How law firm Arent Fox ran a regulatory audit with Josef

“Law firm” and “data analytics” often don’t appear in the same sentence.

But at Arent Fox – a full service US firm – poor data management was not an option when it came to a recent global audit for one of its clients, involving hundreds of interviews across four continents.

Historically, the manual collection of information in these audits was potentially inconsistent, time-consuming and resulted in data that was generally difficult to manipulate.

So, how do you efficiently run a global audit, tracking all of the right metrics, to present to the US State Department? Arent Fox did it with a suite of bots built on Josef.

Problem

Arent Fox is a full service law firm in the United States, with offices in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston and Washington DC, and employs about 450 attorneys.

The firm’s International Trade and Investment Group carries out many global audits, which can involve hundreds of interviews.

The information and data from each interview as well as each transaction has always been manually entered into a spreadsheet. But meaningful data analysis is hard when the entry is manual and the data is inconsistent.

“It’s tedious and not worth it if you didn’t have some sort of mechanism to collect and track the data as it’s coming in,” says Marwa Hassoun, Partner at Arent Fox’s International Trade and Investment Group and co-leader of the firm’s National Security group.

A recent audit presented an opportunity to change the way things were done. A multinational client was the subject of enforcement action by the US State Department, and the firm had to run a global audit comprising interviews with 600 employees across 17 sites in Europe, Australia, South America and the US.

Given the sheer scale of the audit, the firm knew it had to change the way things were done.

At a glance...

  • 1 US State Department

    report

  • 600 audit interviews

    completed

  • 17 sites worldwide

    underwent transaction testing

Solution

Marwa is the Director of the firm’s Innovation Committee, and has been tinkering with Josef to create export classification bots. She quickly realised Josef’s flexibility and simplicity could be applied to audits. 

Over nine weeks, two people from Arent Fox facilitated each interview, with the second chair entering answers to questions using a Josef bot built by the firm. 

Immediately after each interview was completed, Arent Fox generated a complete report using the answers given to the bot. 

The previous method of data collection was laborious and prone to error. With Josef, the firm was able to collect this information more quickly and easily, improving the quality of the data, while retaining the flexibility of previous systems.

For example, “[on Josef] you can limit your answers and still have an ‘Other’ option, whereas in a spreadsheet it’s just a ‘limited answer universe’” says Marwa.

The bots that Arent Fox built were also designed to make the interviewers’ lives easier, and to help them do a better job at interviewing.

“We also used Josef to create another data collection tool for the people that were doing the interviews. With transaction testing, we look at shipping documents and ask: ‘Did you cite the right information here? Does this authorisation match up to what you actually said?’” Marwa says.

Results

Instant, formal records

The result? Instantly generated reports, and streamlined answers. 

The information from the audit is tracked in a formal, standardised way.  “Our rationale is clearer in how we came to those decisions.” 

Data at your fingertips

Marwa says her team at Arent Fox is going to use its ready-made dataset for sophisticated data analysis and reporting, including by generating data visualisations and infographics to support their report.

Speed

It’s faster. Much, much faster. Marwa says they wouldn’t have been able to complete transaction testing of over a thousand samples without Josef.

“I’ve talked to the project assistants and paralegals and they’re getting through it in a way I don’t think they would have if we were still using spreadsheets because of Josef’s ability to direct the reviewer to the next set of logical questions.”

Work culture shift

The possibilities with Josef are many. Marwa says as they continue to implement bots to work more efficiently, there’s been a growing desire to use Josef in different capacities. One Arent Fox assistant is working on automating their rote administrative tasks.

“It’s interesting because when another opportunity comes up, we’re like, ‘We have access to this new thing… what can we do to make our lives easier now that we know Josef exists?’

“The way I keep framing it is that we’re the cool kids and it will catch on.”

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