Law firms will see falling billable hours as the Walmart panel counsel program launches a LegalMation software platform that automates certain court filings.
LegalMation’s platform provides in-house legal teams and outside counsel the ability to respond to lawsuits and to draft the initial round of discovery requests in less than two minutes, according to a news release. It is projected that this will cut up to 10 hours of attorney time on each lawsuit. The LegalMation software uploads a PDF copy of a lawsuit, then automatically prepares a draft answer and initial set of targeted requests for documents, form interrogatories, and special interrogatories.
The software is being rolled out in California for employment practices and slip-and-fall premises liability cases. It is expected to be in use by the Walmart panel counsel program in all 50 states by the Fall of 2018.
Walmart Everyday Low Prices Moving into Legal Field
“With a busy legal department handling matters across the globe, and managing a large number of outside counsel on these matters, we welcome innovative and practical solutions to increase efficiency and free up our attorneys’ time to focus on more strategic activities,” said the Senior Associate General Counsel, Legal Operations and Outside Counsel Management, Walmart Inc. “We are committed to offering customers everyday low prices and are continuously looking for ways to take costs out of the system.”
The Walmart panel counsel program manages relationships with hundreds of insurance defense law firms across the county. The retailer’s legal department places a priority on measurements through law firm and attorney-level performance, cost-saving, and diversity metrics.
LegalMation, a California-based technology company, uses artificial intelligence (AI) applications designed to bring “smart, efficient changes to the legal profession.”
LegalMation is targeting both in-house corporate counsel that want to reduce legal spend, as well as law firms that want to increase competitive positioning through reduced processing time. From a panel counsel perspective, the appeal to the litigation panel manager at an insurance company or large self-insured entity is obvious. The pitch to most insurance defense law firms (and perhaps AmLaw 100 litigation departments) is likely to fall on deaf ears, however.
This technology investment on the legal side is consistent with the retailer’s push to accelerate efforts on a digital platform. Walmart is investing heavily in e-commerce operations in response to competitive pressure from Amazon, which now also has a retail presence in groceries with the 2017 purchase of Whole Foods. The Bentonville, Ark. retailer is spending billions to strengthen both online and existing store operations.
Walmart cut hundreds of jobs in April of 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal. The move followed a reduction of approximately 1,000 corporate jobs earlier in 2017. The giant retailer has reportedly cut more than 18,000 jobs since 2016, although some workers were ultimately reassigned. The job cuts were achieved in part through store closures, corporate staff reductions, and selective store-level workforce layoffs.
Implications for Walmart Panel Counsel Members
Insurance defense law firms with the best chance for longer term success, whether they are part of the Walmart panel counsel program or not, are those that are actively on the hunt for new clients as a regular part of their business operations. Granted, this can be a tough challenge since so many managing partners still carry a heavy case load of their own. Nevertheless, the use of advanced technology is making inroads into billable hours and will continue to do so in the future.
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