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  • Writer's pictureFrederick L Shelton

The Vanishing Billable (and Non-Billable!) Hour Part 2: Clearbrief

Reprinted from the “Shelton Shares” Column in Attorney at Law Magazine

In 2019, I wrote an article entitled, “The Vanishing Billable Hour Part 1.” I predicted that millions of billable hours would be eliminated (over time) through the use of legal-specific AI like Technology Assisted Review (TAR). I also predicted that we were on the verge of a breakthrough, wherein AI would have a major impact on the practice of law. I was wrong and right. I was wrong about the timing. I thought the breakthrough would come in 2020 or at the latest, 2021. But alas, instead of amazing legal-specific AI, we got COVID. Ugh. But I was right about how AI would eventually impact the legal profession. Two years after my timeline, we’re here. This is my sixth article on AI this year and I have literally dozens of drafts to finish. I’ve interviewed everyone from the developers and owners of startups to “Big AI” executives like Kriti Sharma, the chief legal product officer for Thomson Reuters (whose interview will be an upcoming article). The journey has been like fighting a hydra. Every time I’ve learned about and addressed one new, legal-specific AI, two more have appeared. This is important because while legal AI is becoming better, ChatGpt 4 has, according to a study by Stanford University, gotten dumber. That’s not as impactful as it could be, as Chat (and Bard etc.) don’t do the tasks that attorneys and paralegals do. But dozens of platforms do and as I mentioned, more are coming every day.

Will legal-specific AI replace attorneys and paralegals? No. Attorneys and paralegals who use AI will replace those who don’t. Let’s talk about a staple of any litigator: Writing briefs. A good brief cites facts, precedent etc. it provides links to the cases cited. It also requires the attorney or their paralegal to create a Table of Authorities and all the necessary exhibits – work which is time-consuming and is typically non-billable (the bane to every private practice attorney’s existence!). Just creating the non-billable content can take an entire day of work. Not anymore. Meet Clearbrief AI. Clearbrief saves litigator (and their clients) massive amounts of billable and non-billable time. How? I spoke to Jacqueline Schafer, their CEO. FS: Let’s start with the basics. Tell me about Clearbrief. JS: Clearbrief is AI that analyzes legal writing to find and display the exact page of both laws and facts referenced in a document, right in the righthand pane of Microsoft Word. Clearbrief’s patented AI will also make suggestions for other pages of evidence to cite, from across all your uploaded transcripts, emails, and discovery docs. You can write a more accurate and powerful facts section in minutes. We won Litigation Product of the Year 2023 at Legalweek. FS: Congratulations! That’s quite an accomplishment. So back to your product. Describe the functionality, if you would. JS: Sure. You just select any phrase in your Word doc and use the “Add Cite” button and Concept Search Bar to instantly view a list of suggested pages from the discovery or transcripts to support the ideas in your sentence, and insert a hyperlink. Then as you review the suggestions to the best pages of evidence, click to insert a hyperlinked citation in your Word doc. Now your colleagues can view the actual evidence in Word when they cite-check the draft.

FS: So basically, you just tell it what you want supported, and it gives you choices based on what you highlighted. Then you drag and drop the links to the ones you want to use, into your word document? JS: Correct. FS: What else can it do? JS: It can build a Table of Authorities in one click, no tagging needed. It can also generate your exhibits for filing with a few clicks based on your citations, which saves on average an entire day of admin time on the day of filing. This allows the partner to keep editing, wordsmithing, and yes – billing – instead of having to stop to give the paralegal enough time for manual admin tasks. And when you’re done, you click to create a fully hyperlinked PDF version for filing with the court. Clearbrief automatically displays any cases cited thanks to our partnership with Fastcase. FS: So no more spending hours on tables and exhibits. It’s all a click of a button now? JS: Exactly. We hold four issued AI legal writing patents that power this tech (our vision was that no litigator should ever have to do this stuff manually again!). FS: Wow! That’s pretty impressive. Anything else? JS: We have a feature where you can drag in your opponent’s filing, and Clearbrief flags where their sentences are not supported by the evidence. You can use the “Add Cite” button to find the facts they conveniently omitted. It will also flag any bogus cases cited. FS: When you talk about bogus cases cited, you’re of course referencing the Avianca Airlines debacle? JS: (Laughs) Correct. I actually made a quick video where we uploaded the affidavit from that case which included the fake cases, and Clearbrief instantly identified those text fragments as fake cases and flagged them for review. FS: I bet the attorney on that case wishes he’d used your AI. JS: We would be more than happy to offer the attorneys on that case a free month’s trial of Clearbrief! FS: One final thing, I recall you mentioning that some of your users are also using Clearbrief to send demand letters. How does that work? JS: Yes, thanks for bringing that up. The final step of using Clearbrief is that you can click a button to hyperlink all the factual and legal sources in your Word doc and share it as a hyperlinked PDF, so if you have a demand letter, you can send it to counsel showing them exactly the evidence they’ll face if they take this to trial. There’s nothing more powerful than showing the insurance company why you win. Our users have said they get replies right away when they send hyperlinked demands with Clearbrief. FS: This is all very practical. Thanks for your time and insights. How many hours will be saved on research, citations, creating tables and exhibits? While the Doom & Gloom Set is sounding the clarions and claiming AI will wipe out legal jobs, AI like Clearbrief make it clear that at least for the foreseeable future, AI is enabling attorneys to focus on higher-level functions and save considerable amounts of non-billable time. That time can then be used providing billable services to clients or as I would choose, spending time on the tennis court with my lovely bride. Literally anything is better than spending a day on tedious, non-billable work! Shelton’s Crystal Ball: Clearbrief and other savvy developers will focus on eliminating more and more low-level and especially non-billable tasks and functions that lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants typically do. The goal will be what every lawyer dreams of: Literally everything they do will be billable!


Frederick Shelton is the CEO of Shelton & Steele and provides Rainmaking & Legal-Specific AI Consulting to lawyers and law firms. He can be reached at fs@sheltonsteele.com

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