Am Law 200 firms will soon have access to an innovative new AI-powered recruiting tool called Haistack – Law Firm. Michael Heise has led development of the product, in partnership with Lateral Link. Ahead of the official launch on September 18, Lateral Link sat down with Mike to talk about the path that led him to develop Haistack – Law Firm.
LL: Let’s start with a quick description of Haistack – Law Firm. Why should firms be interested?
MH: Haistack – Law Firm uses machine learning to identify the best candidates for a specific attorney role. We aggregate publicly available attorney, firm, and law firm job data from across the internet, and we enrich it with proprietary Lateral Link data. From this data, we illustrate connections between a candidate and a firm and estimate the strength of the fit. These connections also suggest the most effective avenues for reaching out to a candidate who has not yet applied. In addition, we show firms which members of their current attorney pool have profiles that are in high demand in the broader lateral market. This enables firms to take affirmative steps to retain the most scarce talent.
LL: You worked for years in software development before you entered the legal field. How did you first get into software?
MH: I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1997 with a Business Information Systems degree. I was in the Marine Corps Reserves, so I had a connection to the government. I combined those interests by joining a government contractor out of college, writing software. Over the next 15 years, I worked for both government and private sector clients, everything from the State Department to the NASDAQ. That variety was great because I was able to take lessons from one sector and cross-pollinate them into the next. In 2009 I earned my MBA from Maryland with a focus in Entrepreneurship. And then in 2013 I took a full-time software development program manager role with the DC Police Department, where I spent nearly three years.
LL: What do you like best about working in software?
MH: I love making cumbersome processes more efficient. With software you can take a task that previously took days to complete and reduce that time to seconds. I also enjoy solving the puzzles that you confront when writing software. There’s no shortage of hard problems to tackle.
LL: What brought you into the world of law firms?
MH: I was thinking about getting back into the private sector, and in 2016 my wife was a law student, so that made me curious about law firms. I applied for a role at an Am Law 30 firm and spent nearly three years there as an Application Development Manager, followed by three years as a Senior Manager of Software Development at an Am Law 20 firm. Meanwhile, my wife now practices at an Am Law 50 firm, so in a way law has become a family business for us.
LL: What did your time at Am Law firms teach you about their software needs?
MH: First, security and data privacy are critical. Law firms have a reputation for being slow to adopt technology, but it makes sense after you’ve come to appreciate the liability risk of the information they hold. My other big takeaway came from working on system implementations that were 12- or 18-month projects costing millions of dollars. They involved intricate work to export data, massage it, and then import the data into the new system. Those projects reinforced for me the value of turnkey solutions that streamline the user experience. I decided that if I was going to develop software for law firm customers in the future, I would put a premium on making it as turnkey as possible.
LL: And that’s exactly what you’ve done with Haistack – Law Firm, right?
MH: Yes! Users can log in with LinkedIn, Google or Microsoft credentials tied to their firm email. You don’t even have to remember a password. Haistack will recognize which firm you belong to and will automatically display data customized to that firm.
LL: Why were you the perfect person to develop this product?
MH: Certainly I’ve had significant exposure to major law firms, learning not only about their software preferences and constraints but also gaining an understanding of the broader culture. My prior familiarity with the industry is only part of the story. I’ve learned a huge amount about the recruiting process through my collaboration with Lateral Link in developing Haistack – Law Firm. And I’ve had the distinct advantage of being able to draw on 15 years of Lateral Link data. For example, where we know that a firm has considered and rejected a candidate in the past, Haistack is not going to suggest that candidate to the same firm again. So the core strength isn’t just my background, it’s really the complementary assets that have come together to form the Haistack partnership.
In a rapidly evolving legal landscape, the alignment of technology with the intricacies of the legal sector remains pivotal. Michael Heise’s unique journey—from software development in various industries to the heart of law firms—has equipped him to pioneer solutions like Haistack – Law Firm. With its impending launch, Am Law 200 firms are on the cusp of an AI-driven revolution in recruitment. Drawing upon a rich blend of Heise’s software expertise, firsthand insights from top-tier law firms, and the robust data of Lateral Link, Haistack promises to redefine how firms identify, recruit, and retain the brightest legal talents. As law becomes increasingly tech-driven, innovators like Heise are ushering in a new era of efficiency, precision, and excellence.