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Q&A with Daniel Lewis, V.P. Practical Guidance & Analytical Content, LexisNexis
Interview with Daniel Lewis, V.P. Practical Guidance & Analytical Content, LexisNexis
It’s Friday afternoon and a client calls about a potential merger, or a partner asks for extensive due diligence research. Kiss your weekend goodbye and settle in for endless hours of research. On top of that—if the assignment is in an unfamiliar practice area, the task becomes that much more ominous. Rather than having to parse through thousands of SEC filings and evaluate endless numbers of clauses and terms, imagine a tool that, with just a few clicks, provides you with detailed summaries of all the relevant M&A transactions and charts that help you identify market standards and trends.
DATA-DRIVEN INSIGHTS ARE TRANSFORMING THE LEGAL industry while leading to better customer outcomes, increased efficiency, and access to information presented in ways that were unimaginable less than a decade ago.
Daniel Lewis is an innovator in the world of legal data visualization. As co-founder of Ravel Law, he launched a legal research, analytics, and visualization platform. He now leads the Practical Guidance and Analytical business at LexisNexis and provides these insights about how integration of legal research products with data analytics can significantly improve efficiency and research results.
Q: According to a recent legal analytics study conducted by ALM Intelligence and LexisNexis, 90% of legal professionals agree that using data analytics makes them a better, more efficient, and effective legal practitioner. The study also reveals that adoption of legal analytics is rapidly increasing—and that growth is expected to continue.1 How does the new deal analysis and data visualization tool in Practical Guidance address this increasing need for more and better legal analytics?
A: Within Practical Guidance, we’ve launched a new tool called Market Standards to help M&A attorneys draft and negotiate more effectively by enabling them to search and compare transactions using 150 detailed deal points, easily find precedent language, and see deal point and transactional trends with data visualizations. Market Standards can do in a few clicks what would otherwise take hours of manual research.
Q: How do you evaluate attorneys’ needs in order to develop tools such as Market Standards and others designed to improve efficiency and accuracy?
A: We do a great deal of research into mapping in detail the day-to-day work that lawyers are doing and trying to spot opportunities to make that work more efficient. At the same time, it is important to identify the broader themes about where legal practice is going that we can then build around. Lawyers have long been asking for ways to accomplish their everyday tasks more efficiently and to be fast without sacrificing quality. Those themes are really reflected in the new Lexis+, which integrates Practical Guidance.
One of those themes is the dramatic increase in demand for data-driven tools. That takes many forms, including litigation analytics, language analytics, and the embedding of data into practical guidance materials—like the Market Standards tool. That’s a theme that we’ve seen at the forefront for the past several years.
The constant drive to enable faster, more confident research and task completion is also at the heart of Practical Guidance. Practical Guidance is fundamentally about helping an attorney start and finish tasks quickly and confidently, giving them the experience of what it would be like to have a whole firm of attorneys and an expert right down the hall that they can go ask, “How do I do this? Why is it done that way? Or, can you provide me with a sample document, or give me a checklist?” With the tools and content we provide in Practical Guidance, attorneys are able to take on new tasks that they otherwise would have had to spend a lot of time learning, and they are able to accelerate tasks that benefit from having things like a sample document or comparison chart.
Q: Is there a way to quantify the time savings created by these tools?
A: Yes, and the time savings are significant. For example, Market Standards searches across 33,000 deals—public transactions filed with the SEC. The results shown here analyze deals between 50-100 million dollars over the last three years.
Source: Market Standards2
Before Market Standards, researchers had to perform hours of manual labor searching through the SEC deals, reading them and trying to pull out specific deal points to create a manual spreadsheet that illustrates these things. This tool does that automatically, in just a few clicks. It helps you narrow down and evaluate the deals using 150 deal points – everything from industry to escrow amount. It also visualizes the data about important deal points so that you can easily spot patterns. We expect regular users will save dozens of hours annually, or more. Then, in the time saved, we get to ask how much further can attorneys go? For example, if they were previously willing to dedicate five hours to this task, we can give them a lot more information and insight in those same five hours. They are now way ahead—they are more prepared than they were before. Or, they can take the same five hours and do the task in two, then use those other three hours to devote to the next high-value task that they have.
Q: Can legal tech like this serve as an equalizer to help smaller firms compete?
A: To me, when leveling the playing field—the common theme is really about preparation. When you think about what money buys you in the legal context, one important thing it buys is time and preparation. Lexis+ brings more preparation into the hands of users, big or small in this context. Practical Guidance, for example, is like having a whole firm to learn from. Whether you are a small firm or a large firm, there are experts to learn from at your fingertips.
Another example of leveling the playing field is around data driven tools. So, whether it is Market Standards, or litigation-centered analytics, those tools bring forward to an individual new insights that would otherwise take an army of associates to uncover. Like the earlier example of a large firm trying to look at all of these SEC transactions—they have a team doing that. If you are an individual practitioner, you don’t have that team, but you can do the same kind of work with this tool. I think there are real consequences of having all of that at your fingertips as a smaller firm. I think being able to do these kinds of things and execute the same preparation is a pretty powerful equalizer.
Q: Can you offer an example of how Integration enhances efficiency?
A: One example is what we’ve done to integrate analytics into some of our practice notes. We’ve integrated analytics from the broader LexisNexis ecosystem—in this case, Lex Machina® and Context. We’ve brought in data, in one instance, about the number of harassment claims filed in district courts over the past few years.3 This is an interesting and powerful example of how all of these different pieces of technology and content from across the legal universe can come together in new and insightful ways.
Source: Lex Machina®
Nobody else is integrating litigation analytics into practical guidance. The ability to say “here’s how to handle this dispute, here’s what happens if it goes wrong, here are the litigation outcomes, and here’s the number of lawsuits being filed”—it’s a really new, powerful perspective that lawyers haven’t had easy access to before—and we’re bringing that together in one place, one subscription—easy to use.
For me, the most striking element of what these tools can bring to bear is speed and confidence. Whether you think about research or executing a task like drafting an agreement, the law is often complex, there are usually angles of it that an attorney may not fully understand, there are often edge cases, and there are always questions about what’s common or typical. Anytime we are able to speed up that process while also adding confidence to it—that is powerful. And that to me has been the evolution of the last 10 years—why data driven intelligence is really impactful and why practical guidance is impactful. Bring them together, and data-driven practical guidance gives you a jumping off point that makes it quick to start, quick to finish, and gives you confidence that you actually understood the landscape and did not misinterpret something or miss the bigger picture. The attorney practicing today vs. ten years ago is getting a lot more information in the same amount of time and either finishing that task sooner or finishing it with a lot more confidence.
Daniel Lewis leads the Practical Guidance and Analytical business at LexisNexis. He previously led Lexis’s legislative and regulatory tracking business, State Net. He was CEO and co-founder of Ravel Law, which Lexis acquired in 2017. Daniel holds a J.D. from Stanford Law and a BA from Johns Hopkins. He is a visiting professor for IE Law School’s Master in Legal Tech program and from 2012 to 2018 was a fellow at Stanford’s CodeX center. His past experience includes work with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC; Cooley, LLP; Passport Capital; the Natural Resources Defense Council; and United States Senator Barbara Boxer. Forbes named Daniel to their 30 under 30 list in 2015 and to their All-Star Alumni in 2017.
1. 2020 Legal Analytics Study: Bringing Value Into Focus,” ALM Intelligence & LexisNexis, December 2019. 2. Source: Market Standards (Current as of 10/14/2020.) 3. Source: Lex Machina® (current as of 2/4/2020). For more information on Lex Machina and to sign up for a live demo, click here.