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Bill Pierznik of Macro Law Group

How Macro Law Group is using AI — and automation — to upend the way law firms do business

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Bill Pierznik has practiced law for more than 20 years. Mostly, he worked as in-house counsel for tech firms, like Act-On Software and Mobilize. 

But in 2023, he launched Macro Law Group with an eye to dispensing with what he views as some of the outdated norms of his profession. He reached out to Bonnie Page, a colleague he’d known for more than 10 years, and the new firm was born. 

“I decided it’d be fun to build a law firm using everything that I learned over the past 10 years  inside of tech companies and how efficient tech companies operate,” Pierznik tells Oregon Business. “Meanwhile, I was watching law firms still operate the same way they did in 2005, with email, and everything’s in a black box, and billable hours and inefficiencies.”

So what does it mean to build a more efficient law firm?

Some of it involves using tech tools — some of which are AI-enabled and some of which are simpler automated tools — for tasks that have, traditionally, been tedious and time-consuming, Pierznik says. 

For example, companies like Westlaw and LexisNexis are developing AI-enabled tools to make legal research easier. Generative AI tools don’t work well for research when given open-ended prompts, he notes, but given an appropriately narrow prompt, they can be incredibly helpful.

“What we’re finding out from a legal perspective is — and this is true in a lot of other areas — when you are leveraging AI and telling it, ‘Hey, create me this thing,’ that’s when the hallucinations can happen,” Pierznik says. “It just kind of goes off and starts to make stuff up. And sometimes that’s a good starting point, but you’ve got to do a lot more work. Where the AI in our space is stronger is when I can say, ‘Hey, tell me the current status of the enforceability of non-compete agreements  under Kansas law.’ Well, that’s a known fact, right? There are statutes around that, there’s case law around that.” 

And the new AI tools are not generating documents from scratch but producing legal research that’s actually referenceable. 

Another potential use for AI tools in the legal space is simply automating small projects, like contract reviews, though Pierznik says the tools he’s reviewed aren’t accurate enough yet to work for his purposes. And Macro Law has already worked on using automation and AI to streamline internal office processes so they’re faster.  

“The practice of law, day to day, really hasn’t changed all that much,” Pierznik says. “But you’re starting to see these little drips of, like, ‘Oh, I can automate that, oh, I can automate that.’ Our focus is, how can we automate and make everything faster and more efficient, and get it to a point where we are the strategists? I don’t think you’re ever going to be open to replace the lawyer who is giving advice to a client on litigation strategy, or sitting in a board meeting and giving advice to the board about the best way to approach a particular topic.” He does expect there will be fewer paralegal jobs in the near future, although the jobs that remain will likely be more complex and interesting. 

What he does see changing is the business model on which law firms operate — which, for most firms, revolves around the billable hour.

“Eventually, if I can review a contract, or if I can summarize a case or perform due diligence, in minutes leveraging technology — rather than 25 to 30 hours’ worth of manual stuff — the billable hour literally makes no sense,” Pierznik says. 

Right now Macro Law has a couple of clients who use a “subscription model” — they pay a flat fee every month, and the firm performs all their legal services for them. Some of that work is manual and some of it is automated.

He doesn’t see the industry transforming overnight. Big law firms are notoriously slow to embrace change. But for small law firms — and smaller clients, particularly startups and small businesses — offering more flexibility in the payment model could be a game changer.

“I think everybody will succeed, because there’s a lot of work today that is not being done for smaller companies, because they can’t afford to call the lawyer,” Pierznik says. “When we talk to little startups, whether they be food startups or apparel companies or tech companies, a lot of times they have a big law firm sitting at the board, but they’re not going to call that person to look at a nondisclosure agreement when they’re charging 1,000 bucks an hour.”

He also doesn’t see larger firms transforming on their own.

“Getting the business model adopted and changed is going to take years, and frankly, a lot of law firms aren’t going to do it on their own, because they’re making way too much money,”Pierznik says. “What’s going to happen is clients are going to force them to do it.”

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