Clause 8: Shawn Lillemo on Building Software Tools for a Patent Firm in the Age of AI

Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) replace patent attorneys? “No, but someone using AI will,” says Shawn Lillemo on this episode of the Clause 8 podcast.

The public launch of ChatGPT has spurred endless conversations like this about the role that technology will play in the legal profession. Eli Mazour’s colleague, Shawn, has spent more than five years thinking about the topic in his unique role as head of software development at their patent preparation and prosecution firm, Harrity, which had less than two dozen attorneys when Shawn joined. During that time, Shawn and his Ukraine-based team have successfully developed a wide variety of tools for the firm and its clients, including tools for patent drafting, private portfolio search, and firm task management. The driving goal, says Shawn, has been to automate mindless work “that makes you want to stick a fork in your eye” while improving the final work product and how the work is handled.

On this episode, Shawn and Eli talk about the firm’s technological journey, its decision to establish an in-house software development team, how Shawn’s superstar software developers in Ukraine continue to operate successfully during the war, and the future role of AI.

On the USPTO using – and mailing out – paper files when Shawn joined as an examiner in 2013:

“A lot of people were saying, ‘Yeah, send me the paper files, I want to do it that way. And the big deal at the time was, ‘I want to be able to mark it up, I want to be able to highlight it. I want to be able to read it while I’m not sitting in front of a computer.’ I’m like, okay, well, get a tablet.”

Advice for firms thinking about starting the software development journey:

“You can’t do everything. So, focus. Pick the thing that you think really is going to create value. If I was talking to myself, trying to start something new and in a different space: these projects take longer than you think they’re going to take, it takes years. And so you have to look out and say, ‘Is this still going to be valuable three or four years from now?’ And if it’s not, don’t build it.”

On working with a Ukrainian team:

“The war to them is like the weather: it’s cloudy with a chance of rockets today. It’s just wild. They have good humor about it. It’s just normal life for them. But there were times when they had no power for 80% of the day. And they had these big battery banks set up in their house so that they could run their inverters to keep their computer working so that they could keep working, and they wanted to stay working. So they’ve just been super, super resilient.”

Also on this episode, Shawn and Eli discuss:

  • The slow embrace of technology by patent firms
  • USPTO’s adoption of technology and where they are now
  • How Shawn’s background as an attorney, patent examiner, and creating software for his college’s facilities department led him to his current role
  • Lessons learned from building an enterprise software team at a law firm

 

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