Winston & Strawn’s Head of Data Strategy, AI & Analytics explains the importance of innovation

“Investment in innovation is important because it helps secure the best new talent, keeps us at the cutting edge of technology and reduces the drudgery.”

Peter Geovanes, leads “Data Strategy, AI and Analytics” at US Law Firm Winston & Strawn, could not have said it better. Every lawyer knows “the drudgery” required of them in the early years of their career. And, let’s be honest, sometimes in the latter ones too.

We spoke with Peter about why he was drawn to working with Josef’s no-code tools and his views on the necessity of staying at the forefront of innovation.

Peter Geovanes, Head of Data Strategy, AI & Analytics, Winston & Strawn

Peter Geovanes, Head of Data Strategy, AI & Analytics, Winston & Strawn

Peter, for those who aren’t familiar with your job title and all it entails, can you give us a rundown of your typical working day?

To be honest, no two days are the same!

I tend to dedicate a significant amount of my time coming up with innovative ideas, use cases and strategies to leverage data, analytics, and AI to provide our firm with a competitive edge. This applies to both the business and legal practice aspects.

I structure my time around two main activities. Firstly, I focus on generating ideas and designing solutions, considering their overall framework, conceptualization, and implementation.

Secondly, I take on the role of the de facto Chief Innovation or Research and Development (R&D) Officer, in which I am conducting due diligence on emerging legal solutions.  This is what ultimately led me to collaborate with the Josef team and their exceptional no-code platform.

You wear many hats! Why is it important for law firms to invest in legal technology?

Firms want to be at the forefront by providing legal services in such a way that proves a firm’s efficiency. Some of the more savvy and sophisticated legal tech vendors are offering their products for 1Ls, 2Ls and 3Ls, and as a result, we’re seeing associates asking questions about legal technology when they interview for associate positions.

I am sensing an implied message or bias that is “Firms who don’t make investments in technology are viewed as old and stodgy” and as a result may miss out on the ability to attract and retain the best associates. Investment in innovation is important for the health of the firm in its totality. Not least of all because it helps secure the best new talent by being at the cutting edge of technology, thereby reducing “the drudgery.”

Speaking of sophisticated technology, what is Winston & Strawn’s experience with generative AI?

Our firm is a unique case because we are early adopters of this technology. I started evaluating ChatGPT-4 in fall of 2022 (and remember it was not released until March 2023), so I was able to champion the technology within the firm and show it to our tech committee.

However, it is important to emphasize that we are proceeding with extreme caution and carefully considering all ethical, data privacy, intellectual property, and training concerns. We are fully committed to comprehending the entire security impact, ensuring that no data is overlooked, and guaranteeing that inputs from attorneys will not be incorporated into future training of a Legal Language Model (LLM). Additionally, we are taking measures to safeguard client confidentiality and consistently keeping in mind our ethical obligation to uphold attorney-client privilege.

Playing with GPT4 in fall of 2022 must have made you one of the earliest adopters of the technology!

While we were indeed one of the first to observe the potential of generative AI, the reality is, we are taking a very cautious and measured approach.  You might say that, we are doing a lot of “heavy lifting” for other law firms that may be following our lead. We are focused on an approach will yield the highest quality and most secure outcomes for our clients.

“The message is that firms who don’t make investments in technology are viewed as old and stodgy and will miss out on the best associates.”
– Peter Geovanes, Head of Data Strategy, AI & Analytics, Winston & Strawn

That’s great to hear. This technology is very powerful and people will find real value if they understand its application properly. What about no-code automation? How’ve you found that?

In a time of recession, part of our interest in these tools was about trying to minimize the cost of coding. In building something custom, rather than spending 8-12 weeks on a product build, it takes 8-12 hours to get something out. The tools allow us to move at the speed our clients demand of us.

And this is how lawyers work. At pace with client demands. So do these tools allow you to make tech development work within the natural legal lifecycle?

Yes, and there’s more buy-in from the attorneys because they can participate in the builds.

If you could give another firm or legal team one piece of advice, what would it be?

If you’re thinking about building technology solutions, don’t begin by hiring a data scientist – start by ensuring you have the support of an influential executive leader.

Having an evangelist for change is invaluable!