Catherine Krow is the founder of Digitory Legal, an award-winning cost analytics platform focused on bringing data-driven pricing and cost prediction to law.
Before founding Digitory Legal, Catherine practiced law at top-tier firms for 17 years, first at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett and then at Orrick, where she was a litigation Partner. She is an accomplished trial lawyer with extensive experience representing global corporations in a wide variety of high-stakes litigation matters.
Catherine also is a frequent speaker & recognized thought leader on legal technology, spend management, and the use of artificial intelligence and data in law.
For her pioneering work in legal technology, Catherine was named a 2018 Top Woman Entrepreneur In Cloud Innovation, a 2019 American Bar Association “Women of Legal Technology List” honoree and included in the FastCase 50 Class of 2019 “honoring the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders”.
Tell me a little about your background and how you first got interested in legal tech.
So, this is essentially about my journey from trial lawyer to self-confessed data geek. I was introduced to the entrepreneurial mindset early in my legal career, being part of a team that launched the Silicon Valley office of Simpson Thatcher. As a litigation partner at Orrick my work involved complex litigation which led to my interest in scoping, cost management and subsequently data analytics. My desire to solve complex pricing problems coincided with the evolution of the legal profession. Law departments were, and are, under tremendous pressure to reduce budgets and obtain the best value possible from outside counsel. Legal operations and legal procurement had begun applying an unprecedented level of business discipline to the legal industry. To succeed in this market, I believed that law firms would need to carefully examine their processes, adopt new technology and make some significant changes to better meet the business needs of their clients. For me, all this change presented an opportunity to do something new and exciting that would advance the legal profession.
Tell me a bit about Digitory Legal and how data is impacting the practice of law and how you see it impacting the practice in the next few years.
Digitory is an award-winning cost analytics platform that brings data-driven pricing and cost management to law. Digitory’s focus is on delivering actionable cost data. By this we mean data with four key attributes: (1) granular enough to reveal scope and unit costs for each task, (2) well-labeled, (3) accurately and consistently coded, and (4) connected to context. We help our customers understand the “why” behind the numbers enabling both law firms and legal departments to scope matters and manage costs more efficiently.
Historically the legal industry has not been rigorous in its data management practices. This means that we have a lot of data, but it doesn’t actually tell us anything. In practice that means clients are still unsure about the value that law firms are delivering and in turn law firms are struggling to demonstrate that value through data. Unless firms tackle the data problem, this disconnect will continue to exist. What we are seeing at Digitory is that when law firms and legal departments clean, analyze and map their historical data they see greater profitability, cost efficiencies and develop stronger business relationships.
What are your thoughts on how being a lawyer has changed or not changed over the past 5 years?
Law firms are experiencing big changes in the way that clients expect them to deliver services. We are slowly starting to see these demands filter down to individual lawyers and this trend will continue. In the past lawyers have been very skeptical about change management particularly around adopting new processes and technology. But this resistance to change will no longer be tolerated by clients. Being a lawyer now demands more than just writing the perfect brief. It used to be that you could put your head down, work hard and you would succeed. But now you need to take a more holistic view of your clients’ needs.
What do you see as the biggest challenge to the legal profession continuing to evolve?
There are structural and regulatory constraints within law firms and the legal system that need to be overcome before we will see a fundamental shift in the way law firms operate. Compensation systems, a traditional hierarchy and law firm ownership structures are among the challenges that are holding us back. There are firms out there who are making fundamental changes in the way they operate, and professional conduct rules are changings, so there is hope. I believe there is enough momentum to solve these systemic problems as clients will no longer accept our special snowflake status.
What would be the biggest lesson you have learned about the legal profession since you first started being involved in the profession?
The biggest learning for me, was that law is not just a profession it’s a business. This means you need more skills than just a JD to succeed. One of my greatest regrets is not understanding the bigger picture from the start. My advice to young lawyers (well any lawyers) is to seek out the allied professionals at your firm. They can help you be more than just a lawyer and together you can deliver legal services that meet the value expectations of your clients.