standard day to day decisions.

Kim Mayberry:

Does this mean that lawyers may not be a word processing person anymore?

Zack Glaser:

I hope so.

Michael Lane:

Or at least get them off WordPerfect!

[laughter]

Zack Glaser:

Oh man, we just need to choose one and go with it. Absolutely. I think you guys have said it on the website where, “Having an attorney or having somebody just deal with the processing or creation of a document for the document’s sake, is something we need to get past.” And the real use of the skillset of an attorney is in putting the knowledge and the information into the document as opposed to creating the document or what I like to think of is just basically publishing the document, typing it out in your word processor.

Kim Mayberry:

Right. So how are attorneys taking it? I mean, I know you run some different groups of people. What’s your sense of where firms are going?

Zack Glaser:

I think my perspective is unique somewhat in the sphere, because I work with Lawyerist audience and I work with the labsters, the people that we coach. A lot of times, I have a skewed view of people who are at least searching for technology as a solution. And I see a lot of people moving toward this productization of legal services. And I was actually having a conversation with somebody the other day, talking about this big argument, over flat fees versus hourly rates. And they were saying really most people that charge flat fees, which a lot of times is considered to be kind of progressive, are just taking their hourly rates and estimating. And I think that’s true. So I think the real next step or one of the real next steps is creating mechanisms for clients to come on and build their own journey.

You as the attorney, don’t have to be active in that journey 100% of the time. It can kind of be an asynchronous relationship. And that leads itself to actual flat fees as opposed to estimated hourly rates. If you think, “Okay, well I can do a lease for you. It’s going to take me half an hour to do the lease. So I’m going to charge a flat fee of $150.” Well, that’s not really a flat fee in my mind, that’s an estimated hourly rate.

But if I create a intake on my website and the intake does a guided interview and walks people through, “Okay, well, what state is your property located in? What year was it built? Who is the owner? How many tenants are you going to have? What’s their information?” And so on, you can get pretty deep into that stuff, especially with something like Knackly. If I don’t have to have any interaction with that client right there, but yet I know that the system is created well, then I can charge you a flat fee. I can charge you $2 for that, because once it’s built, there’s no more expense other than the expense of my actual platform.

Kim Mayberry:

That’s interesting because yes, you could charge $2. You could also, instead of charging $150, maybe there’s the value that it’s really worth a 1000 bucks as well, on the flip side of it, right?

Zack Glaser:

That’s exactly right. It becomes a product as opposed to a service at that point. I was never a really good econ person, but you charge what the market will bear, I guess. Or as I’ve said to some people, you use it as a loss leader. You can do something where, maybe I want to bring people in by giving them a free power of attorney. And now I’ve got their information. They have a power of attorney, which is not something I would charge a ton for, but they needed it and now I’m their lawyer or they’re on my email list or something like that.

Kim Mayberry:

Right.

Michael Lane:

What I hear you describing, it sounds like it’s going to give attorneys heartburn because they’re just hearing they’re going to get paid less.

Zack Glaser:

I think that’s what attorneys hear. Well, I’d say I think that—that’s exactly what attorneys hear.

Michael Lane:

Right? I mean…

Zack Glaser:

… definitely, but you know, it is a shift in the way that we practice and it’s a shift that’s coming whether we really like it or not. And it doesn’t have to be that way for everybody but if I’m able to productize my services and then you are an attorney over there trying to make one-and-done residential leases, yes, you’re going to either go away, or charge way too little for your services. It’s just going to happen. This is coming, whether people like it or not. They don’t necessarily need to be on the forefront of it, but they need to be at least in the middle of the wave.

Michael Lane:

Why is this happening? Why are services being productized and why now?

Zack Glaser:

To me, it’s a technology thing. Attorneys are starting to recognize how technology can help them. Now we, as attorneys, we’ve always used these sorts of mechanisms. I mean boiler plate is how we get things done. Templates are how we get things done. But now we’re starting to see these tools like Knackly, where you’re making it to where an attorney doesn’t have to have coding knowledge in order to get some sort of programming done. I personally think that a lot of attorneys think in a way that a lot of programmers do. There’s a lot of, “If this, then this.” There’s a ton of decision trees in law.

And I think this type of thing, if it’s connected to attorneys and made to where they can use it, their minds and the way that law operates, works really well for creating automated documents and automated processes. And I think we’re starting to see the technology expense and, the actual expense, the monetary expense, but then also the work expense, how much effort do they have to put into it. Those expenses are coming down to where it’s worth it for attorneys to say, “Okay, well, let’s look into this and let’s start investing in this and making these happen.”

Kim Mayberry:

So that’s interesting. If in my previous life, I worked for a library software company and in the late nineties, they are really trying to push this idea of SaaS and having very little success because the whole premise was, you don’t have to have IT department take care of it, but price wise, it wasn’t really helpful. The impetus that I think that changed people to want to go to a SaaS-based model software as a service, is that people want to now be remote.

The change started happening because technology’s caught up to the point that now I want to be on my phone. You know, iPhone comes out and I’m going to be on my phone. I want to be able connect to the information that I need to know, and it’s just propagated. So we’ve had that shift in the technology that’s happened, which I think agrees with, but is there something in the future that maybe pushes attorneys to say, “Crap, I really need to be doing something. You guys keep talking about this here at Lawyerist.” What pushes them over the cliff to say, “I’ve got to get on board with this whole idea of productizing my services?”

Zack Glaser:

Money! I don’t mean that in, “Oh everybody wants to make as much money as they possibly can.” But we have to make money in order to eat food. And I like to eat food. So I have to make money. In order to make money I have to make my clients happy. My clients are online, they’re on their phone. They don’t want to talk to me. They don’t want to interact with me. They don’t want to go see a lawyer. I think the Clio Trends Report, from a couple of years ago, and I should probably do better about knowing exactly where this comes from, said something to the extent of, “80% of consumers who have a problem and can afford a lawyer, still don’t get one.” And that’s a money thing. That’s not a monetary access to justice thing. That is a people don’t want one thing-

Michael Lane:

They don’t see the value.

Zack Glaser:

… because they don’t know how to connect with one. Or yes, you’re right. They don’t see the value in it. And so we, as attorneys have to figure out a way to… well, I think some attorneys would do well to figure out a way to connect with those people. And I think a lot of that is through technology, meeting people where they are, which is on their mobile phones.

Lowell Stewart:

Right. You know, it makes me think, I just went through a refinance process on my house, and for the first time at this point, I tried it through one of the Online Only Brokers where I did every single step of the process online and never met anybody. And I think more and more, as we go on in time, the expectation of customers is that that sort of experience is a possibility.

It’s something that they can do. If they’ve only got time between three and four in the morning, they can do the work on it. When they have time, they can answer the questions and go in and supply the documentation and all of that 24/7, anywhere they happen to be. And to your point about attorneys, at some point, an attorney is going to have a hard time finding new business if they demand that they have to meet with the clients face to face in their office, between the hours of nine and five. They’re going to need to change their tooling, to adapt to some of the consumer expectations that are out there.

Zack Glaser:

That’s absolutely right. And I think some of it though, is making sure that you’re in the right timeframe. If I think years ago, not years ago, a couple years ago I was meeting with some people from the Administrative Office of the Courts in Tennessee at a Hacker Fest thing. That’s a technical term and-

Lowell Stewart:

White Hat or Black Hat conference or something?

Zack Glaser:

Oh no, not that much. It was a Hackathon through Music City Legal Hackers. Yes, I’m not good enough with technology to do any of that. But I can go in and say, okay, there’s this tool and this tool and we can try to make them talk to each other in a way that creates a process for people. And a couple of us were trying to figure out how to allow people to come to our website, an attorney’s website, schedule a meeting and pay for it, and then actually show up to that meeting online. The technology was kind of there. You could get it done. The technology has been there for a long time, but the appetite for it, from consumers was not there. So not only do we have to change as consumer tastes changes, we have to wait for consumer tastes sometimes because if you’re trying to schedule virtual meetings with clients 10 years ago, they’re not going to want to do that with you. We kind of have to lag back a little bit too.

Michael Lane:

Have courts kept up? How well do they support technology?

Zack Glaser:

So that’s an interesting place, because I think there are a lot of courts that are trying to do well. And I think most courts are doing their best certainly, but it is, in general, the courts and the clerk’s offices, as far as I have seen, are a wealth of data, but it’s a dead end of data. There’s this issue that I’ve come across a couple of times of being able to connect to the court system database. And this would be a really good thing to be able to do for a multitude of reasons, but not the least of which, for defendants or parties to actions, to be able to interact with those databases and work asynchronously.

When we talk a lot of times about virtual court, we think that it’s going to be a video meeting or something like that. But if you think about virtual court in what has to be done, people have to feel comfortable that equity or justice, or one of those lofty words is going to be served and they have to feel like they actually got heard. Most of the time court is about being heard and having somebody who is an authority, the judge generally, say yes or no to your question.

But if we were able to connect with the databases and connect with the information that the court has, on our phone let’s say, and I was able to log into Beadle County Courthouse in South Dakota and say, “Okay, I see the evidence against me in this credit card case, that looks right. I’m going to go ahead and push agree.” Well, that’s virtual court, but nobody had to show up and there’s very little time taken up, very little time of the court’s taken up. And I think that in my experience, a lot of cases would go that direction of, “Okay, we actually do agree now that we get into a place where we’re in front of the court.”

Michael Lane:

So, in that case, do you see criminal stuff?

Zack Glaser:

No. “Criminal” is a special place because you have a right to see your accuser. We have a lot of evidence issues. And when you’re dealing with whether or not to lock somebody up or something like that, I think a lot of times people want to be a lot more careful and they want to bring a person into the situation. They want to put people in a room together. What I see is this in civil court a lot of times… And I come from a background of doing Creditors Rights work, so leases, credit card stuff, things like that. And I find that a lot of these things, if you can get parties together, it doesn’t have to be in the same room, but if you can get parties together, they can generally come to some sort of agreement. And I think that we could do a better job of leveraging technology to do that in the courts. But I think the courts are trying. I really do think they’re trying to step out. There’s a lot of field to move the ball down right now.

Michael Lane:

And in your crystal ball, as you look forward, what do you see happening? Are lawyers and courts going to become more tech savvy, or is the software going to become easier and easier for the end user to use?

Zack Glaser:

Oh man. So I think courts are going to become more tech savvy, certainly, but to me, I think there’s just so much inertia there to change in courts that I think it’s probably going to be a little bit easier to do something almost outside of the courts to… And that sounds nefarious. What I mean is to have agreements that people are contracted into, next to the courts instead of having to go to the courts.

Michael Lane:

Like the drug court set up?

Zack Glaser:

Yes. Where, you almost rethink it completely.

Michael Lane:

Parallel track of sorts.

Zack Glaser:

Yes. I think that’s probably an easier way to go. It’s difficult to work on the car while you’re driving down the road. And so I think that courts are running into that. And that’s why I say I think courts are doing the best they can, or I think they’re working very hard to do this. They have the best interest of their constituents in mind, and they’re trying to do these things, but there’s a lot of friction there.

Lowell Stewart:

I kind of chuckled at your question, Michael, because, are the courts going to become more tech savvy is like saying, are humans going to become more tech savvy? Good luck with that in general. I think software has to some extent, step up and make itself more accessible and easier to use. Doesn’t it?

Kim Mayberry:

Which has definitely happened. Look at the iPhone.

Lowell Stewart:

Yes.

Kim Mayberry:

You got, grandmas now using iPhones. My mom uses an iPhone, sort of, I mean-

Michael Lane:

We’re going to get letters grandmas now.

Lowell Stewart:

The tech needs to become less requirement of savvy.

Michael Lane:

So I think I understand where you’re going; everybody’s base level of expertise rises and there’s always new tech that confuses 20% of us or we’re probably always going to be exactly where we are just with new forms of technology on top of each other, yes?

Lowell Stewart:

The tech gets more accessible, hopefully.

Kim Mayberry:

It certainly has over the last 20 years. It’s way more accessible

Lowell Stewart:

Way more accessible. I agree, yes. I see that trend continuing.

Michael Lane:

Certainly, I hear about this almost—literally—every every day, about lawyers who want to automate this process on their own website, they want to provide documentation for folks that just need a document. They don’t necessarily need representation. And that’s playing a significant role in folks’ choices about document automation products at the moment.

Zack Glaser:

Yes, I-

Michael Lane:

There was no question there, I suppose I just dead-ended that.

What do you think Zack?

[laughter]

Zack Glaser:

No, I don’t think anybody is going to automate any documents in the near future. No, I-

Michael Lane:

Let’s go to the video games then. We’ll just get into that!

Zack Glaser:

I think that’s exactly right. As these document automation products become simpler for A, attorneys to use, but then B, for their clients to use, they’re just going to be used more. It’s that simple. There’s not a lot of fundamental idea that has to be changed in this. And that’s the good part. I like to use leases as examples because that’s what I’m really familiar with. But if I’m doing a lease for a landlord, I’m going to ask them a series of questions. And that series of questions is basically just going to go down a decision tree that I have in my head. Well, I can make that decision tree. I can automate that decision tree. I can put that into a program and I can put that into a guided interview. So the fundamental idea of how I create a lease doesn’t change, it’s just now we have technology that can do something that I was doing by hand previously. And so I think those are things that people are more apt to accept and bring into their practice quickly.

Kim Mayberry:

Where do we need to go in the future?

Zack Glaser:

I have started to see this interesting little place, of document automation being intake. And I’m sure you guys see this too, but I have started to see doc automation, with these guided interviews and what not, become a thing of how do we input information into this database? And you guys have one of the best structured databases out there for this type of thing.

Kim Mayberry:

Let’s be clear: we have the best! It’s our podcast so we can say that right?

Zack Glaser:

That’s exactly right. It is tempting to go down that path and I think it’s a good path to go, but we’re all looking at that elephant in the room of AI and machine learning. And that’s a scary place because it has been beat to death, much like Blockchain in the legal sphere. Whenever somebody, a couple of years ago, would talk about legal tech, they would say, “Well, what about Blockchain? What about AI? How is that going to affect these things?” And I can see some areas where in these document automation tools, they start to suggest other documents that you have in your arsenal to bring in.

So for example, I’m doing a… And I’m not a designer here. This is a very basic sort of thing. But I’m doing a lease again with my example. And as I go through and we answer certain questions in the lease, the program is able to say, “Okay, based on these questions, you may want to add this document, or you may want to think about adding this clause”, as we go through. So I think having some semblance of machine learning in there is not an immediate thing, but I think it’s an interesting place for me in document automation.

Kim Mayberry:

So when you think about it, in the intake process, can we make suggestions that aren’t necessarily using, based on the thousand other leases that we did, saying, “Your case is like 95% of these other cases, and in these other cases, this is what was done.” Is that a good representation of how you look at AI?

Zack Glaser:

I think so. And I think my idea there is actually, I think it’s limited. I’m sure that it’s bigger and broader than that, but yes, that’s kind of where my limited idea and my creativity of what to do with AI goes to. But you could also, as the document automation tool is essentially a database and it’s a way to bring information in, you could also use it to suggest other products to these people. You know, it says, okay, well, for example, you’re a landlord, and let’s say, somehow we got into how old the landlord is or something like that. And you say, “Okay, well, maybe you want to think about this other product that we have, maybe we want to think about…” Or okay, we somehow figure out that they have a child and we say, “Well, do you have a will? Do you want something like that?” And so the machine learning could potentially start to suggest other products for them. But again, that’s extremely simple. And my really basic view of what machine learning is and…

Kim Mayberry:

For me, as I thought about document automation, I look at it from the actual automation part and where I see us going is not only what you’re talking about, but how can we make it, so it’s much easier to create these automated documents. I think there’re some possibilities. I don’t know if it gets ever to complete machine learning, but a kind of an augmented type of thing where we can present information to the expert and the expert can say yes or no. So, that it’s a little bit of a combination between the two.

Zack Glaser:

I think augmented is a really good word to bring up when we talk about lawyers and technology. I’ve heard somebody say, “In the future we’ll be Centaur lawyers, we’ll be part lawyer, part machine. And as scary as that sounds, what it is, is we’re saying we’re going to use this machine to help us do our job. Not this machine is going to take over our job. I think of automation as doing the stuff that I don’t want to do and even if that’s decision making, sometimes if we can program something to make a better decision than me, great. I don’t want to do that anymore then, but I think having it augment the experience of even creating some of these documents, is something that would be extremely helpful. Look at what WordPress did for the web design industry in creating a way for people, without a lot of coding knowledge, to make a website.

Kim Mayberry:

Right, and all that little add-ins and things that you can do with that. Start thinking about documents in that way. Which frankly, we have been thinking about how do you do that? It’s a little bit down the road for us, but to both start pulling from other people’s… Get the best of breed, how I like this and like this, and I pull it together into a document and it’s now mine.

Zack Glaser:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lowell Stewart:

One of the things you said earlier, you were talking about decision trees and how the attorney will have the decision tree in his head and getting… One of the challenges or scary bits about automation is getting that decision tree out of one’s head and into a system where it can be automatically run and where others can take advantage of it.

And I think it’s kind of tying in with what you were saying, Kim, the augmenting that process where you don’t have to be so technical in learning how to express a logical decision tree, but you can just, using terms and concepts that you are familiar with, you can, with the right tools, articulate that decision tree. It will tease the right information out of you to capture it. If that makes sense. That’s sort of one of the things that I’m trying to figure out, how do we do that?

And what’s the best way to help people who are not machines, who are not Centaurs. But they do have this logical way of thinking about all of the potential outcomes of that decision tree. And how do we make it as easy as it can be to articulate that.

Zack Glaser:

I’ve seen some YouTube videos of a father asking his kids to tell him how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And they say, “Get the bread out, get two pieces out, put the peanut butter on there.” And he’s just slamming the peanut butter jar around and mashing the bread down. And the idea is, you have to tell them exactly what to do, and that’s difficult for people, but they still know what needs to be done.

And so if you can use something like natural language processing or something like that, to, like you said, tease this information out of somebody’s head. I think that’s a great place to go with this to just make it more simple, to create these things, to abstract it again. We’re not writing in binary. We’re not writing in machine language. We’re not writing in C++. We’re abstracting and abstracting and abstracting to where maybe eventually we’ll get to where you can just put your thoughts down on a piece of paper. And then that becomes that decision tree. That’s probably way down the road though.

Lowell Stewart:

Go talk to Elon Musk and Neuralink and get some implants to help with this.

Zack Glaser:

That’s where we need to go. We’re going to need to put some implants in lawyers. They’re going to love that.

Lowell Stewart:

Who wouldn’t?

Zack Glaser:

Right, let’s track them and maybe see whatever they see. There’s no client issues with that. Just let them…

Michael Lane:

I have my doubts. As soon as they get off WordPerfect—once they get off that—then, we can start talking about the implants. I’m not sure it’s going to happen until that though.

Zack Glaser:

Oh man.

Michael Lane:

Baby steps.

Zack Glaser:

Yes. Well, you say that, I think that’s one of the biggest things here in this area, and specifically in automating documents, is how do we get people up the hill? How do we go from where people are, which is potentially using WordPerfect, potentially using a typewriter, potentially having somebody else do all the writing for them because they’re using a Dictaphone or some sort of tape recording device? How do we get them to drawing their decision trees out? That’s tough

Michael Lane:

And that leads me to actually ask you … that’s where Tech4Lawyers comes in. So go ahead and plug your company if you like!

Zack Glaser:

So Tech4Lawyers is what I consider getting people the last twenty yards on the field. There are a lot of places that you can go to say, “Okay, well, I want to connect to Zapier with this thing, or I want to connect these two applications using Power Automate or something like that. And Tech4Lawyers does two things in my mind. One thing is it actually has some articles on literally how to do that. And then the other thing is that we can provide services on doing that as well. And there are a lot of companies out there that will do that. You don’t necessarily need it to be a legal-specific company, but I think I see a lot of attorneys out there saying, “Okay, well, I know I want to connect Lawmatics with this other thing that has maybe an open API, but I don’t know how to do it, but I know exactly what I want it to do.” And so a lot of times we, help people make that connection or automate some of their processes.

Michael Lane:

Excellent.

Kim Mayberry:

And tell us about Lawyerist as well, because you’re connected there.

Zack Glaser:

Yes. So, I’m the legal tech advisor at Lawyerist and I write a lot of the reviews for products. And Lawyerist is a website, it’s really a publishing company for small- to medium-sized law firms to get information and get help and resources about running a healthy law firm.

Michael Lane:

Well, we really appreciate your time, Zack. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s been fun.

Zack Glaser:

Absolutely. Thank you guys. This has been great.

Michael Lane:

I hope we can do it again soon.

Zack Glaser:

Yes, I’d love to.

Michael Lane:

Very cool. Anybody else have any final statements before I-

Kim Mayberry:

No.

[laughter]

Michael Lane:

On that note of enthusiasm … thank you very much for listening everyone! We’re going to shut it down and we’re going to see you again next time. Thanks so much! Cheers guys.

Lowell Stewart:

Bye-bye.

[Musical Outro] Michael Lane:

And that concludes Knackly: The Podcast. Please be sure to leave us a review. And if there’s something you’d like to hear from us, reach out and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and our website, Knackly.io. That’s spelled K-N-A-C-K-L-Y dot I-O. Thanks for joining us. We’ll catch you again soon. Meanwhile, be well and be kind.