11/16/17

My top 10 podcasts

Mysteries, the law and movies: podcasts for everyone by @Lihsa


A quick post: I'm not feeling very well--Houston allergies.

Fun fact: if you move to Houston, you will develop allergies within 2 years of moving here. Because it is abnormally warm, allergy cycles are accelerating. Tomorrow it is going to be 84 degrees Fahrenheit with 71% humidity. Ugh.

Nevertheless, the post must go on. Today's topic? Podcasts.


Here's a quick and dirty list of the podcasts I'm currently obsessed with:

  1. S-Town
  2. 99% Invisible
  3. You Must Remember This
  4. Lawyer 2 Lawyer
  5. This American Life
  6. Hidden Brain
  7. RadioLab
  8. The Moth
  9. The Daily
  10. My Favorite Murder
S-Town, produced by Serial and This American Life, is a deep-dive romance, mystery and legal conundrum of a small Alabama town and its amazing citizen, John. 10 episodes.

99% Invisible explores the thought, science and design behind items we may otherwise not notice. Weekly.

You Must Remember This gives behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Hollywood film history. Weekly.

Lawyer 2 Lawyer is hosted by Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams and presents current events through the filter of the law, bringing on industry experts. Two to three times a month.

This American Life is practically an NPR institution, developed by Ira Glass and showcasing slices of America. Ira picks a theme and presents 3 acts that address the topic. Weekly.

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vendatam,explaining things like what your parking habits say about you. He weaves neuroscience, psychology, anthropology and economics into compelling stories. Weekly.

RadioLab addresses the intersection between science and philosophy. One of my favorites examined the ethical decisions raised by autonomous vehicles. Weekly.

The Moth is a story lover's dream. Themed episodes feature 3 stories by individuals from around the world. Weekly.

The Daily is produced by the New York Times. Covering a top story, it takes a deep-dive with the reporting journalist and adds additional color and background. Five days a week.

My Favorite Murder captures personal tales of brushes with murderers and mayhem. It's almost too scary for me and I have to take long breaks between listening. Some may have a stronger constitution and can handle it. Beware: very quirky and giggly. Weekly.

So there you have it. Good night, dear readers. Share your favorite podcasts in the comments--I'd love to learn about some new ones.

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11/9/17

Things I would tell my younger lawyer self

Advice to new lawyers by @Lihsa

Dream big

“When you shoot for the stars, you will land on the moon.” My grandfather taught me this. He was a high school principal who talked me out of teaching.

Instead, I listed my dreams and turned them into goals. One of them was to be a writer. And look at me now. I won’t win a Pulitzer but I’m grateful for what this blog has given me: friends and a voice.

Things I would tell my younger lawyer self - Lihsa - 3 Geeks and a Law Blog

Save your money

Even if you owe money. Which frequently happens with most people who went to law school. Financial aid, law school loans and credit cards will distract you. But the bottom line: keep what is yours. It will be the only money that you truly own.

Creditors, bankers and loan officers all own a percentage of your paycheck. Then you’ll voluntarily give your money to the government, grocers, restaurateurs, hair stylists, tailors and nail technicians. So be good to yourself and keep some of your money for yourself. Save up for one of your dreams.

One of mine was to go to Paris. After law school, I had saved up enough money to pay for my first Paris trip in cash.

What’s your dream? Start saving now. Save up for your first house, your own law firm, your invention, your sabbatical. What ever your big goal is; start saving for it.

And, yes, I’ll boringly tell you, save for your retirement. Heck, you could be one of the lucky ones that can retire at 40.

Insure your stuff

Even if you are a renter, insure your home. When I was in my 20s, I stupidly did not. Then the guy next door burnt down his apartment and mine along with it. I lost everything. Insurance would not have replaced everything but it would have certainly helped.

Now I make quarterly calls to my agent. He suggests insuring not only art and jewelry, but also valuable textiles and leather goods. This may require extra riders, but it is worth it.

If someone breaks into your car and these items are stolen, the rider will cover the loss (and not your car insurance). Again, I learned this the hard way when my favorite leather bag got stolen from my car.

Along with insurance, I take photos of everything and load them up to a cloud-based service, like Google Photos, PhotoBucket or DropBox that I can access from anywhere. This could be a life-saver during unforeseen emergencies and disasters.

Things I would tell my younger lawyer self - Lihsa - 3 Geeks and a Law Blog

Document, document, document

My mom taught me to document my work. A workingwoman herself, she taught me to document my transactions, communications and accomplishments.

When I talk to customer service reps, I keep notes. I used to keep paper files, but now I keep notes in a cloud-based web service, that are accessible anywhere. There are a couple of options: Google Drive, EverNote or DropBox.

At work, I keep a weekly status report on my projects to record progress and accomplishments. A 15-minute report, it demonstrates my worth and value and reminds me why I love what I do.

Don’t fall back on time records, analytics and social media metrics: these don’t often cover the nuances of meetings, planning sessions and relationship building. The 15-minute effort helps me to not only see my progress but also plan for the future.

Know when to walk away

Now this is a real “mom moment” from me to you. Most of you may know this but a few of you may not.

You don’t work for free. If someone employs you to do a job, your employer has agreed to pay you for the time you work on the job.

Many moons ago, before I went to law school, I worked for a business owner who started having financial troubles. One week, he couldn’t pay me. I stupidly stayed to “help him out.” The next week, when he did it again, I finally told an older, wiser friend. She firmly instructed me to walk out. When I told the owner I couldn’t stay if he wouldn’t pay, he yelled as I was walking out that I “wasn’t a team player.”

I kept walking. That’s when I learned my worth.

No regrets

I’ve been working since I was 16 and have had all sorts of jobs: a salesperson, an accounting analyst, a teacher, a reporter, a business owner, a computer trainer, a graphic designer and a lawyer. All of these jobs have been building up to what I do today.

In college, I got a degree English Literature, minoring in art history. Along the way to that degree, I studied economics, accounting, business, architecture, library science and computer science. I remember one interviewer who told me that mine was a waste of a degree. I disagree.

Because today, I can write a post, design its layout and perform a statistical analysis of its performance. Then tweak it for next time.

Heck, when I went to college, there was no road map to here. I had to forge my own way. Up hill. And through the snow. 😀

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11/5/17

Law Firm BS - Tier 2 (Chihuahuas, Muffins, ROSS, LTC4)

"Every time you call something a 'robot lawyer', God turns a chihuahua into a muffin."
- Ed Walters at the 2017 COLPM Futures Conference
As CEO of Fastcase, Ed Walters is a true leader in the application of AI to the legal market. He created the AI Sandbox. He speaks all over the world in addition to teaching at Georgetown and
Cornell.

But Ed is a horrible hype man. Simply terrible. He suffers, inter alia, three glaring deficiencies:
  • Ed knows of what he speaks 
  • Ed is accountable to the market for delivering functional products 
  • Ed is constitutionally incapable of bullshit 
What a wretched combination. It is a wonder we permit this man to ascend the dais. Instead of cheerleading for robot magic, he offers a balanced assessment of what various forms of AI are good for while identifying immediate, practical applications of AI to law, and the limits thereof. It's all so painfully responsible. And boring!

Well, not quite boring. Ed is hilarious. One bit that always gets a laugh is when Ed explains classification errors (and their implications) by reference to the difficulty in distinguishing a chihuahua from a muffin:
If you take delight in such silliness (and I do), there are similar memes, like labradoodle or fried chicken, dalmatian or ice cream, and corgi or bread. Ed, however, deploys humor to make salient points about the challenges of subtle differences and the potential dangers of adversarial examples. Ed is also the best presenter I've encountered in explaining the errors in extrapolating from microworlds. I'll leave the AI to Ed.

I want to talk about puppies or bagel. Or, more pointedly, the distance between having similarities and being the same. Accurate identification should be a neutral act. Correctly categorizing an item as a bagel rather than a puppy is not to disparage bagels or puppies. You can adore both without confusing one for the other.

Which brings me to Tier 2 law firm bullshit (parts 1, 2, 3). In my taxonomy, Tier 2 law firm bullshit consists of statements that present as positive but ultimately prove non-responsive to the question posed. On the surface, the responses resemble attempts to answer but closer inspection reveals only superficial similarities to contextually useful information. I ask for a puppy. They send me a bagel.

I selected two examples—ROSS and LTC4—precisely because I am predisposed to react positively to their inclusion in an RFI response. The bullshit is not in the initiatives themselves but the way law firms use them in answers. An exemplar question:
Technology: How does the firm integrate technology into the delivery of legal services to clients like [organization]? How has technology measurably improved performance? Which recent technology investment have made the biggest, measurable impact?
How does the firm ensure that its lawyers and staff are taking full advantage of the basic technology tools at their disposal (e.g., competence-based learning curricula and micro-certifications)?
Impact. Measurable impact. Measurable impact specific to the client. Good in general is not the same as useful in the particular. I therefore include introductory instructions like:
While an initiative may be truly innovative, that in and of itself does not mean it is valuable to [organization]. An automated private placement document generation system iterated near perfection is worthwhile accomplishment but of little practical use to [organization] if you only support us on employment litigation.
ROSS

It was intellectually interesting that Watson won Jeopardy! It was welcome news when ROSS Intelligence was founded to bring the power of Watson to the legal market. As a legal tech junkie, I can applaud. But with my outside counsel management hat on, I'm not permitted to care until lawyers use ROSS to benefit my clients.

Multiple times, I have received excruciatingly long (so long you'd think I'd written them) responses to questions like the above. They start quickly with "We have licensed ROSS" and then slog on for paragraphs about Watson, Jeopardy!, IBM, cognitive computing, and the coming revolution in legal service delivery.

Let's unpack some layers of bullshit.

First, "we have licensed product X" borders on being a content-free statement. The quantity of software firms license and then do not deploy or deploy in a limited fashion—e.g., to the one lawyer who requested it—is astounding. The fact of a license, absent additional information, has almost no probative value.

This is particularly true when the subject area is sexy and law firms have recognized that the best publicity comes at the beginning of initiative when potential is limitless. If I had dominion over one of those growing law firm marketing budgets, I would be tempted to earmark funds to invest in AI (or blockchain or whatever is currently hot) for the purpose of press without any intention of following through (which requires real resources and reckoning with reality).

Second, at the various times I encountered these responses, ROSS had only released their bankruptcy product. This is fine, for ROSS. Bankruptcy is a legitimate area of legal practice and a solid silo for ROSS to attack first. But I've never done an RFI for a bankruptcy panel firm or matter.

Translated into something English adjacent, my Tier 2 exchanges with law firms are akin to:
Q: Talk to me about how you are using technology to improve toxic tort defense.

A: We've purchased but not deployed software to improve bankruptcy research.
I'm bullish on Andrew Arruda and crew. I'm excited for their expansion into other areas (labor & employment is up next). I was giddy at the news of their Series A and Andrew's TED Talk and their A2J partnership with Northwestern and their partnership with Evolve the Law and.....I, for one, welcome our new Canadian overlords.

Law firms should talk to ROSS. Law firms should test ROSS. Law firms should license and deploy ROSS where its offerings enhance their practice. Law firms should do everything they can to integrate useful tools like ROSS into the delivery of legal services. But, in the context of an RFI, don't talk to me about ROSS, or anything else, unless you can connect it to a concrete benefit for the client.

LTC4

By contrast, LTC4 may well offer immediate, concrete benefits. But a third party is in no position to evaluate those benefits.

For background, LTC4 is the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition. "LTC4 is a non-profit organization, that has established legal technology core competencies and certification that all law firms can use to measure ongoing efficiency improvements."

As evinced by the Technology question above (as well as a big chunk of my personal history and professional evangelism), I am deeply invested in technology training and certification. Getting better with the tools already at our disposal is among the lowest hanging fruit in improving legal service delivery. I was ecstatic when I learned a coalition of law firms was promulgating core competency standards.

But the LTC4 standards are proprietary and private. Their standards are only accessible to members. This, again, is absolutely fine, for LTC4 and its members. I'm sure the members thought long and hard about how to structure their organization and protect their IP. Tradeoffs were made.

Yet the deliberate opacity does not matter for the most common LTC4-related response I receive. The firms simply tell me "we are LTC4 members." Like we licensed product X, this statement is virtually meaningless. In short, the firm has access to learning plans.

But I already know that. Everyone has access to learning plans. Whether from Ivy Grey, Deborah Sandoval, Richard Heinich, et al., there is a bevy of free, quality resources in the what-lawyers-should-know-about-X-technology genre on top of a wealth of already great books, classes, trainers, and tech.

Our primary technology training challenge is not determining what legal professionals should be trained on. Nor is it making training available—the internet has a ready answers for almost every core technology conundrum. Our primary technology training challenge is getting people into training and ensuring that they learn. Access to training plans by itself has essentially no informational value in indicating that this challenge is being met.

That's where certifications come in. On this front, LTC4 might still solve the problem. Our legal professionals are LTC4 certified is definitely something. But it is not quite enough. The transparency trouble remains. A third party is in no position to evaluate what certification means. Certified in which subject area? What did the legal professionals do to demonstrate competence and earn certification?

From some personal exposure and given who is involved, I have confidence that LTC4's offerings are solid. And I can't wait to see how they continue to evolve and enhance the legal ecosystem. But that fact does not make their standards any less private. I would hope that firms could find a way to provide more information about their LTC4 certification without violating the terms of membership.

In RFI responses, however, firms have a bad habit of creating shorthand and then treating it as a shortcut.

Firms seem to really enjoy naming programs. Apparently, the act of naming renders the seriousness of the program self-evident. The Geek Firm, for example, might have GeekLPM©®™, GeekKM©®™, and Geek360©®™—the firm's project management, knowledge management, and customer relationship management programs, respectively. And, like LTC4, these programs have the potential to be excellent. That is, the programs themselves are not necessarily bullshit. What is bullshit is the way the shorthand is substituted for meaningful description. As in:
GeekLPM©®™ is the firm's proprietary legal project management system. Synthesising Lean, Six Sigma, Design Thinking, TQM, TOC, BPR, KFC, QE2, and B2B, we've optimized project management to be fit for purpose and deployed it throughout the firm.
This may be true. This may be great. Or it might be marketing claptrap devoid of underlying substance. The burden of proof is on the firm. And statements like the above fail to satisfy the burden.

Where Tier 3 bullshit is obvious nonsense, Tier 2 bullshit may obfuscate something real.

As always, this is not about law firms = bad, clients = good. Rather, the poor quality of RFI responses is symptomatic of the situation. Neither clients nor law firms have much experience or comfort with data-driven dialogue. And law firms have recognized that, for the time being, bullshit offers the path of least resistance because it is often more effective than transparency. Transparency means conceding you are a work in progress—anathema to a profession of atelophobes allergic to admissions of imperfection.

Law firms should invest in improvement even if said improvement is not accessible and appealing to every client. License and deploy ROSS because it improves your bankruptcy practice. If you also want to weave ROSS into a broader story about the firm's willingness to experiment with cutting-edge technology, go right ahead. Just don't make it too much more than it is.

Law firms should market. And marketing should respect attention spans (even if I don't). Hire experts in branding and copywriting. Use GeekLPM©®™ or whatever as shorthand on your websites, on your flyers, and in your brochures. Soundbites and happy talk have their place.

But brandspeak and chit chat should give way to real conversation at some point. My issue isn't that law firms bullshit. We all bullshit. My issue is that law firms have grown so reliant on bullshit that many can't switch modes even when the context demands a different kind of communication. Bullshit becomes standard operating procedure.

Next post, I will talk about the crème de la crème of law firm marketing bullshit. Tier 1 is bullshit so smooth even I can't be sure it's bullshit.

______________________________________
D. Casey Flaherty is a legal operations consultant and the founder of Procertas. He serves on the advisory board of Nextlaw Labs. He is the author of Unless You Ask: A Guide for Law Departments to Get More from External Relationships, written and published in partnership with the ACC Legal Operations Section, and the Service Delivery Review Primer, written for the Buying Legal Council. Find more of his writing here. Connect with Casey on Twitter and LinkedIn. Or email casey@procertas.com.





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11/2/17

2017 World Series, the Houston Astros, social media and data usage

How a football game and a hurricane played a part in baseball by @Lihsa

Forgive me, but I have to say this more for myself: my hometown team, the Houston Astros, are the 2017 World Series Champions.

I know, I know, if my sister’s reading this, she’ll tell you that I’m not much of a sports fan.

But this series. This season. This year. Incredible.


Watching the 2017 World Series on social media


I watched the game on Twitter. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do cable. I do Roku. And despite YouTube’s sponsorship by its YouTube TV, YouTube wasn’t really live-streaming the game. I did watch a few minutes of the game on YouTube Live through a Mexican TV channel. But I don’t speak Spanish very well, so I gave up after 10 minutes. And, frankly, my heart couldn’t handle the stress.

Instead, I followed the World Series’ Twitter Moment, which kept a live score of all the games. It was pretty slick—a top bar, just under the Twitter navigation, kept a live scoreboard. Tweets ran below it. And you should have seen the live stream—a river ran through it. I wasn’t scrolling, I was spinning through 100s of tweets per minute.

In fact, Ad Age reported that 62,000 tweets were generated at the final out of the seventh game. It was the most tweeted moment of the seven-game series. If you want to see all of the Twitter stats—sorry, Twitter isn’t giving up any hard data, just lists and posts—check out the Twitter blog.


World Series data usage

Details are still coming in on data usage in the respective team stadiums. Several sites solely dedicated to stadium communication networks have not yet posted the latest results. The Houston Chronicle did report that during Astros’ home games 3 and 4, fans at Minute Maid Park burned up 2 TB of mobile data on AT&T's network.

2017 World Series, the Houston Astros, social media and data usage - @Lihsa - 3 Geeks

2017 LI Super Bowl network upgrades

Luckily this year, Houston made significant upgrades to its networks for February’s Super Bowl. In the past, Houston stadiums had abysmal coverage and way too many dead zones.

The Broadcast Bridge reported that, to prepare for the Super Bowl, T-Mobile permanently increased 4G LTE by nearly 20 times its previous strength. Sprint bumped up by 500 percent. ATT added 749 antennas and 549 cell towers. Verizon added 783 antennas. Plus, temporary boosters were added to the areas surrounding all 3 Houston arenas and conference centers. So the arenas were ready when Super Bowl LI broke the 37 TB wireless mark.

Hurricane Harvey prepared Houston for digital congestion

Thank God, because Houston needed it for Harvey.

CNET reported that AT&T and Verizon ran the traps during Hurricane Preparedness Season, running drills and tests. Before Harvey made landfall, both communication networks reported “ready” for Harvey.

When cell towers did go down—a reported 5 percent were disabled—COWS were deployed. COWS are cell sites on wheels, which can be transported to damaged towers. Houstonians—more fortunate than its coastal neighbors—were able to maintain stable communication networks through out the hurricane.

Which brings us to the 2017 World Series

Three years after Sports Illustrated cover prediction and in an odd statistical coincidence, the Houston Astros won the seventh game of the series with a 5 – 1 victory, after the city fought back 51 inches of rain.

The Houston Astros, with one of the most diverse teams in the league, beat out New York and Los Angeles.

Houston showed why the fourth largest city in the US, down on the third coast, is the real force to be reckoned with. We are, after all, #HoustonStrong.

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10/26/17

Social media and a lawyer’s duty of technology competence


Communication and meeting people where they're at by @Lihsa


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the following conversation.

“Have you heard about that new Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn post about … ?”

“No,” followed by a bland stare. “I don’t want to know—there’s too much going on and I just can’t be bothered.”

Social media and a lawyer’s duty of technology competence - Lihsa - 3 Geeks

Oh, yes, I think to myself. And I bet your grandfather made that equally prescient comment in the previous century. “Oh, no, you won’t catch me getting on that plane / train / automobile—it’s a death trap signaling the end of civilization.”

Sentimentality and social media

I don’t think it is any small coincidence that I am JUST RIGHT NOW listening to Pandora streaming Twenty One Pilots:

Wish we could turn back time
To the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but
Now we're stressed out.
      Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots (2015)



One thing I’ve learned is that if I want to get my message across, I have to communicate with people from where they are at and not from where I am at. Because, right now, I’m sitting here by myself with two cats at my heels. And they certainly aren’t listening to me.

Communication crisis of 2009

In 2009, trying to stay in touch with people was at its most problematic.

It was crazy. People were using everything and anything: landlines, faxes, cell phones, text messages, Eudora, AOL, IM, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, MySpace, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Instagram was coming in 2010. Snapchat was still on the horizon.

If I wanted to talk to my grandmother, I had to call her landline. If I wanted to get a hold of one sister, she only responded to Facebook Messenger. If I needed my other sister, she only responded to text messages. My mom would talk on mobile, but only if she was sitting down. A friend told me that she could only get in touch with her sister through the app Words with Friends’ chat feature.

Businesses were better. My firm has always used Outlook but didn’t have instant messaging yet. One colleague was at a very large consulting firm, which shall remain nameless. Said firm was just starting to phase out Eudora, so setting calendar appointments with her was problematic.

Some friends were in the throes of starting their own firms. While adept at social media, they were still using free email services. Other friends at small boutique firms trying to grow their business were opening fledgling social media accounts.

Today, things have evened out, thank goodness. Eudora, MySpace, AOL, and faxes are sunsetting, if not “midnighted.” Landlines are almost obsolete.

Just the social media facts, m’am

But some lawyers still refuse to meet people where they are at, “virtually” turning their backs on a third of the world population. Really.

If you recall, I’ve previously written about social media audiences by age—your clients and newest GCs are likely online.

And here are a few more facts:
  1. In 2017, 81 percent of US Americans have a social media profile, a five percent increase from 2016.
  2. There are 1.96 billion social media users worldwide.
  3. In 2018, it is predicted that 2.5 billion people will be on social media. Percentage of US population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2017.
Right now there are 7.4 billion people living on this blue planet. That means that one-third of the population will be on social media in 2018—let’s just say that all working adults will have a social media account of some form.

Duty of technology competence

And as for your ethical obligations, lawyers now have a duty of technology competence in 28 states. ABA Rule 1.1.

For lawyers, the duty of technology competence goes even further; it isn’t just about knowing how to use a social media account. It's about understanding what needs to be turned over in discovery, what is admissible as evidence, what kind of relationships you can and cannot have with opposing counsel, the jury and the judge. It's about being aware of what is being said online about you, your client, the opposing party and your expert.

Robert Ambrogi (@bobambrogi) discusses this most recently in his 2017 article, Another State Adopts Duty of Technology Competence, Bringing total to 28.

And he also keeps a running list of all of the states that have adopted the ABA Rule 1.1.

So, sure, if you are in one of the 22 remaining states, no worries. Just don’t take any cases in the other half of the US.

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