At its inception, LexPredict consisted of Mike and Dan working closely together (often remotely) on strategies, projects, and consulting. Over the years, these initial efforts have now ballooned into a full-fledged legal technology company with a whole suite of products and services.
As a growing start up company, LexPredict has slowly and thoughtfully expanded its team in order to seize market opportunities. To that end, we’ve hired several experienced and unique team members, and in a continuing effort to show how law and technology are becoming increasingly symbiotic, we will periodically profile members of our deep bench of highly-trained legal technologists.
This week, we’d like to introduce Kelly Marsh, our Director of Product Development who joined LexPredict in the Summer of 2017.
Kelly got her start at the place where a lot of tech-focused lawyers go these days: Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. At Chicago-Kent, Kelly learned that the lawyers of the future would need to be computer-literate. She took this lesson to heart, and began working with A2J Author part-time while still a student.
A2J Author is an important exemplar in any serious discussion of the evolution of legal tech. A2J Author is a cloud-based software tool designed to help self-represented litigants access the law. At its core, A2J Author and A2J Guided Interviews provide a simple UI designed to aid users of any education level with the completion of court documents. Kelly first cut her teeth with document assembly tools, UI/UX, and basic software troubleshooting while working on this project’s Student Editorial Board. When the project expanded, Kelly worked with Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO), helping build document templates in HotDocs.
From Legal To Software
After graduating with her JD in 2012, Kelly went to Seyfarth and continued building on her document automation experience by working with Seyfarth’s Legal Technology and Innovations group. In her new position, Kelly became even more familiar with software development, and helped build and maintain Seyfarth’s extranet client portal, based in Microsoft SharePoint. This was also her first experience working with an international team.
From this experience, Kelly’s appreciation for software development grew, and she “switched sides” and became a developer while still at Seyfarth. One of the first software development projects she worked on was a trademark alert system set up for Seyfarth clients. The system was designed to notify and collect responses from client corporations of any real or potential trademark conflicts. The system consisted of a simple form that could be filled out in order to guide trademark-related decision-making.
Expanding Skill Set
After becoming a developer in 2014, Kelly began working as an in-house legal IT expert during a transitional period at the pharmaceutical company Baxalta. A Jill-of-all-trades, Kelly worked with attorneys, worked on the business side, and continued to develop her software skills in such areas as server architecture.
While Kelly enjoyed working on a small team that allowed her to do a little bit of everything, one downside of working in pharma at the time was a state of near-perpetual acquisition. This state of affairs created lots of opportunities to work on data migration projects, but the deadlines were tight and stress was high in the M&A environment. When the company she worked for was ultimately purchased, Kelly saw this as an opportunity to make another small career change. Before she left, though, she completed the separation and merger of legal systems during Baxalta’s acquisition that helped stabilize their data systems and solidify a reorganization plan once the data had all been migrated to the new company and new data system.
Kelly joined LexPredict in the summer of 2017, starting as a developer on an employment agreement application that helped inform the development of not only ContraxSuite, but other software tools as well, such as the Agreements Network. This was a relatively easy transition to make, as Kelly had previously worked as a product owner on a similar app. Her previous experience turned out to be good practice, and a natural stepping stone, for LexPredict’s more complex, dynamic products and applications.
Kelly transitioned again after not too long, going from pure software development to working as product owner for ContraxSuite during our ongoing, but now nearly complete, UI/UX redesign effort. This ability to pivot, from development-side to business-side projects – and everything in between – has supplied Kelly with more opportunities to be at the forefront of innovation.
“In a larger company, I would have had to pick a lane because of the way work is divided up at larger, older, more bureaucratic companies,” Kelly says. “At LexPredict, I have the opportunity to do the development, product owner, and business-side work I already have experience in, as well as work on expanding my skills with AI and machine learning.”
Kelly has found a prime fit for her unique skill set, occupying a unique space between software development, legal expertise, and project management. Ultimately, it is the opportunity to expand her skill set yet further that excites Kelly. LexPredict is on the cutting edge of AI, machine learning, document analytics, and process improvement, but doesn’t run into the brick wall of a company that produces mainly vaporware. Her goal in coming to LexPredict was to work at a software company where development and technology are not considered “overhead”, but rather, are taken seriously. Avoiding vaporware requires dedication, and a de-emphasis on empty rhetoric and flashy demos that don’t get the job done.
Project Management Innovation
Kelly’s unique and varied background has led to the exact kind of process improvement innovation at LexPredict that we advise our own clients to implement. Practice what you preach. Since Kelly’s arrival last year, she has implemented a Scrum/Agile development cycle. In stark contrast to the old, still nearly ubiquitous “waterfall” method of project management – in which a team plans everything before even starting a project – the Scrum/Agile method is designed to accelerate projects quickly, iterating in small units of work called “sprints”. This ultimately allows a project to be more flexible, because a piecemeal approach to project planning allows for easy pivots around or through unanticipated problem areas. Or, as Kelly puts it, “You should be forced to re-evaluate your priorities every two weeks, and try to get things out the door.”
Law, Tech, and the Market for Both
A Juris Doctor, and legal experience in general, provides the best perspective for building UI. A mindset determined by pure developers will miss some critical things, even small stuff like whether to cluster documents based on geography, or based on like terms. A developer might think the former is important, while the average legal professional almost certainly finds the latter a more useful feature.
The new ContraxSuite UI is helping show what AI tools built with solid UI/UX can do for clients. Customization allows users to add what they want, but my job is to also anticipate and prioritize what the average user will want most. This is where the AI market can sometimes go wrong; there aren’t enough conversations about true value-add, about getting the best bang for your buck. Instead, too often, the conversation is about how “cool” a feature is, irrespective of its value-add. ContraxSuite is a real tool with a solid core of functionality that provides real value, and I am proud to lead the team that has built ContraxSuite into a tool that just about anybody can use.
– Kelly Marsh
A lot of legal tech is hard to sustain because the projects don’t have enough value-add, or the right blend of UI/UX to meet client needs, or the software just doesn’t work well. Tools like LexPredict’s provide clients with what they really need, because LexPredict team members like Kelly possess a deep foundation of knowledge from multiple fields.
LexPredict is an enterprise legal technology and consulting firm. Our consulting teams specialize in legal analytics, legal data science and training, risk management, and legal data strategy consulting. We work with corporate legal departments and law firms to empower better organizational decision-making by improving processes, technology, and the ways people interact with both. We develop software and data tools, and also offer execution and education services.
LexPredict has a number of software and data products, including LexSemble, ContraxSuite, CounselTracker, and LexReserve. These products assist organizations with early case assessment and decision trees, contract analytics and workflows, outside counsel spend management, and case valuation. LexPredict also offers advisory and capital services for legal tech startups through its LexGen Ventures arm.
Contact LexPredict today to receive more information about our products and services.