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Daniel Gold, AI Visionary, on Leveraging AI to Learn, Teach, and Go Faster

Ramin Tabatabai

For Daniel Gold, AI is the clear path forward for the more efficient, thoughtful, and just practice of law. But it isn’t as easy as pressing “go” when you need to get colleagues and clients on board with new technology. Thankfully, as managing director of BDO’s Enterprise E-Discovery Managed Services practice, he’s got plenty of experience with those conversations—and today, we’re sharing some of his tips with you.

Ramin Tabatabai: Please describe your role and how technology plays a part in it.

Daniel Gold: I'm the managing director and founding leader of BDO's Enterprise E-Discovery Managed Services practice. In this role, I lead the team that developed Athenagy, our patent-pending business intelligence dashboard. This dashboard serves as a single pane of glass for both Microsoft's e-discovery application and RelativityOne. BDO brought me to the firm to drive innovation and differentiate its forensic technology services. Our passionate team leads with experience and crafts innovative technology and solutions—such as Athenagy—that uniquely distinguish BDO from legacy e-discovery vendors.

What drew you to your line of work?

My college degree is in broadcast communications, and while I wanted to pursue a career in television, my advisor suggested I would make a great lawyer. Convinced, I took a year after graduation to prepare for the LSAT and did freelance video work during that time. Throughout my 20-year career as a lawyer and in the legal technology and IT space, I have always been passionate about technology and its ability to create greater efficacy.

My two passions, technology and law, converged and led me to the legal software and services industry. As a young lawyer, I experienced firsthand how technology can create efficiencies and how innovation and the application of technology continue to enhance the legal process. This shaped my career path from technical sales in e-discovery to executive management of an IT-managed services company and eventually to my current role at BDO.

How would you describe the promise of AI at a family dinner?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an umbrella term for a range of technological tools. In legal settings, AI helps lawyers find what they need quickly, so they can streamline processes and work more efficiently.

An example of AI many people can relate to is the option to give songs a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down" when using music streaming services. Over time, the app learns your preferences. This use of AI is like technology-assisted review (TAR) and other types of AI and machine learning (ML) used in e-discovery: simple coding to help the program recognize what is similarly responsive with what you need from a data set. The more you code and teach it, the better the results it provides.

AI tools can also be combined with conceptual searching, which goes beyond keyword searching to find related concepts. For example, if you type in "Alaska," keyword searching will return documents containing the word "Alaska." Conceptual searching will return documents with related concepts, such as "igloo" or "Inuit."

Stacking different AI tools together can be incredibly powerful. Hopefully, democratizing AI and making these tools more accessible to all will make a difference in the lives of not only legal professionals, but people in a variety of roles and industries.

Why does AI matter for what you do?

Technology transforms how lawyers work. Automating time-intensive processes creates opportunities for people to focus on innovation, advice, and strategic initiatives. At the same time, we have an ethical responsibility to understand the risks and benefits of this technology, which is why I'm passionate about educating lawyers on the benefits of e-discovery analytics and AI.

People often fear what they don’t understand. That’s why it is critical to show lawyers that advanced analytics in RelativityOne can help us work smarter and uncover important information more quickly.

My goal is to empower lawyers with the knowledge that tools such as conceptual searching, clustering, e-mail threading, name normalization, communication analysis, active learning, sentiment analysis, and entity extraction can help them thrive.

Have clients been hesitant to try AI-powered solutions? And if so, how do you overcome that and encourage them to give it a try?

Lawyers can be hesitant to take advantage of new technologies, which stems from a variety of factors. These include a lack of familiarity with the technology, uncertainty about its efficacy and cost-effectiveness, and sometimes the belief that it’s too complicated to use. To overcome that, it’s important to educate lawyers on the benefits of technology, how it works, and the outcomes it provides. The easiest way to drive adoption, in my experience, is to explain the technology in simple terms and compare it to things we use every day, such as music streaming services or email programs that automate and filter emails to a spam folder.

I’ve published some work in that vein, including Three Ways e-Discovery is Just Like Baseball, How Brewing Coffee is Just Like e-Discovery, and Making the Case for Checklists. It’s important to break down complex topics into smaller, more digestible pieces, which is why our team also created the e-Discovery Gold Nuggets video series. These two-minute videos explain the importance of legal technology, such as AI-powered solutions, in more understandable ways.

Clients want to understand the benefits of AI-powered solutions; receive personalized implementation, rollout, and one-on-one training and support; and see success stories of other companies that have used the technology to solve similar problems. Then we present a financial comparison to traditional methods. Together, this makes the adoption easier and more compelling.

How can AI enthusiasts pursue professional development in this area? How do you encourage peers to understand the importance of continuing education in this area?

Lawyers must understand the risks and benefits of relevant technology to be competent in their representation of clients, which includes the application of AI in billing, contracting, motion drafting, e-discovery, and case law research. This is included in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.1, Comment 8. But this isn’t something you learn once and are finished with, because this technology is continually evolving. You should pursue ongoing professional development through conferences, networking events, virtual meet-ups, and webinars.

Anyone interested in this technology can also research the latest developments in AI for legal applications, read white papers or publications about the topic, and create a list of vendors who specialize in AI-enabled legal software. It’s important to look for objective, fact-based organizations or groups dedicated to the development of AI-enabled legal software that evaluate the potential of leveraging AI tools to solve a problem. Furthermore, you can set up a news feed, such as Google Alerts, to stay informed of industry news. You may also seek mentorship and advice from experienced professionals and advisory firms.

Finally, the best way to learn is by doing: take a small project and apply AI to it. Write up an internal case study on the problems you are solving and how AI can be applied. This work may also benefit others by creating an open environment that encourages the use of new tools and provides information on how others can do the same to streamline certain tasks within your practice.

Lawyers must understand the risks and benefits of relevant technology to be competent in their representation of clients, which includes the application of AI in billing, contracting, motion drafting, e-discovery, and case law research. But this isn’t something you learn once and are finished with, because this technology is continually evolving.

What are the biggest areas of opportunity you feel AI can have an impact on? How can technologies like AI help you uncover more value?

AI has the potential to make a massive impact on the way attorneys practice law and represent their clients. From contract drafting and billing to e-discovery and research, the future applications of this technology in the legal industry could be infinite.

For instance, attorneys can use AI to automate the process of drafting contracts, which saves time and reduces errors. Furthermore, AI could also analyze existing contracts to identify potential red flags and reduce risk. Applying AI to billing can automate the process of tracking billable hours and generating invoices, which can reduce human error and increase accuracy. This can also remove administrative and operational bottlenecks, freeing up time for attorneys to focus on more strategic work.

A significant opportunity that is already available is the ability to leverage AI in e-discovery tools to automate the process of identifying personal identifiable information (PII) and conducting sentiment analysis, entity extraction, name normalization, and email threading. The technology can also perform automated document tagging, classification, redaction, and privilege review and visualization of case-related relationships through graphical analysis. This automation speeds up the review process by identifying the most important documents to apply to the issues and important people in every matter. The value is created by freeing up the attorneys’ time and other team resources to focus on higher-value tasks and ultimately provide better service to their clients.

Ramin Tabatabai is a senior account executive at Relativity.

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