Litera head of product: 'The pace of innovation in the legal sector is exhilarating'

Adam Ryan believes that success can be found when those in the law "keep having fun in what we do"

Litera head of product: 'The pace of innovation in the legal sector is exhilarating'
Adam Ryan

For Adam Ryan, there is a lot of potential for generative AI to do great things in the legal profession. The former King & Wood Mallesons solicitor, who also graduated with a degree in IT, was always on the lookout for ways in which he could integrate technology into legal practice.

Now as legaltech company Litera’s head of product, Ryan has had a big hand in LLM tech enhancements that have allowed him to leverage his legal and tech expertise. In this interview, he talks his unconventional career path, the rapidly changes in the practice of law, and lawyers’ ability to adapt.

What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of working with the profession?

Choosing law was always a natural choice for two reasons. Firstly, I've always enjoyed looking at problems from multiple perspectives, and debating from each standpoint. Secondly, growing up, I was always drawn to the portrayals of lawyers on TV and saw myself entering the law profession.

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The best part of the profession is most definitely the community. It allows me to work in diverse practice areas across different countries like the UK, the US and Canada, and now delivering the latest legal technology to law firms. Along the way, I've been lucky to have incredible mentors who have provided invaluable guidance, and it’s always something I make sure to make time for as well. The pace of innovation in the legal sector is exhilarating, and being part of this dynamic field with all the inspiring people is truly a privilege.

What is going on at Litera? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

At Litera, we are constantly looking at ways to innovate and deliver the best products to firms to optimise customer experience and workflows. AI continues to be a major focus for us as we continue to invest in GenAI across Kira, Foundation and Drafting as well as other core products while we thread the needle on quality and innovation and continue to raise the bar on customer care.

We’re also improving our Drafting products which will help to deliver a modern user experience on multiple devices and give our customers new and innovative ways to interact and use our products. We're not stopping there, in fact, we’re doubling down on GenAI across our core products and keeping our focus on quality, innovation, and, most importantly, our customer care.

You’ve spent time as a legal practitioner - what led you to focus on legal tech?

I graduated with both a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Information Technology and throughout my career, I have always been looking for ways to leverage technology to make the practice of law more efficient and deliver better client service. I am also very passionate about using data to set a legal strategy or negotiation approach — to me, that is the core intellectual property of firms.

There are many legal tasks that simply cannot be accomplished without the use of technology and we are seeing a real shift in firms' adoption of innovative working practices. However, many of the innovations I wanted to see aren’t available so I decided to deliver them myself; first within a product incubation at a firm and now I am heading product at the world’s leading legal tech vendor.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?

I haven’t followed the conventional career path, but it has been some of the most rewarding moments of my career. In the past 12 months, I have been developing a new product leveraging the enhancements in LLM technology to solve critical business problems: extracting deal points directly from closing documents. This simply wasn’t possible previously and addresses a key pain point for firms and knowledge management professionals.

I believe the key to success is to keep experimenting and to keep having fun in what we do.

With the advent of gen AI, what are the challenges you’ve seen in the way it’s applied to the legal profession?

The practice of law is changing rapidly, requiring new skills and new tools. AI is transforming everything around us and firms need to evolve. Litera is taking a thoughtful, deliberate approach to AI legal tech to ensure we have the best, most valuable and secure tools in the market. It is about solving real-world problems that firms face every day; not about the technology. We work very closely with customers and advisors to make sure that we not only solve pervasive problems but that we do so in a way that energises legal professionals in the work they do.

What are some positive impacts of AI that you’ve observed in relation to the legal sector?

There are great possibilities for AI to augment and amplify the crucial work lawyers do every day so they can better leverage their unique expertise to win more business and focus on their clients. A great example of this is our new GenAI products. Our solutions solve gaps and real problems at firms.

For instance, Weightmans, a UK firm using Kira, our AI-powered contract review and analysis platform, has reported that they can now do due diligence work 90% faster than without the help of AI. We want to build tools that boost that experience across the firm so they can move faster and win more business while delivering an experience that lawyers love using.

How can the profession better leverage this technology?

We believe a firm’s unique experience is why they are sought after by clients, and again, the use of AI in legal tech isn’t new — we've been developing and successfully rolling out solutions that feature AI that empower our customers to be able to focus on higher level work for more than 10 years.

As with any new technology, there are strengths and weaknesses to consider. From email, and conference calling, to working from home during the global pandemic, lawyers from different generations have always adapted to new tools. Now, with the wider availability and affordability of GenAI products, we know that the results from GenAI are sensitive and highly dependent on the prompt, and we're committed to keeping lawyers focused on their practice and not need to become prompt engineers to achieve successful outcomes with GenAI. That’s why we’re building secure, reliable GenAI solutions that are user-focused to save time and improve accuracy.

Where do you see AI going in the next five years?

We’re confident that AI holds immense potential to enhance and intensify the vital tasks performed by lawyers daily. This will allow them to effectively utilise their specialised skills to secure more business and concentrate on serving their clients.

We have been very strategic in thinking about how all of our products can work together with a GenAI top layer to improve workflows and solve real challenges lawyers face daily. We’re continuing to invest in GenAI – Kira, Foundation and Drafting as well as other core products while we thread the needle on quality and innovation, while continuing to raise the bar on customer care.

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