LawNext Podcast: New Research from TypeLaw on Legal Briefs

When preparing a legal brief, it’s easy to get caught up in the many small (but vital!) formatting details and end up wasting valuable time — time that you could have spent sharpening your argument.

Why legal brief formatting takes so long

To dig into why it takes so long, we analyzed the structure of 10,000+ briefs, appeals, original proceedings, and trial motions and published the results in an article and infographic: The Anatomy of a Legal Brief.

TypeLaw Co-founder & CEO, attorney Chris Dralla, recently discussed the research with fellow attorney and Publisher of LawSites/LawNext, Bob Ambrogi, on the LawNext PR podcast. Watch a video of their conversation below or listen on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify.

Podcast transcript: LawNext & TypeLaw

Bob Ambrogi: Welcome to LawNext PR, the podcast where we put a spotlight on the latest news coming out of the legal tech industry. This is Bob Ambrogi and in each sponsored episode of LawNext PR, I interview a legal tech company about its recent news or latest developments.

Today I’m speaking with TypeLaw about the anatomy of a legal brief. The company recently analyzed over 10,000 legal briefs to determine the composition of what an average brief looks like.

Joining me today from TypeLaw is the founder and CEO, attorney Chris Dralla. Chris, welcome to LawNext PR.

Chris Dralla: Thanks for having me.

Bob Ambrogi:  Let’s start with just before we get intothe details of this analysis that you did,let’s start with having you just tell us alittle bit about type law and what you do.

Chris Dralla: Sure, well, by trade I’m a lawyer. I graduated law school about 12 years ago in the midst of the Great Recession. And when I came out, I was…

Bob Ambrogi: You’re the son of a lawyer too, right? Your father was a lawyer?

Chris Dralla: My mom was a lawyer in Santa Clara for 40 years. And my dad was a technologist.

Bob Ambrogi: Your mom was a lawyer, okay.

Chris Dralla: And so I grew up in the Bay Area, in the heart of it, kind of seeing how companies disrupted traditional workflows. And, and so I guess that might be the genesis of where it starts. But I think it really started about 10 years ago…I was in the middle of my practice.

I was a litigator. I was filing a lot of paperwork to courts, a lot of different local rules I needed to follow, a lot of different templates, a lot of different procedural checks that I needed to follow. And within each brief, I was citing a lot of cases, I was citing a lot of evidence, and I had the impression that all of that needed to be buttoned up, perfected, and detailed, almost without error, so that your credibility and your client would have the best outcome.

So that was sort of…pedagogically put into us in law school. It was part of the practice of learning it and then experiencing it. I was realizing I was spending about a quarter of my time, maybe 500 hours a year, formatting legal briefs. That’s outside of the substantive analysis, outside of what you went to law school to do.

And so I was recognizing that with technology, it could be done a lot quicker. And so we started on creating TypeLaw to help lawyers like myself, basically, take away all the pain of writing a legal brief and getting it so that they spend most of their time working on the substance.

And then over time, it sort of evolved from a table of contents generator, to a template system, to a legal writing platform, basically, not unlike Google Docs, where you could write your brief specifically for whatever court you’re on and export it to a perfectly formatted brief — cite checks, tables built, formatting detailed — all from scratch with just a click of a button. So it was just a big time savings. And then once that took off, that sort of was my new passion and my new direction.

Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, I mean, it’s funny. I was just telling you before we started recording that I’m sitting here in the middle of trying to figure out whether I have to file a brief by Monday. We’re sitting here on a Thursday afternoon right now. And I’m thinking to myself in evaluating whether I can do that, how much time the formatting takes. It’s very time consuming. And you’ve got to get it just right. This is an appellate brief to a Supreme Court, and you got to get it just right.

Chris Dralla: It’s not just how much time it takes, it’s how much time it takes off your deadline. Because ultimately, you’re signing a document that you’re going to submit to the justices and your reputation is on the line there. And to get it to that perfect state, you know that there’s a flow that you have to go through.

So I imagine if the filing deadline, if it’s digital, it’s probably midnight Eastern, but you’re probably pencils down sometime at like 4 p.m., because, you know that there’s two, three, four hours of the grunt work right before filing. And so that’s one of the things that our software kind of eliminates is you don’t have that pressure anymore.

You can edit right up to 11:45pm…we don’t recommend that you do that, but if you did, you just click a button and every edit that you’ve ever made just recalculates and retabulates and it’s perfectly outputted. You know, if you had a short citation that needed to become an id or a full citation that needs to become a short one. You don’t have to pay attention to any of that. All the citations are dynamic. Everything lives kind of ongoing until that very final moment where you say pencil’s down, publish, the PDF comes out and you’re ready to go.

Bob Ambrogi: So Chris, you recently conducted this analysis of 10,000 briefs. What was the genesis of this? I mean, what were you hoping to find out? Why did you want to do that?

Chris Dralla: Well, ultimately we want to communicate better to our audience. Like, where is this time being spent? I knew as when I was going through it, I was like, I spend a lot of time doing this, but I had never actually said how much time does it take to insert a new case into my brief? How much time does it take to manage each instance of a citation? How many hours does it take to assemble a table of contents? Check it every time you make an edit. And to do that, you needed to know how much time each discrete task took. But on the macro level, you needed to know what does each brief consists of. And so that’s what we did.

We’ve had about 10,000 briefs come through our business so far. We took a look at every single one of them from the Supreme Court down to California trial court. And we said, what’s the average here? And we came out, it was like something like 6,000 words in each brief, 16 topic sentences, so 16 nested headings that you had to track and separate from your text. I think 70 paragraphs. The average brief cited 33 different sources, so like 25 cases, six statutes, a rule of constitution and some random text.

[See the exact numbers in The Anatomy of a Legal Brief infographic]

You have to know the rules for every single one of them. In California, you either have to know the Cal Style Manual or the Bluebook, depending on if you’re filing in federal or state. I think you cite something like 67 different instances to authorities and something like 140 different times to the record. And so each of those instances are discrete texts that just take a lot of time.

And there’s no way of getting around it. You’re a lawyer, you have to do this correctly. It has to be submitted correctly, or your client will be very upset, or frankly, the judge will take you to task. And that’s just where it is. We just studied it for the sake of studying it, so that we can communicate: this is why you use our service, or this is where technology is going. Because this used to be human effort, and now it can be all done digitally.

Bob Ambrogi: Does the analysis lead you to help you in any way better deliver your services or your technology to your customers?

Chris Dralla: Yeah, absolutely. So like, once I mean, we needed to know where we’re a small startup in San Francisco, we have to use our resources as best we can. And so we only want to put work into product that is actually going to be used. So I had a hunch that citation management was very time consuming for brief writing, just because it was a mental load. That was just a hunch I had, we had to go in and study it and really understand, this is where we want to make the process of adding a case, citing it, adding it to your overall citing library, or your case-specific library. We want to make all that kind of easy because that was the hard part for me when I was in practice doing this a lot.

Bob Ambrogi: What about for your customers? I mean, again, we all sort of intuitively know that it’s a pain in the butt to do all of this, but by doing this analysis, does it help lawyers who are your customers in any way better think about how they approach this or how they use your technology? How does it help them?

Chris Dralla: Well, I think it assures them of why they invest in a service or technology like ours. I think getting good clarity of where you spend your time is any business person’s objective. I know as lawyers, we think of ourselves professionally, but the idea is you really want to know and you want to leverage where you’re spending your time.

So as a lawyer, our pitch to potential customers is: don’t you want to be spending the time thinking about the substance of the brief? Talking to your clients, taking on new cases, doing things for your practice that are more…that will provide a bigger value to you in the end than just editing a case or editing a citation?

So we’re trying to eliminate not just how much time they’re spending, but within the brief writing process, where they’re spending the time and why they’re spending time that way. So if you’re writing a brief, for example, using Microsoft Word, you have to manage the case library yourself. And so we’re trying to clarify to you…that just doing that instance alone, that’s going to add mental weight to you. You’re going to spend something like an hour, two hours, three hours of your mental energy in a given week…if it’s a really important brief, just kind of on mental load of managing your case library.

That’s not where you should be spending your time. You should be spending it thinking about the argument, what the opposition is going to be thinking about, and what your judge or your justice is ultimately going to be questioning you for.

Bob Ambrogi: Yeah, and I assume that equation is kind of different for depending on what kind of practice you have, what kind of firm you’re in, what kind of support staff you have. I mean, you know, I’m a solo attorney. And when I start talking about doing a brief, that means I’m, you know, chef, cook and bottle washer when it comes to getting it ready to file with the court. Whereas, I assume lawyers at bigger firms have much more resources available to help them with that.

Chris Dralla: Yeah, well, I mean, I was a solo practitioner out the gate, you know, when I graduated 12, 13 years ago. And my mom was a solo practitioner. And so that’s definitely the heart of the software:  solo small firms that need that, frankly, that’s where AI is going to help lawyers for the most part, in the early stages, I think, is it’s going to lever up solos, smaller firms that are nimble enough to take advantage of the production value that you can buy with technology and they can put it into their systems without having to change the bureaucracy.  

Bob Ambrogi: So definitely it was geared towards solos and small firms?

Chris Dralla: We’ve worked with everyone up to AmLaw 10 firms now. One of the interesting things that I’ve found in sort of scaling this business out is that litigators, for the most part, are litigators. So if you’re a litigator at a large law firm, you’re sort of in your own world on your own case, in control of your own system, and they want that tight control over the brief, they obviously have those resources. Those resources are cumbersome. They take a lot…

I’ll give you our Big Law use case: it would take a day or two for a big 40-page amicus brief, for them to turn it around. So their pencils down period is not the day of, it’s probably at five or six days before that. And so there’s a lot of big law lawyers that are frustrated with that time turnaround. They come to us. They work outside of their normal parameters, and they use us because it works with it. It can get their information back to them within an hour, as opposed to seven or eight days, and that’s really what they’re working on.

Bob Ambrogi: So, yeah, instead of having to go through the slower moving channels within their own firm.

Chris Dralla: Right. I think the bigger roadblocks to adoption at bigger firms has more to do with bureaucracy and their billing models. But I think that’s all going to change in the next 10 years. Frankly, you’re going to have a lot of, frankly, solos and small firms levering up, being able to take bigger matters and not having to join those, those bigger firm ranks. And you’re going to see a lot of bigger firm models. I would imagine that the big firm that comes out of this the best in the next 10 years is the one that leverages AI the most in the next five years. And they really change their systemsomehow so that it takes advantage of whatthe software has to offer.

Bob Ambrogi: What about at TypeLaw?Are you leveraging AI or do you have plans to be leveraging AI?

Chris Dralla: Yeah, that’s how we’re able to offer the product that we do. The artificial intelligence is not the hot current generative AI model. We don’t claim to write the brief for you, but we use natural language processing, which is, it’s still a young, you know, it’s a more, it’s a more worked out, baked out solution.

I’ll say it’s not generative, but it does edit legal briefs. We’ve taught a computer. Time tested and proven. Yeah, 10,000 units later, we’ve taught a computer how to edit a legal brief like I would edit a legal brief. It’s a small rote function that’s repeated over time, but it actually does work and it actually does save time. And so it’s out there. And that’s sort of what we use to allow our lawyers to make their work product basically glisten. They’re able to put so many hours of productive time into their brief, but that only actually costs them a minute or two.

Bob Ambrogi: Is there anything else about this analysis that you’ve conducted that you’d like to share with listeners?

Chris Dralla: Please go to our website and take a look at the infographic. The idea here is to pay attention to where you’re spending your time. Really think about how many hours am I putting to life, in my given work, to my practice, and if you’re a litigator, I imagine quite a bit more is spent thinking on filing, a service process, formatting than you’d really care to spend. My pitch to the audience is to think about AI-automated solutions to those easy, but, or not easy, those time-consuming, repetitive steps that you could make easier with software.

Bob Ambrogi: And what about for TypeLaw? What’s on the roadmap going forward from here?

Chris Dralla: Well, we are going to explore generative in terms of being able to get a lawyer from point A to point B quickly in terms of drafting a brief. But for the most part, we’re going to be focusing this year on scaling out of the Federal and California markets into the different 50 states.

Bob Ambrogi: Well, Chris, thanks so much for coming on the show today. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you.

Chris Dralla: I appreciate it.

Bob Ambrogi: That’s it for today’s episode. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or on YouTube at LawNext PR. You can also find all the episodes on the LawNext Legal Tech Directory under the resources tab. This is Bob Ambrogi, thanks for listening.

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