Canadian Lawyer

October 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 9 of 59

8 UPFRONT NEWS ANALYSIS WHEN LAW FIRMS dispersed in March and virtual was the new normal, tech innovators saw an opportunity. Finally, many thought, all these law firms that were slow to change would see the benefit of moving to the cloud and automating their processes. But a countervailing reality was that the economy ground to a halt, and technology budgets froze along with the justice system. "Certainly, there's always pressure from clients to get the bills down," says Anne McNulty, senior director of Customer Value at Kira Systems. "That's not COVID specific, that's been around for a while, and I think generally has been increasing. But it probably got even worse as a result of this." Kira, which helps firms find information in contracts using artificial intelligence, depends on M&A and other corporate activity, which slowed down precipitously when COVID hit. But what McNulty noticed was that associates who would have been busy working on M&A were redeployed to do more analytical work with their software, such as tracking deal terms or market intelligence. "There's all sorts of interesting things you can do around market intelligence and nego- tiations. And we're spending a lot more time talking to our customers about how to use Kira for that," says McNulty. On the litigation side, work also disappeared as the courts shut down. "What happened with the profession is that we were pretty much paralyzed overnight, with a few exceptions. All of the deadline-driven work that was out there suddenly didn't have any deadlines," says Brent Arnold, a litigator at Gowling WLG. Arnold says most lawyers — who were forced to change their habits of meeting in person — simply caught up to the rest of the business world by using basic online communications tools. "The real story of the pandemic has been lawyers having to adapt and figure out how to use the tools that were always there." But Arnold points to major changes afoot, including the adoption of virtual hearing soft- ware CaseLines by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in a pilot project that will soon be adopted across the province. When litigators are forced to go digital by the courts, it will no doubt force some internal changes in how they use technology as well. "That is going to just change commercial and civil litigation dramatically by forcing all of the litigators to use that technology, and from everything I've seen it's easy enough to use that "The real story of the pandemic has been lawyers having to adapt and figure out how to use the tools that were always there." Brent Arnold, Gowling WLG Legal tech's silver lining Technology budgets at law firms were frozen like every other part of the justice system when the pandemic hit, but innovators see a new openness to their solutions

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