Home Criminal Defense What I Saw At ILTACON: Casetext, Thomson Reuters – Above the Law

What I Saw At ILTACON: Casetext, Thomson Reuters – Above the Law


I don’t think it is hyperbole to note that the Thomson Reuters (TR) / Casetext $600 million acquisition, formally consummated Thursday August 17, 2023, is one of the most talked about legal tech happenings over the year.

It’s a unique combination of an industry powerhouse with robust legal content coupling up with a leading authority in the most talked about field in legal — artificial intelligence. Not surprisingly, this union has moved the needle when one ponders “what might be possible” in legal.

On Monday August 21, 2023, at the International Legal Technology Association’s flagship conference, ILTACON 2023, attendees had a wonderful opportunity to hear first-hand from both TR and Casetext — in two separate company update sessions — about industry survey findings and reports, product plans, expert opinions on AI industry trends and what we all might expect to see in the coming months within the TR / Casetext theater.  

Here’s a quick overview of what was discussed, all of which was delivered to two fully engaged, captive audiences. 

TR Company Update: The Future For Legal Professionals

Hosted by David Wong and Paul Fischer, with appearance by Casetext’s Jake Heller and other TR product leaders, the company reviewed their perspective on the industry, AI offerings, Casetext acquisition and other topics in their update.

Firstly, as it relates to the Casetext technology, and AI in general, several key philosophies were identified. One articulated how a combination of the TR content and Casetext superior technical capability was part of the company’s Build, Partner and Buy approach to working with Generative AI. It’s interesting to note that Microsoft 365 Copilot is another example of this strategy, this effort contained within the Partner category, to deploy world-class AI capabilities for the industry in the TR product portfolio.

The TR Future Of Professionals study was also shared to help convey some of the ways in which practitioners expect the legal profession to change. One of the more interesting elements of the survey findings were the percentage of respondents, who were overwhelmingly millennials and GenXers, perhaps sharing a hint about who is — and is not — most excited about the coming changes.   Future details on the study are available from TR.

So, what does TR imagine bringing to the table in terms of enhancements to their product line in legal related to generative AI? Simply put, products to help serve legal professionals better, at scale, operating in a faster manner, and helping to transform how the legal profession works. And, naturally, all of this must happen in a secure manner, one governed by eight TR AI Principles and Ethics relating to areas such as security, privacy, the use of data, accountability, the need to maintain meaningful human involvement and other trust principles shared with and discussed with the group.

In terms of actual product implementations, moving from the theory to practical elements, some details remain relatively unknown given the very, very recent finalization of the acquisition. But anticipated improvements such as “Ask Westlaw,” “Ask Practical Law,” and AI integrations to their Intelligent Drafting and Intelligent Document Review products were reviewed with the audience. It is expected that the combination of the robust TR content, well-respected TR Labs group, partnerships such as the Copilot effort and acquisitions such as CoCounsel (Casetext’s flagship product), as well as technology innovations like Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) will all play key roles in near-term product development and AI integration.  

The Future Is Here – Casetext Update

Casetext CEO, Jake Heller, took to the stage in front of a standing room only group of excited conference attendees to provide an update on recent Casetext activities and the AI field in general.

As one might expect, the session was much anticipated, and the attendees were quickly captivated by Heller’s unique career path and storytelling capabilities.   This included a look at Jake’s childhood basement where he learned to code with his father, his decision to get a law degree, his fairly humble living room a decade ago when Casetext was founded and the exciting current-day happenings.

One message was constant throughout — that being to never stop building! I imagine Casetext’s journey must serve as a fairly inspirational success story to the almost 30 companies in the ILTA Startup Hub at ILTACON 2023 and all other creators in the legal tech space.

One of the more interesting elements of Heller’s address was, in my view, how AI may or may not change the industry. For example, the common perception is that AI will “take away jobs.” But Heller’s recounting the story of the ATM machine — focusing on the “teller” element of the machine — perhaps leads one to a different conclusion, or, at minimum, the possibility of a different outcome. 

In the case of banking, while it is true that the teller’s function was indeed automated, in the long run that led banks to create more and more branches to improve service. Thus, in aggregate, perhaps surprisingly, the overall number of tellers actually increased, not decreased.  

Does this translate to legal? Heller believes it does, and more specifically, that generative AI will reduce repetitive, low value tasks. He continued with the belief that once legal masters AI technology, the legal professional may well react as banks did — increasing their number of clients, matters and books of business because they will be able to work at scale in a far more productive manner. It is certainly an interesting take, and clearly one flowing against the run of play vis-à-vis the common belief. But it was certainly a convincing argument of what one possibility for application of AI in the legal profession may be. 

Heller also shared his belief on how AI might be incorporated into the legal practice in the next five or so years. Much like cell phones and email became a part of everyday work life in the recent past, it’s his belief an “AI Legal Assistant” will do the same in the next five years.  

In terms of how CoCounsel will evolve, it was shared there will be continued rapid building of capabilities, that the vast resources of TR will help close capability gaps and the integration with TR will accelerate the company’s vision via the combination of strengths.

Before an engaging Q&A session, Heller shared a final summary type vision of how legal practice might change in the coming years. One was the need to work with the right tech, focusing on the concepts of reliability, scalability, and security/privacy. The next was working with the right people, meaning those in your circles both internal and external to your organization. And the last major change was the concept of practice. 

It is the area of practice which I found most compelling. Heller used two definitions of the word — one related to the application of a belief and idea, the next to doing something repeatedly to develop and maintain proficiency. And, in the latter definition, Heller laid down a gauntlet of sorts, citing, of all people, basketball great Micheal Jordan.

The example was this. MJ might not have been the tallest, fastest or most talented basketball player. But he was, by most accounts, the hardest working athlete in the sport at the time. First on the practice court in the morning, last to leave at night. This was the main secret to his success.  

Heller expressed the thought that now, in our industry, the same opportunities are afforded to legal professionals. Anyone who wants to become an expert on prompt engineering or the use of AI in any other way has the chance to get ahead of the curve via immersion in the tech. This includes Casetext, other products, and other models such as Google’s Gemini which loom on the horizon. A legal professional who develops mastery in these areas will be able to write their own ticket as the industry’s inevitable changes occur.

The session closed with a great Q&A session. I was tempted to throw out a question on Allen Iverson’s opinion on practice — LOL — but I instead asked about legal evidentiary issues related to areas like bias, hallucinations, and deepfake imagery in the profession, an area which clearly needs to be sorted out in the future. And perhaps Heller’s most interesting response to a question related to his identification of industry challenges, that being issues related to the high cost and relatively limited quantity of hardware available (chips, servers, etc.) available to support the exceptionally high levels of anticipated demand in the industry. 


All in all, the TR and Casetext sessions were, in my view, a rare glimpse into the minds of senior AI technology thought leaders providing practical, useful advice and a strategic view for us all. Many thanks to TR and Casetext for providing ILTACON 2023 with this exceptionally informative update.

Kenneth Jones is the Chief Operating Officer of Xerdict Group LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tanenbaum Keale LLP that offers technology-based services including SaaS litigation and matter management applications to the Firm’s clients.

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