Kunoor Chopra been involved in the legal services outsourcing industry since 2004 when she founded LawScribe, one of the pioneer companies in the industry. Her vision has always been to create a platform for customers that provides them with the best, most effective and efficient options to obtain and manage legal services. This means transforming the way legal services are delivered through technology and by providing customers with the right resources for service delivery, domain experts, process efficiencies and complete visibility into the who, what, where and how of services being delivered.
For those who may be unfamiliar with Elevate Services, how would you describe it? How did you get involved with Elevate?
Elevate is a law company providing practical ways for law firms and corporate legal departments to improve efficiency, quality and outcomes through Consulting, Technology and Services. We work with global customers across all industries including technology, automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, social media, internet search and retail to help them optimize how legal services are being performed, managed and delivered.
My journey to Elevate has been one filled with adventure and effecting change in the legal industry. During the first five years of my career, I was a general litigator at Nosaman and then Fulbright and Jaworski (now Norton Rose Fulbright) in Los Angeles. As I was practicing, I saw first-hand the inefficiencies in how law firms operated and serviced their corporate customers. I thought there must be a better way to operate. In 2004, I started one of the pioneering law companies called LawScribe. We provided legal support services to US law firms and legal departments through attorneys in India. I had built a solid network of contacts, but was unable to scale LawScribe on my own to what my contact base needed. At that point, I had to decide whether to raise capital and continue to build LawScribe myself, or sell to a company with a platform that I could bring to my customers. I decided to sell my company in 2010 to UnitedLex, where I then focused on business development. At UnitedLex it became clear that there was still a lot more to accomplish in the solutions we were bringing to customers. I knew of Liam Brown who had built Integreon, so I reached out to him and we had lunch in January 2012. We discussed a lot of things including what we would do if we could do it all over again – we differed on a couple things, but were completely aligned on the fact that our customers’ needs were evolving and there was almost a blank slate to help them with new solutions. So, I signed up to help build Elevate exactly 7 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
Describe what you do in our current role. What has been the biggest challenge of your role?
I am a Founder and Vice President of Legal Services at Elevate. For the past 7 years, I have been building out our legal services offerings including Discovery, Investigations and Data Compliance, Contract Management, M&A, Intellectual Property, and Compliance. I paid attention to what our customers were looking for and had teams design solutions to meet their needs. This has included reviewing and refining processes, right sourcing work to the best, most efficient and cost effective resources, and using technology to complement service delivery. I also created the framework for our Strategic Account Management Program, including our governance model to ensure that we understand our customers’ needs and are meeting their expectations.
Building a company is challenging in and of itself – especially the second time around! My background is unique in that I understand and have been involved in all aspects of building a business – from sales to marketing, building solutions and operations. The biggest challenge for me has been to ensure that as we respond to our customers’ needs and build solutions, we don’t go so fast that we cannot proceed in a systematic way. I am very entrepreneurial and customer-focused, so it is my inclination to create new solutions and deliver what customers (think) they need quickly. This can be good, but it is also critical to make sure there is a framework in place for it, it is repeatable and our teams can deliver it.
How would you explain optimizing a legal department’s service delivery model and its use of technology?
Many legal departments grow in a suboptimal way. When you start a business and are building a legal department- including our own at Elevate- you create some systems, but a lot of what you do is created to respond to your current needs. Companies are so busy building their business and selling products and services, that they haven’t had the time to assess whether their legal department is the most efficient operationally. Take contracting for example. Many companies will have a range of contracts they deal with such as NDAs, procurement and sales contracts. Different divisions within the organization own the different types and there is no consistency or process in place. Drafting and negotiation is done manually, through email without a proper workflow tool or contract management system.
What we do is work with companies to help them optimize their legal service delivery by looking at the three-legged stool of process, people and technology. We look at their processes and ask, is there a way to do the work in fewer steps? How do we eliminate waste? We also evaluate the people doing the work and question whether it is relevant and commensurate to their skill set. For example, do they have a 6th year in-house lawyer drafting and negotiating NDAs? We then look at how technology is being used or should be used. In contracts, we determine if they are using contract management technology to facilitate the contracting process and management of contractual rights and obligations. We also leverage technology as part of service delivery such as auto extraction technology to help us facilitate contract review or find relevant information contained in contracts.
The beauty of our model at Elevate is we can provide recommendations on how to optimize processes, but then actually put the pieces in place, including the right technology, to achieve the end goal.
How would you distinguish between legal technology and legal innovation? How are they tied together and how are they not?
Many people equate innovation with technology, but in reality, legal innovation is not just about technology, AI or something created in a lab – innovation is something legal departments are doing every day to improve how they work. This could include anything from implementing an automated process for handling NDA drafting and negotiation, to creating an offshore captive to handle high volume, low complexity tasks unbundled from outside counsel.
That said, legal technology can qualify as legal innovation. At Elevate we are always looking at how we can leverage legal technology to bring efficiency to legal service delivery and improve how it is being done. We have our proprietary Cael ELM and also utilize third party technologies where relevant. We have seen a lot of innovation in contracts technology recently including those incorporating artificial intelligence to analyze the provisions contained in contracts and the consequences of decisions that are made. These technologies can predict what the outcome will be of a new contract negotiation based on previously executed contracts and past results. This technology can be applied to any type of contracting so that individuals will be in a better position to understand the outcome of a contract negotiation and make better negotiation decisions before entering into long term agreements.
I am certain that contract technology and innovation in contracts generally is a place to watch.
What are your thoughts on diversity within the legal profession? What can be done, in your view, to encourage greater diversity within the profession?
Diversity and inclusion are very important to me personally and to Elevate company-wide. It is the right thing to do and of course, good business. Companies need to first take a look at their numbers – what does diversity look like within their organization? Then, they need to assess what type of an organization they want to have and make decisions to attain that goal. As an example, at Elevate we didn’t just say diversity was important – we ran our numbers and published an Equitability and Inclusion Report to hold ourselves accountable towards driving diversity. Our numbers aren’t perfect and they show us where we need to improve. What we do to improve diversity is to make a conscious decision to interview more women, especially in roles where we see fewer women within our organization. We will always hire the best person for the job, but want to make sure we are seeking out more women applicants if possible. We also look for other diverse candidates such as LGBTQ individuals. In cases where we don’t have as many women or men in a particular role such as in our software team, we work internally to help equalize the numbers. Personally, I look to mentor women to help them rise to managerial roles which is where I see the numbers getting skewed.
How would you advice a young lawyer or law student wanting to get involved in the legal tech or legal innovation world?
This is a very exciting time for young lawyers and law students. When I was a practicing attorney, reevaluating my career as a 5th year associate in BigLaw, I had two options – become a partner at the firm, work a million hours per year and sell billable hours for a living…or leave the firm and go in-house, public interest or to a government attorney position. Now, there are so many options for professionals. You hear about the T Shaped or Unicorn Lawyer. It is important for legal professionals to develop other skills which are necessary to succeed in the legal industry, including in technology, project management, analytics and finance. For those interested in legal tech or legal innovation, they should definitely think outside the box and look at the broad range of opportunities that now exist not only within law firms or corporate legal departments, but with law companies and legal technology providers. They should attend industry events such as CLOC, ACC Legal Operations, and LegalWeek to see what is going on in this space and network with folks including in the technology and legal operations world. A lot of legal innovation is driven through legal operations which are critical functions at law firms and in-house.
Law is much more fun now and full of opportunity for those with a thirst for innovation.