6/25/16

I wrote a book. I hope you like it.

I am the primary author of Unless You Ask: A Guide For Law Departments to Get More From External Relationshipswritten and published in partnership with the External Resources Interest Group of the ACC Legal Ops Section. The book was introduced at last week's fantastic ACC Legal Ops Section Conference. I guarantee this will be the most compelling guidebook you have ever read, or I will personally refund the full list price (it's free). The book lays out why and how law departments and law firms should weave continuous process improvement into the fabric of their relationships. From the opening:
“Clients aren’t asking for it.” When surveyed, law firms’ response as to why they are not doing more to change the way they deliver legal services is that “clients aren’t asking for it.” Given that clients are already voting with their wallets and their feet, “clients aren’t asking for it” might not be the best guide to action. But there is some merit to the argument that while law firms know they need to change, they don’t know how to change in visible ways that will satisfy their clients. You should be asking for more and be more specific in what you ask for. 
You should be asking your external providers to get demonstrably better. Stripped to its most basic, you should always be able to identify how your primary providers are measurably improving their delivery of legal services to you. You should have credible evidence— descriptions and metrics—of their process improvements and innovation.
While this compilation will go deep into potential methodologies for starting and structuring such data-driven conversations, do not get distracted by the details or paralyzed by a compulsion to develop a comprehensive approach. If you can’t answer the question, “What evidence do I have that my primary providers are measurably improving their delivery of legal services to us?” ask them for some. Then ask again in six months. Repeat.
Don’t detour into discounts. Discounts are fine, as far as they go. But they do not go very far in actually modifying behavior. Your relationships with your primary providers most likely resemble long-term supplier commitments with high switching costs and intermittent price renegotiation. With people and price in place, it is process that offers the most levers to drive continuous improvement.
You are the urgency driver. If you ask, your external providers will find new ways to add value. If you ask, your external providers will improve the processes by which they deliver legal services to you. This volume will provide you with a menu of potential asks that go directly to process.
At its core, Unless You Ask is about conversations. How to start them and what you can get out of them. You may not get everything you ask for. But unless you ask, you are almost guaranteed to get none of it.
A bit more theatrically, what follows (not in the book) is a hypothetical conversation between me (Q) and a caricature of an inside counsel (A) who has a familiar flair with the English language [Forgive me. I am compelled to be a bit goofy after a long stint of serious writing] :
Q: Do you select good outside counsel?
A: Oh, the best. They are really, really smart. The smartest. From the most famous firms. They went to the classiest schools. They know the best words. Really, really fabulous words. Luxurious words.
Q: Fantastic. Are you happy with the rates or fees that you have negotiated?
A: Absolutely. We win every negotiation. We win on rates. We win on AFAs. We win on invoice reductions. We win all the time. We win so often that my firms ask me, "Aren't you tired of winning?" We have negotiated the very best deals. Huge deals. Ask anybody.
Q: Outstanding. So you've got the people and the price in place. You must be satisfied with your firms.
A: No. It's terrible. Really, really, awful. These people, they are not innovative or cost conscious. Cycle times are way, way too long. Transparency? Forget about it.  
Q: That's not good. How do you address those kind of service delivery issues?
A: I'll tell you what we do. We do it better than anyone. We cut their invoices. Bam! Every month. And then when they come around begging for a rate increase, we are so very, very good at negotiating new discounts. Huge discounts. And then if they don't get better, if they don't meet our high, really high standards, we stop sending them work. Like that! [snaps fingers] It happens so fast your head would spin. You know, we don't even tell them "You're fired!" We just stop calling them. 
Q: How long have you been doing this?
A: Doing what?
Q: Addressing service delivery issues through people and price rather than addressing process directly.
A: That, we've always done that.
Q: How is that working out for you?
A: [Puzzled look]
Q: How do you know your approach is actually modifying behavior? Can your law department point to ways in which your primary providers have measurably improved the delivery of legal services?
A: Frankly, I have no idea what you are getting at. Are you suggesting that we are not really, really terrific at what we do? Because, let me tell you, we are terrific.
Q: No. No offense intended. Let me try to switch to language that is more appealing. I'm sure you are great. The best. Fabulous. Truly fabulous. It's just that I've written a little book. Really, the smallest book. In this book, I have distilled some uncommon practices from some great law departments. Some of the best, most famous law departments. Abbott Labs, Abbvie, AIG, Flex, Marsh McLennan, Shell, Voya. Really, really innovative stuff for getting additional value from your external relationships. The most value, really. And it is presented as a menu, a luxurious menu, very posh. I think it would be huge if you read the book. It would be even huger if you adopted some of the practices and told me about your amazing implementation so I could add a case study to a subsequent iteration. And if you don't like what's on the menu--if you think it's all terrible--tell me that too. It's a living document. It's adaptable. So very adaptable. I would really appreciate feedback from someone as successful as yourself. 
A: What are you trying to sell me? I've been in this business a long time. I know this business better than anyone. Anyone!
Q: I'm trying to sell you on some ideas. Classy ideas. Proven ideas. Ideas about taking what's already terrific and making it better by creating deep supplier bonds through structured dialogue that weaves continuous improvement into the fabric of your external relationships. Trust me, it is all very tastefully done. Really elegant. And the book itself is free.
A: Free? Kid, you are terrible at business. A real moron. I could teach you many, many things. Too many things. But I can't resist a deal. Even I can't say no to free. Send me the link.
Q: Deal.
The basic themes of the book should be familiar to regular readers. Unless You Ask is a practical guide to structured dialogue. It provides specific guidance on the kinds of data-driven conversations that law firms and law departments should be having and how to go about them. The menu is divided into three sections.

Value-Plus. The book comes from a place of respect for legal expertise and appreciation for the contribution of outside counsel. The value-plus section of the volume is focused on finding alternative ways to take advantage of that expertise. Beyond discrete legal matters, primary providers, and their competitors, can provide value via:
  • Legal Training (CLE)
  • Company Training
  • Support Training
  • Allied Professionals
  • Secondments
  • Advice Hotlines
  • Updates/Alerts
  • Pro Bono
Value-Enablement. Because legal expertise is so valuable, whether that expertise is being properly leveraged through process and technology is worthy of sustained (though not constant) attention. If in-house counsel ask for discounts, they will get discounts. If in-house counsel ask for measurable, continuous improvement in the delivery of legal services, that is what they will get. The book provides guidance on how to ask with respect to:
  • Knowledge Management
  • Process and Project Management
  • Billing Hygiene
  • Data/Analytics
  • Paper Lite
  • Expert Systems
  • Technology Training
  • Staffing
  • Firm Defined (i.e., letting firms present their own innovations)
Why. Some law departments have already implement these ideas. The book is a distillation of their practices. But the approach will be foreign to many law departments/firms. Since new is not something lawyers handle all that well, the Why section is presented in FAQ format to forearm those with the courage to suggest a new approach to improving on the status quo:
  • Shouldn’t we be focused on finding great lawyers?
  • You keep referring to “strategic sourcing” and “deep supplier relationships.” What do those terms even mean? How do they relate to law? 
  • Should we really have to ask our firms to do things they should already be doing? 
  • How will our firms respond to these kinds of additional requests? 
  • Don’t we need to get our own house in order before asking our firms to do so? 
  • Aren’t we too busy to run someone else’s business for them? 
  • Doesn’t this only speak to incremental improvement? 
  • Shouldn’t we use our leverage to ask our firms for deeper discounts on billable rates?
  • Wouldn’t much of this be addressed by a transition to AFAs?
  • How does all of this apply to working with alternative service providers? 
  • Why is this suddenly so important?
Finally, this is Version 1.0 of the book. We worked hard to get it out before last week's stellar ACC Legal Ops Conference. It isn't complete. It won't ever be complete. If the book ends up being read and the ideas get implemented (two big ifs), then we will continue to update the volume with new ideas and upgrades of existing ideas. Towards that end, I look forward to comments, criticisms, and suggestions to improve on what we've got so far.

_______________________________________
D. Casey Flaherty is a consultant who worked as both outside and inside counsel. Find more of his writing here. Connect with Casey on Twitter and LinkedIn. Or email casey@procertas.com.





Praise for Unless You Ask


“It's a great read - recommend all in-house to embrace, all outside to get ahead of the curve.” –Jeff Carr
“This is an incredibly valuable roadmap for in-house legal dept management of outside counsel. I mean turn by turn.” –Liam Brown
“A report I think qualifies for gold standard treatment by both corporate law firms and the in-house law departments they serve. So many good ideas—a tour de force in my book. Ignore at your peril” –Betsy Munnell
“Terrific and mandatory summer reading for all lawyers, in-house and outside. I mean really…read it!” –Martin Salomon
"A terrific (and free) vade mecum for general counsel – to use a good old-fashioned expression with a contemporary flavour....Whether you are a GC or a BigLaw practitioner, read why Casey titled his book Unless You Ask – and learn from a pathfinder." –George Beaton
"Must-Read: Unless You Ask or 'Open your mouth or open your wallet'"–Silvia Hodges Silverstein 
“Great read and reference for firms and law departments. Terrific ideas for all.” –Lisa Damon
“Read this. That is all.” –Toby Brown



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6/22/16

Five Years Ago, We Said Law Firms Would Stop Using These By 2016

Image [cc] Elad Rahmin
Nearly five years ago, we did an Elephant Post asking our readers what they think Law Firms would stop using by the Fall of 2016. We thought it would be interesting to review those predictions and see how well we guessed.


Some of them were spot on... some were close... and some where way off (or perhaps just slightly ahead of their time.) Let's tick through the lists and see how close we got.






Greg Lambert
Library/Records/Blogging Guy
Westlaw or Lexis

Law firms are already looking at cutting out one of the major legal publishers, and right now, the only real reason that they don't do it immediately is because there is some resistance (read: one partner doesn't want to cut the product) and they don't want to rock the boat at this point. However, having both products is simply not going to be a cost-effective way to run the firm's research/library operation. There may be that one time when there is a specific product that we can't access immediately, but firms will see that you just can't spend that much money to facilitate the one-off products that are needed on a rare occasion.
Note: I actually wrote this before the big Bloomberg/BNA news. It may not take five years to make this happen.


Not Quite: Although there have been a few firms that tested the one-provider method, I think that this prediction didn't come true in the way that I thought it would. One of the biggest barriers (in my opinion) is that the vendors became very clever in bundling products and providing discounts toward some products if you kept or added additional products. The end result is that it made it much more difficult to jettison a vendor entirely because of the ripple effect that it caused on other (unrelated) products. Of course, there is always the issue of Attorney Preference on vendors, which is also a barrier to going with a single-provider.


Cindy Bassett
Electronic Services Librarian
Loose-leaf

For the most part, we have acquired online access to most of our looseleaf sources and have ended many of our print looseleaf subscriptions so that we aren't duplicating purchases.  We only continue to subscribe to a few in print (IMHO) because there are a few professors who are used to seeing them in a print format and don't want to adapt. But it is too expensive to duplicate any purchases, especially when you factor in the staff hours to update them.   Plus, our students hate to file.


Somewhat True: Although loose-leaf subs are still around, many have removed these from the collection where they duplicated online subscriptions. There are still a number of very valued, and expensive loose-leaf subscriptions where the items are not available electronically, or the electronic versions are simply not sufficient in the format to replace the loose-leaf versions. I think that we're looking at an ever decreasing amount of loose-leaf materials over the next decade.


Shaunna Mireau
Director of KM and Libraries@FieldLaw
CD ROMs

Any content that comes on CD or DVD is (has always been and continues to be) a big pain in the neck.  Work stations are virtualized - no CD/DVD drives; IT has to load it; the DRMs are often unworkable; and the content (please God let it be so) will be moved to other formats which are more easily managed.  I sincerely hope this is a 2 rather than 5 year time span.  Content is the most important factor though, which is why my organization still maintains 2 titles. Please, 3 Geeks publisher readers, enough with the disks already.


True: I can't believe we were still using these five-years ago.


Steve
IT
Blackberries

It probably won't take five years for this to happen. Firms will simply stop buying BB's for their attorneys and staff. Instead, they may (may) give a stipend to everyone to go out and use their own devices that can be installed with protective software (security that would wipe the device in event of being lost or stolen). It's a no-brainer. The project might pay for itself in the reduction of staff time it takes to just reconcile the bills that come in from all those firm-owned devices.


True: Toby's adage of "My Blackberry can do anything your iPhone can do… only slower," is dead, along with the Blackberry itself. I know... I know, it officially still exists, but whenever someone pulls out a Blackberry in public, the reaction now is, "Why???"


Toby Brown
AFA
Technology

We will rent it instead.   Firms are learning that buying, installing, integrating, maintaining and updating technology is expensive and best left to technology companies. The current upgrades by so many firms to Office 2010 and Windows 7 highlights the rats-nest of technology firms are trying to manage.   It's been my experience that law firms are good at ... practicing law. By getting out of the technology services business, they will be able to re-focus their energies on that core competency.


True, but still a ways to go: Firms are much more accepting of Cloud-Based, and Software as a Service-type products. However, there is still a lot of buying, installing, integrating, maintaining, and updating of technology that is housed on firm-owned (or firm-rented) computers, and in-house technology developed and maintained by law firm IT Departments. It's better than it was in 2011, but still not where it needs to be.


Scott Preston
Techno Adult
Smartphone/PDAs

For many years law firms have purchased, paid the monthly charges and all maintenance fees on smartphones in order to make sure the attorneys were available to their clients at all times.  At this point in time virtually everybody has their own smartphone and they are either migrating all their work traffic to their personal device or they are carrying two devices.  Given the advancement in mobile data management (MDM) it is a fairly simple process to enable most smartphones to securely connect back to the firm's infrastructure.  This shift should save firms a lot of money in the procurement of smart devices, it will put an extra burden on support services.  So perhaps internal support for smartphones will also stop within the next 5 years.


True: Scott nailed this one. BYOD is the norm for most law firms now. Some may still pay a stipend for smartphones, but most firms are not putting nearly the amount of time, effort, and money in mobile devices that they did in 2011.


Greg Lambert
Blogger
Summer Associates?

The whole Summer Associates program seems to be shrinking more and more every year. Since almost all of those that go through the SA program end up leaving at the end of 4-6 years of practice at the firm, why hold on to this old way of thinking? Perhaps the better approach is to hope that other firms continue the SA program, then after they've got them trained and ready, swoop in and steal... er, "lateral" them into your firm.


Swing and a Miss (but, not quite a strikeout yet): I thought that some firms would completely go away from the Summer Associate programs and the college beauty contests for the top 10-15% of graduates from top-tier law schools. I was wrong, but with the bump to $180K for first-year associates, this idea may have some legs yet. Why firms that are in the AmLaw 200, based in lower-costs states are still matching NYC based Cravath wages, is beyond me, but, it seems that everyone is folding. Smart firms will find ways to evaluate talent in other ways, and offer competitive salaries for more work-life balance jobs. So, I missed this time around, but I think there is still something to this idea.


Max Kennerly
Trial Lawyer
Directory Listings

It's old hat to say the Yellow Pages doesn't matter for lawyers any more, but frankly I think that same obsolescence extends to lawyer-specific directories like Martindale Hubbell and, dare I say it, even Avvo and Superlawyers. These directories produce minimal client intake and even less client conversion; the question isn't if they are the wave of the future, because they're not, but if they're even worth the bother once a lawyer has a modest web presence with their own professionally designed website. I'm going to plant a flag and say that, in five years, Martindale will be as bad as the Yellow Pages and Avvo will be as bad as Martindale.


Mostly True: While these are still around, the value is getting pretty close to zero for these directories. Superlawyers may still have a following, but it also has a similar number of detractors out there as to why and how lawyers put their names on these directory lists.


Mark Gediman
Librarian/Records
Search engines with proprietary content

I think the trend will move away from purchasing multiple search engines, each with their own proprietary content (i.e. Lexis, Westlaw) to purchasing one search engine and then subscribing to the content for that engine separately.  So, for example, using the search engine on Lexis to access the web, West content, BNA content, CCH content.  This would be true enterprise search.


False: Google still rules. Sorry Mark!!


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6/20/16

The Robots Lawyers Have Arrived...

This post originally appeared on the HighQ Blog.  


Last week, at the HighQ Forum in London, our new robot overlords displayed their mighty powers and declared that all human lawyers should line up and await their turn at the guillotine. 
Oh wait… I’m wrong, that didn’t happen.
However, we did get a brief glimpse into the future of legal service delivery, with what could arguably be called the first true robot lawyer. 
Yes, it’s a title that has been thrown around quite a bit recently. Both ROSS and KIM have been labeled robot lawyers, but ROSS is a very powerful research tool and KIM is a ‘virtual assistant’, akin to Siri for law. 
Not to in any way diminish either of these technologies, if moderately pressed, I will admit to being a huge fan-boy when it comes to both of them, but I think the term robot lawyer when applied to these technologies has invited skepticism and derision from people who claim that computers simply cannot do what humans can do. 
We set out to do some actual lawyering with computers.
HighQ Collaborate is a platform that allows for easy sharing and communication within firms, or between clients and firms. We may not be not the obvious choice for setting out to create a robot lawyer.
But therein lies the strength of our approach, because our robot lawyer is not a product.  It’s not a creation of a single company. It’s simply a proof of concept to show what is possible when you combine resources and tools that you have at your disposal to create something that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. 
This is a technique I talk about a lot, that I call bricolage.
Bricolage gives you the best of both the Buy and Build options. You are still building a custom solution to solve you particular problem. That could potentially give your firm a competitive advantage.
However, you are also using purpose built tools that are fully supported by other companies to ensure that you have the most robust solution possible. To me, bricolage is the answer to the Buy vs. Build question for law firms.
In February, HighQ announced its integration with RAVN, an AI data extraction tool that allows you to pull specific data out of unstructured documents and to move it into a structured format. 
On June 9th, at our Client Forum, we also announced integration with Neota Logic, a different kind of AI that allows you to build powerful expert systems to replicate virtually any logical process that can be codified.
For the forum I was joined on stage at the British Film Institute on the south bank of the Thames, by Sjoerd Smeets from RAVN and Greg Wildisen from Neota Logic. And as a demonstration of the combined power of our three platforms, we presented a scenario:
Imagine you’re a law firm, and you are approached by a client that is considering acquiring a large number of commercial leases. They want you to help determine the value of these leases over their entire term, as well as identify any risks associated with each lease.
Now, most firms would have two options:
  1. Get a bunch of young lawyers, or contract lawyers, in a room and have them manually plow through the many thousands of leases, calculating the value and highlighting and risky clauses or potential concerns.
  2. Work with the client to identify a subset of leases to review manually, and make a number of assumptions about the rest of the leases in order to provide some likely risks they may face.
But with HighQ, RAVN, and Neota, there is a third option.

Clients will commonly upload a large set of documents into our HighQ Collaborate site. An administrator will then go through the documents, ensuring that they are appropriately filed and then notify (or set auto-notifications to notify) the appropriate lawyers that the documents are out there waiting for some attention. 
In our demo last Thursday, the files were bulk uploaded and then RAVN went to work reviewing the documents.
First it identified the types of documents that were in the zip file. There were 10 commercial shopping mall leases and 5 ISDAs. As the audience watched, Sjoerd from RAVN, hit refresh and nothing happened.
He waited a second, hit refresh again, and nothing happened. He looked back at his laptop that was running the software, which I could see running, and I thought, “NOOOOO!  The curse of the live demo!” I was silently screaming what an idiot I must be for trying to do this live. 
But then Sjoerd hit refresh one more time, and you could see that the numbers were changing. RAVN was moving the files to the Shopping Mall Leases, and ISDA folders that we created. 
Then he clicked over to iSheets, our online spreadsheet/database module, and showed how RAVN was populating the sheet with information from the uploaded documents. First one row of data showed up, refresh, four more rows, refresh, all ten. And with that Sjoerd handed the computer over to Greg from Neota. 
Greg took the stage and showed the app that Neota had embedded into Collaborate. With the touch of one button marked, “Run Lease Assessment” the app performed four tasks for each lease. 
It calculated the portfolio rental value from any given start date, it assessed risks associated with the calculated rental value (such as tenants right for early termination and/or assignment, special obligations on the landlord, conditions around the security deposit, etc). 
Clicking through the app brings you to a valuation summary that shows the total value of the aggregated leases, as well as an aggregate Red Amber Green risk assessment of all leases. In addition, each lease is given its own valuation and risk report and the iSheet is updated with the valuation and risk report. It does all of this in seconds. 
I took the stage again and did my best Steve Jobs impersonation. “That is amazing!” Except, it wasn’t hyperbole, that is actually really amazing. Several people came up to me after and said, “I’m afraid your presentation was too slick, I don’t think that everyone in the audience understood what you three just did there.” 
But enough understood it. And enough can extrapolate to their own use cases and opportunities.  Enough can imagine how they could then use Collaborate to share the results of the AI engines, filtering views of the iSheets and permissioning them for different audiences, the client, the practice group, the contract lawyers, and any others you could think of. 
Each group seeing only the information that is relevant and important to their portion of the work at hand. Enough understood what we did on Thursday that they are beginning to talk, and they are beginning to ask whether we could make this work for their particular use case.   
This robot lawyer does not replace human lawyers. It makes them faster, more efficient, more consistent, and happier. 
Because this robot lawyer tells them where to focus their energies, on high risk leases, or contracts.  The kinds of things that lawyers really want to do, instead of mindlessly slogging through 50 mind-numbing, perfectly normal contracts a day, hoping to find the one anomaly in a hundred contracts. 
This robot lawyer doesn’t replace human lawyers. It makes them better lawyers.

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6/16/16

Grabbing Data Via Excel

My Workshop for the South African
Online Users Group Meeting in
beautiful Pretoria, South Africa (6/7/16)
It's been a while now since I've written a truly geeky post that didn't focus on law libraries. I'm going to try to make up for that with this one on how to pull data from websites using Excel.

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of traveling to Pretoria, South Africa to present at the South African Online Users Group meeting. In addition to presenting at a local law firm and giving a keynote speech on the value of law library service, I also got to teach a three hour workshop on web scraping and website monitoring. We kept it simple at first, and eventually got so far in depth with the discussion that even I got confused. I'll hit some of the highlights of my workshop here, specifically with using Microsoft's Excel.

Web scraping is the action of using computer software techniques to extract information directly from websites. Since many of us use Excel to compile the information, whether it is text, numbers, geographical information, or currency, I like to show all the ways that you can directly pull data into Excel and start manipulating it.

So why would you use web scraping? There are a number of reasons. You may want to create some type of prototype that shows how you can interpret and analyze data and you need some sample data to test or demo your project. You may want to arrange information in different ways to make the data more valuable to you or your audience. Data analysis is a common reason to pull blocks of data to prove a trend or tenancy from the data. And finally, you may want to take external data and combine it with internal data (say Industry Data combined with client data) and compare or evaluate internal trends.

Web scraping is something that you really want to do as a last resort. It can be complicated, and time consuming to set up, so you want to see if the website may have an API that you can use or if you can buy the data from the owners. If it is a simple one-time thing for a small amount of information, then think about copying and pasting rather than scraping. If it is something that you'll do over and over again, or it is a large amount of data, then scraping may be the better option. You also want to make sure that you aren't breaking any laws or terms of services for the website. The key phrase that I borrow for this is, "Don't Be Evil." People work hard to collect and produce data, don't blatantly steal someone else's work, especially if it will do financial or other harm to them.

Now that the do's and don't's are out of the way, let's look at some options you can use to pull data into Excel from web pages.

  1. Simple Cut & Paste: 
    If the data is pretty clean, and within a table on a webpage, you can keep it very easy by
    - highlighting the information and copy it (CTRL+C or right-click "Copy")
    - the trick in pasting the data is using the "Paste Special" option when you paste the data back to Excel (right-click -> paste special -> text (or unicode text) )



  2. Data -> From Web:
    Excel has a very simple tool on the "Data" tab called "From Web." This allows you to simply put in the URL to a website, and Excel will bring up a browser screen that will let you pick the data from that website. This option is simple, but sometimes will pull in all of the data from the page, and you'll have to do clean up later. Still much easier than recreating the data, and much cleaner than a copy and paste. Here's a short video that shows how to do that.


  3. Excel's Power Query:
    In Excel 2016, there is a new built-in tool for downloading from the web that you can use through the "Data" tab. If you have this version, go to Data -> New Query -> From other Sources -> From Web.
    If you do not have this version, don't worry. You can download the Power Query tool bar add-in from Microsoft from this page.
    Here is a good (and short) video on how to use Power Query for Excel.


  4. Using APIs with Excel
    Now we start getting a little more complicated with the use of Excel formulas to pull data via an API. In order to access an API, you will need to sign up for the API and receive a "Key" that is unique to you (and you need to protect that Key from others seeing it.) Once you have that (or you can use open XML code like RSS feeds) you'll use two functions in Excel:
    =WEBSERVICE, and
    =FILTERXML
    Again, it is much easier to show you a quick video than to walk you through this process, so here is a short video explaining how to use Excel and APIs.


  5. Specialized Add-Ins for Excel
    There are add-ins that you can upload into Excel to expand functions that pull data from websites and social media outlets.
    SEO Tools for Excel - This is a very powerful tool that allows you to pull data from different types of websites and social media sites. There is a free version that comes with lots of functionality, but an anoying start up screen whenever you launch Excel that makes you wait for a few seconds before you can use Excel. The paid version comes with extra functions and no anoying pop-up start screen.
    Excel Scrape HTML Add-In - This is a free add-in that allows you some additional function features in Excel to pull data from websites.
    Both of these add-ins are a little more complicated than I want to go into at this point, but you should know that these (and others) exist out there and my help you in your data gathering.
This covers most of the Excel portions of my workshop I conducted last week. It shows that there are some powerful built-in functions in Excel that can help you with data gathering and make it much easier for you to manipulate and analyze data you find on the web. Go forth and scrape!


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5/29/16

Real Lawyers v. Cyborgs (Part 3)

In Part 1, I introduced the idea that we are all professional cyborgs. I used my personal experience with a diabetic toddler whose life literally depends on computers attached to his body to ruminate on how technology is so deeply intertwined with our professional lives that we often don't even notice it. I rejected the notion that the use of technology can somehow be considered as distinct from 'real' lawyering.

In Part 2, I compared a decade of reading that an artificial pancreas is right around the corner to the even more drawn out asymptotic dawn of artificial lawyers. I used the professional progression of a composite successful lawyer who graduated law school in 1977--the mean and modal graduation year of the chairs of the AmLaw 10--as a touchstone for comparing the various AI hype cycles to more mundane progress that actually had an impact (desktop computing, the internet, mobile). I, however, concluded with the idea that the failure of technology to live up to the hype was a good reason to be skeptical of hype but a terrible reason to be skeptical of technology.

In this Part 3, I will talk about what happens when technology does live up to the hype (we stop thinking about it) and why our technology always appears to lag behind (because it does).

Expectation Calibration and Self-Driving Technology

We pay attention to that which demands our attention. The only reason I ever think about my own pancreas working is because my son's doesn't. Likewise, I don't think about my pulmonary, respiratory, or digestive systems unless something is wrong. If my son were ever to acquire the long-promised artificial pancreas, I would stop thinking about it. Just as when he switched over to an insulin pump, I stopped thinking about giving him insulin shots.

We are predisposed to focus on what the technology doesn't do well yet. As the comedian Louis C.K. discusses in this clip--which I pilfered from this great Daniel Pollick presentation at Lexpo--our expectations ratchet up almost instantaneously:


[For those of you who didn't watch it, Louis recounts being on one of the first planes to test in-flight wifi. It works for a while. Then the wifi goes down. The gentleman in the next seat remarks, "This is bull&^!#." Louis jokes about the guy being mad at something not working when five minutes before he hadn't known it existed. The guy had recalibrated his expectations that quickly. This leads to a longer reflection by Louis on how we all complain about the hassle of air travel instead of constantly marvelling at the fact that we beat gravity. We are human beings flying through the air at hundreds of miles an hour thousands of feet above the Earth, and we're pissed off about it.]

The partner who grew up on a Dictaphone and banker boxes is not going to proceed in a state of perpetual amazement that she can access all the world's knowledge and all of her firm's files from a $600 computer that weighs 5 oz., fits in her pocket, and performs 120,000,000x faster than the $23,000,000 computer that weighed 600 lbs. and guided Apollo 11 to the moon. She is going to complain that the connection is slow, the battery runs down too fast, and something mission critical isn't quite working right. Alternatively, she is not going to learn to operate the device anywhere near its capability and, on the basis of her own ignorance, conclude that the device is not all that useful. Most commonly a little of both.

We want self-driving technology. When we get it, we stop thinking about it and recalibrate our expectations. When we get partially self-driving technology, we focus on all the driving we still have to do. We are not built to be satisfied.

We're Running The Red Queen's Race And We're Always Losing




"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"
From Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, those who run the Red Queen's race go as fast as they can in order to stay put. When I was growing up, grandparents expected you would send them a school picture every year. Today, grandparents complain if you don't post daily kid photos to Facebook. It is not just that expectations reset at warp speed. They also tend to ratchet in ways that outpace our ability to deliver.

Enterprise IT, for example, faces all manner of expectations problems due to the consumerization of technology. In the beginning of the digital era, businesses always had the best technology. People had to go into the office so they could use this or that machine. For your standard knowledge worker, the dynamic has flipped. Now most people complain that what they have at home is better than what they have at the office.

Their personal phone is newer. Not bogged down by security protocols, their personal computer is faster. Google embarasses their enterprise search capabilities. Amazon is light years ahead on filtering functionality. Dropbox seems better for document management. The result is incessant complaining and dangerous forays into shadow and stealth IT. People want something that works, now. They don't care to hear about systems integration or that Apple took years to offer its consumer-targeted iPhone with enterprise-level security controls. IT can't win, they can only try to keep up.

Arguably, legal has it even worse. Our technology is often reactive. We didn't know we needed virtual deal rooms or electronic discovery until enterprise data volumes had already exploded. We were 'late' on information governance, social media, cybersecurity, privacy, BYOD, etc. because there was no role for us to play until there was role for us to play, at which we point and the technology we use were in perennial catch-up mode.

Relative to any time in the past, our tech is greatly improved. Relative to our actual reference classes-- (i) what is available on the consumer market and (ii) the scale of the task at hand-- the tech we notice is almost invariably deficient.

Real Lawyers Didn't Need Tech To Be Successful

This is not where I launch into a diatribe about older people not getting tech. I consider such thinking to be lazy, essentialist nonsense. Older people invented tech. Being an impostor, I know many people, some of them lawyers, who are older than me and wipe the frakin floor with me on tech acumen. Oh, and the digital native is a load of malarkey.

Yet that older people are entirely capable of getting tech does not mean that they do. Some do. Many don't. And many who don't are wildly successful. You can be a successful lawyer without tech having much of a felt impact on your career, let alone contributing in any discernible way to your success.

The lawyer who graduated in 1977 probably made partner in 1985, a year Bruce MacEwen recently recalled:
Second, the staff:lawyer ratios today would be unrecognizable to a time traveler from, say, 1985. They might be tempted to protest, “how can we afford to pay lawyers to type?” Don’t scoff; an early and terminally benighted boss of mine uttered those unforgettable words to me in about that very year, when I offered to bring in my own very primitive DOS-based, green-screen IBM PC clone on which I’d taught myself WordPerfect.
Things have changed since 1985. But they have changed far more at the bottom than at the top of the pyramid where our successful lawyer now resides. In many respects, our successful lawyer may be like Bruce's hypothetical time traveler. They sometimes visit the tech-centric inner workings of their firm, but they find it alien and have no need to live there.

I promise to someday explore some of the ramifications of this social distance. But today is not that day.

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D. Casey Flaherty is a consultant who worked as both outside and inside counsel. Find more of his writing here. Connect with Casey on Twitter and LinkedIn. Or email casey@procertas.com.

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