ALPS Risk Manager Mark Bassingthwaighte sits down with Matt Sims, co-founder of Standpoint Decision Support Inc. to discuss risk assessment and some new technology that is helping lawyers maximize billable hours, save time, and reduce risks to their practice.

Transcript:

 

MARK BASSINGTHWAIGHTE:

Good morning. It is a beautiful day here in Big Sky Country. I’m Mark Bassingthwaighte, the risk manager with ALPS and welcome to the latest episode of ALPS In Brief, the podcast that comes to you from the historic Florence building in beautiful downtown Missoula, Montana. Today I am very pleased to have as my guest Matt Sims, and Matt is a co-founder with a company called Stand Point Decisions.

MARK:

And Matt and I met not too long ago up in Vancouver, at an ABA conference. And we just got to talking about risk management. And Matt has a really gone in a very, very interesting direction. So today we’re going to be talking about risk management, Stand Point and a few other things. Before we jump into this, Matt, can I have you take a few minutes and just fill our listeners in, in terms of your background?

MATT SIMS:

Yeah, certainly. Well, thanks. Thanks very much for having me on the podcast today, Mark. Really appreciate it. And yeah, so Stand Point and where did we come from? We’ve been … there’s two of us, Steve Wilson, Dr. Steve Wilson and myself, and we’ve been working together for just over 10 years. And Stand Point is sort of a coming together of two worlds.

MATT:

One is Steve’s world of quantitative data analysis, and he’s got a Ph.D. in quantitative data analysis, and approached me one day about 10 years ago and said, “Hey, I’m seeing some other applications for the work that I do.” And he wanted to get together with somebody who had some of the business side and the marketing and communication side of things.

MATT:

And so we teamed up and our very first customer was the Law Society of BC here in British Columbia where we’re based. And we knew nothing about the area of law or regulation, but this was our first contract. And lo and behold, 10 years later, it seems that we found ourselves a bit of a niche. Because we’ve only ever worked with those in the legal profession, and primarily legal regulators up to this point. So, kind of an accident that we fell into this space. But that’s how we are. And 10 years later we’re still at it.

MARK:

Fascinating, fascinating. And what are the backgrounds … You’ve shared a little bit about Steve, what’s your background here?

MATT:

Yeah, my background has primarily been in technology. So I’ve worked for a number of large technology firms, everything from network services to hardware. And then over the last 10 years, I got into the software development space, and my focus has primarily been on management operations, and then definitely in the sales and marketing aspects of it as well.

MARK:

Okay. All right. And can we talk a little bit about, what are the problems that Stand Point really is trying to solve? I think both historically and where we’re at 10 years down the road now.

MATT:

Yeah. Yeah. So 10 years ago, the problems we got into starting to solve, were really not much different than the problems many of these same organizations have today. Which is, we’ve got a bunch of data on hand. We have some strategic decisions or policy decisions to make, and we need to somehow inform these decisions with the data that we have. And sometimes that’s a bit of a daunting task, especially in today’s world when there’s just so much data.

MATT:

You know, you’ve got spreadsheets, you’ve got experts in the room who have inputs on things. And so, basically, we were trying to pull together all of these various sources of data and people and help them solve problems. And some of the earlier problems were trying to understand complaint data. That was the big one. So regulators are usually the receiver of complaints from the public.

MATT:

And if there’s an issue with a lawyer, and they wanted to try and understand, what are the root causes of these complaints, and is there a way to, using analytics, to get ahead of them a little bit? And proactively get out there and try and deliver resources that can help to bring those complaints down.

MATT:

So yeah, the early days we’re looking at complaint data. We’ve looked at program data to see if certain courses or programs are being effective in what they hope they might do. And then of late, we’ve been getting into self-assessments. And so, trying to understand how lawyers are self-assessing themselves against a model of professionalism.

MARK:

Yeah. And that’s where you and I really got into some interesting conversations. And so, how does the platform … How have you moved past Stand Point and gotten into this consulting piece, the lawyer self-evaluation? Can you describe where we’re going with that?

MATT:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So the first five or six years, we were just primarily doing one-off consulting projects, doing data analysis on those. And then at one point we thought, “You know, we’ve got a lot of experience here. We really now understand that the typical types of datasets that regulators and legal organizations are using. And we understand a lot of the problems they’re trying to solve with that data.

MATT:

So what happens if we put that onto a platform and try to automate some of the analysis and the reporting so that we could deliver solutions faster to our customers, and also solutions that were more scalable?” Because when you’re a consultant, you’re only as good as you can run, as fast as you can run. But when you embed some of that knowledge into a platform, now you can scale it up.

MATT:

And so that’s how we transitioned from just pure consulting and professional services into more of a platform. And then our very first customer on that platform was the Colorado Supreme Court, which was rolling out a voluntary self-assessment program to the lawyers of the state of Colorado. And so that’s where we got our start about three years ago now with the platform itself.

MARK:

And if this is Avvy Pro that we’re talking about, or that’s the next step?

MATT:

That’s right. No, Avvy Pro is the name of the platform, yeah.

MARK:

Okay. And you know, when I think about … Matt, for many years as you’re aware, I’ve done a lot of personal consulting if you will, going in and visiting law firms all over the country. And doing what we would call risk visits, and have been in literally well over 1200 firms now over the years.

MARK:

But we got to a point … You see, this is a very expensive service. It really is. To do it one firm at a time sending somebody out in terms of the travel, it just, it doesn’t scale up very well. And what I like about what you’re doing is, you’re taking this much, much further, and can take the risk management processes that I’ve been doing over the years, and bring it to the masses.

MARK:

That said, there are all kinds of products in the marketplace. In terms of even just Cloud-based case management systems, in and of them of themselves, they can be from an insurance perspective, a very effective risk management tool. What is the value of Avvy Pro, how do you see this defining yourself? What’s the niche here that you’re going after?

MATT:

Yeah, no, that’s a good question. And you know, I think it’s squarely in the same camp that you’ve been working on for all these years, Mark, which is risk reduction.

MARK:

Okay.

MATT:

And we’ve looked at multiple the types of value that the program provides. So one of the things the platform can provide for a lawyer is a fast way to determine what CPD, at first, they want to look at for the year. So doing a self-assessment results in a report that actually gives you your areas of priority, and it can even start to serve up some of the CLE resources that you might want to get into.

MATT:

So we see it as a time saver for lawyers. And we know that lawyers are very focused on saving time because they need to maximize the billable hours. And so the time savings is one thing, but at the end of it all, it always seems to come back to risk. Right? And how can we reduce risk to a practice, whether that’s for a firm or for an individual attorney?

MATT:

And so at the end of the day, that’s what we’re delivering to lawyers and firms out there is a reduction in risk. And it’s quantifiable, in the sense that there was the study out of New South Wales from the University of Melbourne, where they looked at a group of lawyers who took a professional self-assessment. And they studied this group of lawyers over a period of time, and they found that those lawyers had a 60% less chance of receiving a complaint than the lawyers in the group who hadn’t taken the self-assessment. And so this has become the genesis of a lot of these PMBR activities from some of the regulators across the country and has really shown the light on the fact that you can reduce risks to your practice and into your firm immediately just by doing a self-assessment.

MATT:

And the interesting thing, Mark, is that it’s not necessarily got to do with the scores you give yourself. In other words, whether you score high or low on your self-assessment, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just the process of going through that, which increases self-awareness and changes behavior. And the numbers show that you have a much less likely a chance of having a complaint if you’ve done one of these self-assessments. So, that’s really the core value of what we’re trying to do.

MARK:

Well, that’s really interesting. What I’m thinking about as you share this, is sort of how cybersecurity education is evolving. And as you’re well aware, I’m sure, the weak link in cybersecurity is the users in any law firm, any business, just due to social engineering. And there are some similar studies there that if you educate, appropriate behaviors or more responsible behaviors occur early on in the process. But it drops off over time.

MARK:

So I guess, sort of thinking about that, if I become a user of Avvy Pro, do I have the ability to, I don’t know, keep this fresh in front of me? Is this kind of like a one-off, once and done thing, or is it something I can come back to over time, share with others in my firm? See where I’m going in terms of … What’s the model? I’m just trying to understand the model.

MATT:

Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. And so yeah, even though there is a one-off benefit to taking a self-assessment, you’re absolutely right that there is a tail off of that benefit over time. And so the idea is that you revisit this, right? And the whole idea of self-assessing too is so that you can establish a benchmark for yourself. And ultimately, what you want to be able to do is move that mark forward, right? You want to have a continuous improvement cycle happening year over year as a professional.

MATT:

Because the self-assessment I took five years ago shouldn’t be where I am today as a professional. I mean, we always want to continue to improve. And so the idea would be to revisit your self-assessment every six months, every year.

MATT:

What the right interval is, we’re not exactly sure. But we do know that coming back to it and reassessing is definitely a way of refreshing on this. And then, what happens is you reset some of your benchmarks and your scores, and then the CLE resources that the platform provides change up based on what your priorities are this year. Because they might be different from last year, right?

MATT:

So yeah, continuous improvement is something that definitely needs to be looked at. And we actually did a study with a regulator on one of their programs. They had a small firm course that they put out, and they just didn’t know if it was helping. And so we analyze some of the data on the lawyers who had taken that course, and it was similar to the self-assessment.

MATT:

Whereas they had seen an immediate value, but we had a five year study period and the tail off was very evident in the numbers. That the benefit of that program had reduced over those five years. So the whole message is, yeah, you’ve got to keep at it. You can’t just stop. It’s not like exercising, right? You don’t go to the gym once or twice and then you’re done. You’ve got to keep going back.

MARK:

Again, just to be clear for our listeners, you’ve talked about going in, doing a self-assessment, getting a score, and awareness can make a real difference. I assume that there’s more to this than just sort of scoring yourself. That if I do get a low score, perhaps in, I don’t know, client intake or calendaring or something like this, and I assume these are the types of procedures that you’re looking at. Are there resources?

MARK:

I mean, what’s the ultimate benefit to me if I become a client and get in, and go through this evaluation? What do I get for the effort?

MATT:

Right. And so yeah, you’ve nailed something there, interesting. Because one of the things we observed over the years is that there is no shortage of information available to lawyers out there. I mean there’s websites and PDFs and courses, and there are so many resources available. What we saw was, typically the problem is that people don’t know where to start. So they think they might need help in communications, for example, or calendaring or client intake like you said. But trying to go through and weed through and find the right resources is sometimes a bit of and challenge, and a time-consuming effort.

MARK:

Yes, I can relate to this.

MATT:

Yeah, so what we are trying to do is make that jump between that gap between my self-assessment and the resources that are available to me out there. And so what we’ve done is, again, we take that self-assessment and let’s say you score yourself low on calendaring. The platform takes that low score on calendaring and then matches that, algorithmically, to the available resources in the platform library.

MATT:

And so the resources in the library are tagged according to their content. And so, your self-assessment will pull up a bunch of calendaring resources. Maybe it’s a YouTube video, maybe it’s a course, maybe it’s a quick blog post from somebody on calendaring. But it will serve you the resources that are most applicable to the needs you’ve identified, which we think really starts to, again, save time for lawyers so that they’re not out there Google searching their way around, trying to find things.

MARK:

Right. And in my mind, this is what really differentiates you from a lot of other types of platforms and systems, procedures, products available for lawyers to help in their practice. This goes in a completely different direction. I really like the idea. Again, this is risk management for the masses in terms of really scaling it up, so that any lawyer can … Or I assume from an administrator or whoever wants access to this within a law firm can sign up. Very, very good.

MARK:

What’s the future? Where do you see this going, short term and long term?

MATT:

Well, short term we’re just trying to get the platform exposed to as many jurisdictions as possible. So we’ve got some good conversations happening out there right now with a bunch of areas. Typically, we have delivered the platform through a legal organization as opposed to direct to lawyers. And so it’s been delivered by a regulator or a bar association. Or potentially an insurer like yourself.

MATT:

And then yeah, future, we’ve got lots of other ideas around the platform and how we can improve efficiency. And again, basically, reduce risk and save time for lawyers. One of the things we’ve been looking at, which we’re really kind of curious about, is whether we can improve the CLE accreditation process, and collecting credits and submitting them to your regulator. Because as you know, lawyers need to need to have their number of credits every year. And it’s different for every jurisdiction.

MATT:

And there’s this … If you look at the way the credits go, the regulator has the bag of credits, and they assign or permit certain service providers or education providers to give those credits out to lawyers who have come in and taken their courses. Right?

MARK:

Right.

MATT:

And then the lawyers take those credits and then what do they do? They give them right back to the regulator at some point and say, “I got my 10 credits for the year, I got my 20 credits for the year.”

MATT:

Well, I was looking at that and I thought, “This is like a currency system, right?” It’s basically a currency that comes from the regulator to the CLE provider, and then to the lawyer and then back to the regulator, and the regulator being the central bank. And so I’ve got some background in the blockchain space, and I looked at this and I thought, this is a solution, or the blockchain is a solution to taking that manual process of affidavits and sending PDFs, and yes, I was in that course on this date. And digitizing it with a token, a digital token. And so, one of the things we want to be able to do is say, okay, if you come into Avvy Pro, you do your self-assessment, you consume some resources which are CLE accredited. Let’s make that real easy for you to get that credit from your regulator. And so that’s their future vision, is to try and take this thing and then add on functionality.

MARK:

Yeah, I am loving this. Because over the years, trying to keep the manual sending stuff in and the states, if they’re different, it’s just a headache. But that’s solving a good problem. I like that. Matt, it’s really … I so enjoy visiting with you and learning about all that’s going on here. If any of our folks in the listening audience would like any additional information about Stand Point or Avvy Pro, is there a way they might be able to contact you?

MATT:

Yeah, certainly. So, individual lawyers who are curious about the platform and would like to try and take the self-assessment themselves can go to avvy.pro. And so that’s A-V-V-Y dot pro, and they can jump in there and try it out, and have a look at what it delivers. And standpointdecisions.com is the professional service’s website. And that would be for organizations, firms, bars, and regulators who’d be interested in finding out more about the work that we’ve done in the past.

MARK:

Yes. Yeah. And I assume you are interested, if a state wanted to look at doing something like this, similar to the colorized supreme court model that you share, I assume that that’s something you guys are still looking at as well. This isn’t all about moving into just the individual lawyer space. Am I correct about that?

MATT:

Absolutely. Yeah. No, absolutely. It all usually starts with the jurisdiction itself. And then they deliver access to the platform to their lawyers.

MARK:

Got It. Very good. Well, thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to visit. It’s always a pleasure. And to all of you listening, I hope you found something of value today and if you have any thoughts about folks you’d like to hear from in the future or a topic you’d like to hear discussed, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can reach me at mbass@alpsnet.com again, mbass@alpsnet.com. Thanks for listening folks. Have a good one. Bye-bye.

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