1/19/18

Who did it better: Google Photo Books or ReSnap?

By Lisa Salazar (@Lihsa)


I've wanted to compare generated photo books for a while now. I can now cross this off of my bucket list.

What I mean by "generated" is that the platform will perform an initial import, or selection from your batch of photos on your phone.

Today, I compare Google Photos Book and ReSnap, comparing platforms, pricing, editing and layouts.

Who did it better: Google Photo Books or ReSnap?


Google Photos Book

If you have a Google account, you have a Google Photos account. To take full advantage of Google Photos, my phone automatically backs up my photos so they are automatically saved to my little slice of the Google cloud.

Google Photos Book
Google Photos Book
Make sure that you adjust your camera settings so photos are taken at their highest resolution.  If you are planning on printing photos from your phone, this is critical.

Once home, I went to my Google Photo account and began assembling my book. A minimum of 20 photos must be selected, and a maximum of 100.

Google Photo Book - Pros


  • Generation: easy to pick multiple photos
  • Editing interface: Fast, simple GUI
  • Pricing: affordable

Google Photo Book - Cons

  • Photo source: photos are lifted straight from your camera roll. So if you like to enhance photos with any filters or editing, these won't be available unless you do quite a bit of finagling.
  • Editing: Limited editing capabilities. Text captions are only available on the cover. Filtering is not available.
  • Page layout: Layouts are limited to one photo per page, then 3 size options on the page. 
  • Sizing: softcovers are 7" square; hardcovers 9" square.
  • Covers: Front cover can be customized. The back cover can not and bears the Google Photos logo.

Google Photo Book - Pricing

A softcover book with 20 images is $9.99, with additional pages at $.35 each. A hardcover book with 20 images is $19.99, with additional pages at $.65 each. The softcover book is 7 inches, square; the hardcover book is 9 inches square.

ReSnap

ReSnap Photo Book
ReSnap Photo Book
ReSnap can pull your photos from your Facebook or Instagram account. You can also directly upload photos from your computer or phone.

A minimum of 24 photos and maximum of 600 photos (!) can be selected.

ReSnap - Pros

  • Generation: the generation is superb, allowing for a smart selection by the GUI or a manual selection by you. The smart selection will auto-generate a complete layout, automatically determining which photos get a full page and which photos are laid out together. The auto-generation is fully editable to swap, add or delete photos.
  • Photo source: uploads filtered Instagram or Facebook photos (but not both, together) and not just from your camera roll.
  • Editing: Limited editing capabilities. It is better than Google Photos in that text captions can be added to the photos. However, the font selection is limited. Photos can also be moved about but cannot be transformed. There are no filtering capabilities.
  • Layout: Multiple options for layout on the page, holding 1 - 5 photos per page. Layouts can be adjusted to multiple variations and sizes customized.
  • Sizing options: there are three sizing options at portrait (A4, A5), landscape (A4, A5) and square (21, 14). 
  • Covers: Can customize the front and back cover. The ReSnap logo can be removed for an additional $9.95 charge.
  • Share-able: all of your books can also be shared virtually.

ReSnap - Cons

  • Filtering: No filtering capabilities. What you upload is what is displayed in the book.
  • Pricing: this is a higher-end book and it shows in the pricing.

ReSnap Pricing

Pricing is based upon the size of the book, a small (6" x 6") 24-photo book starts at $26.95--a large (8" x 8") 24-photo book bumps up to $39. The book pricing then bumps up in increments of 20 pages. So, a 40-page book starts at $34.95, a 60-page book starts at $42.95, an 80-page book at $52.95 and 100-page book at $63.95. 

As you can imagine, these books can get expensive and pricing will ramp up as photos and pages are added. You can also opt for high glossy paper for an additional $16.95.


Which is it: Google Photos or ReSnap?

Google Photos Book - interior
Google Photo Book - interior
If you want to put together a quick collection of photos for documentation journaling purposes, Google Photos is the way to  go. Overall, the Google Photo Book is easy to use but rather simplistic with very little editing abilities. 

Last November, I went to Italy, passing through France on the way.  I took hundreds of photos on my phone, then went home and created a Google Photo Book for about $40. Because I couldn't add text captions, I'm going to take a pen to it to add notes; otherwise, I'll forget where I was when I took the photo.

If you enjoy fiddling with Instagram filters or creating stories about your photo collections, then ReSnap is the way to go. ReSnap's interface is very easy to use and I love the smart generating. Editing was fun but I would have liked a little more flexibility with the font sizing and selection.

With ReSnap, I imported my 2017 Facebook photos. I enjoyed fiddling with photos and playing with the layout. All in all, I had just over 80 photos. With the promo code, my hardback book cost $90. 

In the end, I recommend ReSnap as it has the most flexibility in capabilities and pricing.


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1/11/18

Women, salaries, law student loans and asking for a raise

By Lisa Salazar (@Lihsa)

A friend texted me before the New Year to tell me that her firm granted her request for a raise. But today, she got even more interesting news.

Salary is a real issue for young lawyers, as explained by Wired's "Grad Students are Freak Out About GOP Tax Plan. They Should Be." On top of that, the US Labor Department data shows that women earned about 82 cents for every dollar a man made in 2016.

This young woman--a talented lawyer that speaks 3 languages, has an LLM, and broad range of experience--is ecstatic because she anticipates that by the end of this year she might break six figures. She wants to become a first-time home-owner and get a better handle on her own student loans.
Women, salaries, law student loans and asking for a raise - 3 Geeks - Lihsa


The student loan crisis

LendEDU, a marketplace for student loans, reports that the average law student loan debts, which exclude scholarships but includes living expenses, can range anywhere from $48K to $340K. In fact, one lawyer couple, who have chosen to not marry due to their combined law school debt of over $400K, are chronicling their financial recovery plans on YouTube.


Why ask for a raise in salary

My friend and I met through a mentoring program about 4 months ago. I volunteer at an organization that assists individuals that are suffering from financial crisis. She and I had been discussing the possibility that she was under-earning. But it wasn't until she was at a dinner with a group of female lawyers that she realized how out of whack her salary was when compared to her peers.

We worked together to come up with a plan to talk to her boss. We came up with a game plan, established a top-level number, then discussed negotiating tactics. I helped her draft a proposal and proposed communication plan for her to submit to her boss that could be relayed to the department head.

She was very nervous but was encouraged by me and her other female lawyer friends to go for it.

I had warned her that her boss, who was also female, was probably going to get angry when she asked for the raise. But I reminded her that by asking for more, she was raising the level of water for the entire team and would make it easier for the lawyers behind her to get more money. And I explained that the reason that her boss might get angry was because it was exposing her boss's own under-earning--people don't like to be confronted with their own inadequacies.

And her boss did get angry. But her boss was now duty-bound to submit the request to her department head, which was approved over the holidays.


Reasons for raises

Today, my friend got additional information that she was now right in the middle of her peer group at work. Before her promotion, she was at the bottom of that group, despite having a higher level of education, several more years of experience and more completed projects under her belt.

She is now in a position to break $100K by next year if she continues to work at the same pace.

Salary isn't just about what you earn. It is also about what you deserve.

And my friend deserved it--every penny of it.

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AALL Joins Coalition of 44 Organizations to Support USA RIGHTS Amendment

One of the best things about being President of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), is the advocacy I get to see first-hand that we do in fighting for the rights of our members, access to justice issues, and when we join in solidarity with peer organizations to urge that our government representatives take appropriate action against injustice.

Yesterday, AALL joined a coalition of 44 organizations today to urge members of the House of Representatives to vote "Yes" on the bipartisan USA RIGHTS amendment when it comes to a vote today. The amendment would provide protections against warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by establishing a search warrant requirement that closes the so-called "backdoor search loophole" through which the government searches-without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause-for information about U.S. persons or persons inside the U.S.; make clear the government must give notice when it uses information obtained or derived from Section 702 surveillance in proceedings against U.S. persons or people on U.S. soil; establish a 4-year sunset of Section 702; and provide for transparency around the number of U.S. persons surveilled under Section 702. The letter urges members to vote No on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act (S. 139) if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

Here is a copy of that letter:

Dear Representative:
We, the undersigned 44 civil liberties, civil rights, and transparency organizations, urge you to vote “YES” on the USA RIGHTS amendment and “NO” on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

 Many of our organizations have long opposed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it has been used by the government to unconstitutionally collect Americans’ communications without a warrant or individualized approval from a judge. Our concerns regarding this collection are compounded by the government’s routine searches of Section 702 data for the information of U.S. citizens and residents despite the fact that Section 702 explicitly prohibits the targeting of such persons (a practice commonly referred to as “backdoor searches”).

The government conducts backdoor searches in broadly defined “foreign intelligence” investigations that may have no nexus to national security, in criminal investigations that bear no relation to the underlying purpose of collection, and even in the course of determining whether to open an assessment, which is a preliminary phase of investigations where there are no facts to believe someone has committed a criminal act.

The proposed FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act exacerbates, rather than resolves, these concerns. 

The bill does not meaningfully reform the government’s practice of performing backdoor searches. It would require the government to obtain a warrant only during a “predicated” (i.e., latter-stage) criminal investigation—a narrow formulation that even the FBI has stated will almost never be used. That’s because the government could continue to search and access Americans’ sensitive information without a warrant during the earlier, “assessment” or “pre-assessment” stages — which is when the FBI conducts these searches as a matter of routine.

In addition, the bill would allow warrantless searches for US person information for broad foreign intelligence purposes, which could include information about foreign affairs that are unrelated to national security, as well as for searches related to national security, or if the information sought could mitigate a threat to life or of serious bodily harm, irrespective of imminence. These searches violate the Constitution and undermine Americans’ privacy.

By contrast, the USA RIGHTS Act enacts meaningful reforms to Section 702, which are imperative given our government’s historical abuse of surveillance authorities, contemporary noncompliance with this authority, and the danger posed by potential future abuses.1

The USA RIGHTS Act would:
  • Create a search warrant requirement that closes the so-called “backdoor search loophole” through which the government searches—without first obtaining a court-issued warrant based on probable cause—for information about U.S. persons or persons inside the U.S. It provides an exception for emergencies, but requires a court warrant afterward.
  • Prohibit the collection of domestic communications and permanently end “about” collection, an illegal practice the National Security Agency recently stopped because of persistent and significant compliance violations that allowed for warrantless collection of communications that merely mention an intelligence target. Collections would be limited to communications that are “to” or “from” a target. The bill would also prohibit the intentional collection of wholly domestic communications.
  • Make clear the government must give notice when it uses information obtained or derived from Section 702 surveillance in proceedings against U.S. persons or people on U.S. soil. Notice allows a defendant to assert his or her constitutional rights, and is a necessary backstop to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance is not being misused, including in contexts that do not involve national security.
  • Establish a 4-year sunset of Section 702, which would terminate the surveillance authority unless Congress reauthorizes it again in 2021. This helps to ensure regular Congressional and public oversight of how the law has worked and what reforms or changes may be necessary.
  • Provide transparency around the number of U.S. persons surveilled under Section 702, unless the government says that conducting such an estimate is not feasible, and if it is not, the bill would require the government to provide a public explanation. Understanding the number of people surveilled under Section 702 is critical to gauging the intrusiveness of the law and how broadly the authorities are being used. The USA RIGHTS Act amendment would help to ensure we have an accurate count.
We urge you to vote “YES” on the USA RIGHTS amendment, and “NO” on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

Sincerely yours,

  • Advocacy for Principled Action
  • American Association of Law Libraries
  • American Civil Liberties Union
  • American Library Association
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
  • Campaign for Liberty
  • Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Center for Human Rights and Privacy
  • Color Of Change
  • Constitutional Alliance
  • CREDO
  • Daily Kos
  • Defending Rights and Dissent
  • Demand Progress Action
  • Democracy for America
  • DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Essential Information
  • Free Press Action Fund
  • Free the People
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation
  • FreedomWorks
  • Government Information Watch
  • Indivisible
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • National Coalition Against Censorship
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • National Security Counselors
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • Oakland Privacy
  • Open the Government
  • PEN America
  • People for the American Way
  • Restore The Fourth, Inc.
  • RootsAction.org
  • Sunlight Foundation
  • TechFreedom
  • The Constitution Project at POGO
  • UltraViolet
  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Win Without War
  • X-Lab

1 For further discussion, see “Institutional Lack of Candor: A primer on recent unauthorized activity by the Intelligence Community,” Demand Progress (Sept. 21, 2017), available at https://s3.amazonaws.com/demandprogress/reports/FISA_Violations.pdf; “A History of FISA Section 702 Compliance Violations,” Open Technology Institute at New America (Sept. 28, 2017), available at https://www.newamerica.org/oti/blog/history-fisa-section-702-compliance-violations/#; Letter to Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers on the risk of overbroad domestic law enforcement use of Section 702 (July 10, 2017), available at https://www.openthegovernment.org/sites/default/files/702-Coalition-Letter_July2017.pdf.

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1/10/18

It’s Here..It’s Real: The Academic Track at ABA TECHSHOW 2018

[Ed. Note: Please welcome guest blogger Michael Robak, Director of the Schoenecker Law Library, Associate Dean and Clinical Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (Minneapolis) School of Law]

I read with great interest Zena Applebaum’s Mandatory Classes a Wish for 2018 post. And, while I can’t say this post will make her wish come true, I do think the creation of an official Academic Track at the ABA TECHSHOW is a step in the right direction, particularly for helping the Academy “get it” when it comes to creating offerings for new competencies.

Getting the Academic Track created and off the ground has been an interesting journey, some of which Greg has generously let me chronicle here and here, so I know there many loyal followers of the Geeks who are aware a number of us have been working to create the Academic Track.

So it is amazing to announce the ABA TECHSHOW 2018 will feature the Academic Track as an official part of the show!! So many thanks are in order but Steve Best, Debbie Foster, Tom Mighell and, particularly Adriana Linares, are the primary people behind making this an official part of the show.

Here is the skinny: the show is March 7- 10, 2018 in Chicago. Change of venue this year as it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago and not the Hilton Towers. Early bird registration ends 1/22/18. Sign up now! Conference Hotel rates are $189 which, for downtown Chicago, is terrific. Also note there is an extraordinary student rate available.

The Academic Track has five sessions over two days (Thursday (3/8) and Friday (3/9)) (Complete Schedule is here and some screen shots from the website)


The sessions are designed to allow plenty of time to attend other Track sessions as well as spend time in the vendor hall. All the sessions will be terrific and I want to particularly point out two of them. The first is the Mentoring Women and People of Color in Legal Tech. This outstanding panel will be led by Irene Mo one of the ABA Center for Innovation’s inaugural fellows! Irene’s panel promises to be an attraction for many outside of the Academy as well.

I should note we think all of the sessions will be of interest to practitioners and the vendors, especially the last session which is the second one I want to highlight.

This session, Planning for the Future, is designed to be an interactive discussion for continued development of a framework for moving teaching Tech forward as well as building on the other initiatives, e.g., the AALS Section on Technology, Law and Legal Education, CALI, the AALL Teaching Legal Technology Caucus. And we need to hear from practitioners who can give us the best insight on what they are seeing as day to day needs for practice today…and for 2020.

I can say, with some certainty, the Academy is still very much in a state of “fits and starts” when it comes to deciding the what and how of teaching Tech. So let’s move beyond fits and starts and come to TECHSHOW and help further the discussion, create direction and gather momentum.
A final note, this programming applies not just to law schools and we hope to see fellow educators from Paralegal and other affiliated legal training programs.

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1/8/18

Me Being Wrong (More BS)

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.

                — Richard Feynman


"We deal in deception here. What we do not deal with is self-deception."

                — Captain Oliver Queenan

Change is happening. It is good.

I am not really one for New Year's resolutions. But I do make a point to be reflective on my birthday, which, being a week later, amounts to almost the same thing. This year, in particular, I find myself inspired by Mark Cohen's meditation on the "failure" of Clearspire. Mark is an eternal must-read. But never more so.

Mark highlights the distance between the way things are and the way things ought to be with a powerful narrative about confusing the two. I've made the same mistake. Like Mark, I have been seduced by the seemingly loud, prominent voices calling for immediate change. The resonance to me of this passage is hard to overstate:
The Founders believed that by creating what the marketplace said it wanted—and then some—it would be a huge success. Intrigued as the marketplace was with the vision, the Founders soon learned that “if you build it, they will not necessarily come.” There is a big difference between expressing admiration for a model and becoming a paying client. Clearspire’s Founders had not anticipated the size of that delta.
The Sirens' call of confirmation bias is a constant source of danger in my world. I'm not immune to bullshit, especially my own. In trying to maintain perspective, I vacillate between rank cynicism and unbridled optimism. The optimism almost always wins. I need no convincing that the legal ecosystem is evolving. I've bet my legal career that being an agent of change will keep me gainfully employed.

So far, I've been right. But not nearly as right as I predicted. And certainly not right in the way I predicted.

Change is happening. It is slow, uneven, and intermittent.

My most obvious error has been predicting the pace of change. While there is sufficient demand for change to keep me and a cadre of fellow travelers occupied [though I did just complete a project that went live January 1 and have one client slot currently open], the overall pace of change keeps being far slower than I imagine even when I update my priors to incorporate the observation that the pace of change is far slower than I imagine.

This should not surprise me.

Massive passive resistance. Agency dilemmas. Institutional inertiaStatus quo bias. Loss aversion. Endowment effects. Lack of urgency. KAP gaps. The Chasm. System justification. Institutional isomorphism. Reams of academic literature explain the Planckian notion that progress does not occur when its opponents see the light but only when they lose their power to oppose—that is, funeral by funeral. I've not only read my Rogers, I've read Bill Henderson's masterful series applying the Rogers Diffusion Curve to innovation, or lack thereof, in the legal ecosystem.

This should not surprise me. Yet it does.

Keeping with current fashion, I blame the news. Legal industry news (different than legal news) is not fake. But where mainstream news is dominated by negativity bias, legal industry news has a pronounced novelty bias. I exacerbate this novelty bias by spending a fair amount of time in the New Normal echo chamber.

We talk about what's new, different, and interesting rather than what's established, stable, and enduring. This coverage, while accurate in the particular, can be misleading in the aggregate, especially because of a proclivity to focus on well-articulated intentions (what we're trying/hoping to do) rather than messy outcomes (what we've done). Emphasis on promising outliers suggests a pace, breadth, and depth of change that belies our creeping incrementalism.

I also blame myself. I can be too easily taken by the simple logic of immediate change. This makes sense to me. So this makes sense to everyone. Thus, this will happen. Soon.

If I had been a lawyer in 1989, I probably would have convinced myself that, in the not-too-distant future, in-house counsel would be ascendant, alternative fees would displace the billable hour, and large law firms would transform into multi-disciplinary law companies.

Because change has occurred (and will continue), by 2018, I would have been quite right on insourcing, somewhat right on alternative fees, and witnessing the the nascent rise of the multi-disciplinary law company. Which is another way of saying I would still be mostly wrong almost 30 years later. Yet less wrong than I would have been in 1999, when, a decade into my prediction of major structural changes, I would have been really, really, spectacularly wrong and, most likely, insolvent.

But pace is not the only area where I've been wrong. I've also been wrong about the types of changes that would appeal to market participants in the near term.

Change is happening. But I'm not good at this game.

Since I left my in-house gig, I've been able to feed my family in spite of myself. My sources of income are different than expected. In many respects, my clients have exceeded my expectations. In almost all respects, I misjudged the market.

On the consulting front, I've been humbled to be involved in massive, impactful projects like creating a legal operations department for a Global 20 company and overseeing convergence initiatives involving hundreds of law firms. I didn't expect that clients would trust me with so much so soon. And I'm grateful for what they've permitted me to help them accomplish.

With training, I've been genuinely surprised by the number of law departments and law firms that have taken it upon themselves to do the necessary work of getting serious about improving proficiency in core office technology. And I've been especially heartened by the number of law schools that have been willing to add training in practical technology skills to their curriculum, in addition to the forward-thinking state bars we are working with to develop competence-based CLE content.

I saw none of that coming.

When I left my in-house gig, I had a very specific reputation. I was the guy who had gotten too literal in bringing supply-chain management practices to legal. My approach was site visits in support of structured dialogue, continuous improvement, and deep supplier relationships. Yet the pursuit of win-win collaborations to change legal service delivery did not garner the headlines. The headlines were all about me kicking the crap out of law firms for being terrible at Word (which isn't exactly how it happened).

We'd love to be able to do that. While I was still in-house, a few people called me an idiot to my face. In almost all cases, I offered to buy them a cocktail and provide a broader perspective (y'all know I love writing and speaking the words) than was afforded by their headline skimming. In all instances where we had the discussion, we parted on good terms having identified considerable common ground.

But more than a few people had the opposite reaction. They thought what I was doing was fantastic. At least, that is what they told me. They explained that they would be keenly interested in doing the same thing.

Until, of course, I offered to send them my materials. When they realized that conducting a service delivery review requires sustained attention, they were out. They would explain they didn't have time for all that and, really, they were mostly interested in the technology audit piece that got the publicity. They just wished they had quick access to tech competence scores from their law firms.

I believed them. I automated my legal technology assessment convinced that large corporate law departments would ask their law firms for scores.

That's not a priority right now. I was wrong. It happened. But it happened far less than I predicted. When it actually came time to pull the trigger, law departments who had told me requesting scores was a no-brainer decided more reflection was necessary.

Often times, the ultimate revelation was that the person I was engaging did not have the authority. They may have thought it was a good idea. But it was one good idea among many, and they were not well positioned to fight the internal battle. They had more urgent and expedient places to spend their political capital.
ASIDE: this speaks to one of the extant dangers of attempts to co-opt the vital legal operations movement—a challenge that CLOC and ACC Legal Ops are working hard to address. Personnel with fancy titles at fancy companies don't necessarily have the attendant authority to fulfill their purported mandate for change. Functionally, they are administrators, not executives, with the power only to maintain current systems, not construct new ones. In this way, many corporate law departments consider themselves 'doing legal ops' when all they are really doing is creating one more position designed to cement the status quo (law firms have not secured monopolies on the caste system or innovation illusion).
But the discussion was rarely explicit about the internal politics of change. Rather, I was routed to someone else to make my pitch. They would react with tempered positivity but eventually explain that their firms' core tech proficiency was not their top priority. They were quite interested in seeing their firms' scores if their firms were "proactive" but, they explained, when it came to actually making demands of their firms, they were more interested in project management or metrics or knowledge management or.....too bad I didn't have scores for that.

I believed them. I believed them, in part, because I agreed. Basic tech proficiency is not the biggest problem in legal service delivery. It is a problem well worth addressing. And it is low-hanging fruit—that is, among the simplest problems to solve. But I could not fault anyone for having alternative priorities.

I believed them, in part, because they were saying exactly what I wanted to hear. For me, tech competence was one piece of a more comprehensive program to improve legal service delivery. I wanted so bad for there to be a significant market for people who could address the entire legal value chain by operating at the mesh point between law departments, law firms, and law companies. Because that was precisely what I wanted to do.

I did not leave my day job when the LTA launched. I left when conversations around the LTA convinced me I could sustain myself doing service delivery reviews.

Not that. Not here. Not yet. I was wrong, again. I have been hired to conduct service delivery reviews, but they represent a small percentage of my income. If I had not also been wrong, in a good way, about the other consulting opportunities available to me, the Flaherty Family would be in a bad way.

Discussions about service delivery reviews go much the same way as the dialogue surrounding requests for LTA scores. There is general agreement that problems exist and should be remedied. But, ultimately, there is no appetite to address them in any meaningful way.

The conversation is rarely explicit. Still, my takeaway is that I am among an exceedingly small group (as a percentage) of people who genuinely take the relational view of the legal value chain. In my world, law departments are channel captains and urgency drivers. They must play an active role in integrating processes with their external suppliers in order to create "seamless, cost effective, higher quality workflows."

By contrast, the people I pitch mostly implicitly subscribe to the lawyer theory of value, which Bill Henderson summarized far better than me: "Because in-house and law firm lawyers are the same people, they have the same go-to move — stand back and let me lawyer....The lawyer theory of value — solving legal problems one at a time with smart lawyers — is an unstated and unexamined preference of lawyers, not a viable long-term solution for the clients they serve."

I've had the same conversation many times. In a variety of ways, in-house departments explain that, with respect to outside counsel, (a) the most important thing is to hire smart lawyers and (b) they already do this exceedingly well. When pressed, they mostly extol the amazing job they've done securing discounts. When asked specifically about service delivery—leveraging expertise through process and technology—they mostly abdicate responsibility, falling back on "our firms should do that anyway" regardless of what "that" happens to be.

I've had the same conversation so many times that the guidebook I wrote for the ACC has a FAQ responding to the common variants of the above, including:
  • Shouldn’t we be focused on finding great lawyers?
  • Should we really have to ask our firms to do things they should already be doing? 
  • Aren’t we too busy to run someone else’s business for them? 
  • Wouldn’t much of this be addressed by a transition to AFAs?
  • Shouldn’t we use our leverage to ask our firms for deeper discounts on billable rates?
Writing and releasing the guidebook only reinforced, for me, the delta between stated and revealed preference—what we say vs what we do. My biggest fear was that no one would read what I wrote. In competition with that fear, was the horror that everyone would read and hate it. What I should have feared is that people would read it, agree, and then return to doing exactly what they'd always done.

I've received all sorts of positive feedback. I've had law departments send the guidebook to their law firms. I had law firms send it to their law departments. Not trying to sell anything beyond ideas I was sharing for free, it seemed like I was making real progress in conditioning the market.

Except, of course, when I dig below the surface. People volunteer how much they agree with and appreciate what I've written. So I ask them how it has changed their organization's behavior. They mostly respond with a blink/blank stare combination that tells me I have breached social decorum.

They politely explain that they are an outlier within their organization. They only have so much unilateral authority. They have to deal with the less enlightened. Also resource constraints. And finite time. And other priorities. And delicate equilibria....

Change is happening. But how much, really?

I'm pretty easy to dismiss. So was Clearspire.

Mark and I operate outside the window of discourse. Maybe we were both just wrong. Maybe we were both too early (a specific type of wrongness). While ideas once thought extreme are constantly becoming part of the mainstream, most ideas thought extreme remain so. Jeff Carr has a phrase I always butcher about the subsequent course of events being the only thing that separates the visionary from the madman.

But this was an, admittedly, self-indulgent entry in my bullshit arc (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). In a post to come, I'll tell essentially the same story about alternative fees and diversity, two 'priorities' that went mainstream decades ago, boast all-star rosters of prominent outliers, and have yet to move the needle anywhere near anticipated.

What we say is not what we do. Isn't the notion that we confuse bullshit for action the most generous explanation?

Change is happening. It is good.

My answers are at odds with the market. Yet I persist in believing I am right despite a track record of being wrong. And not just right in the abstract. I trust that reality will continue to conform to my expectations, even if it is slower than I would prefer. I am increasingly convinced that I've made a good bet. I may be wrong about the timing and even the particulars, but I have fewer doubts than ever about the direction (see escalation of commitment).

I am choosing anecdotes over data. I, too, extrapolate from outliers, especially since I've been fortunate to be one. I've been wrong repeatedly and yet, on net, everything has worked out better than I anticipated.

I've been afforded the opportunity to do too many cool things. I've encountered too many inspiring fellow travelers. I've had a front-row seat to too many important trends—legal operations, law companies, strategic sourcing, data science, even robot magic. And, frankly, I am simply not ready to turn in my optimist card and resign myself to the eternal reign of a status quo I consider unacceptable (and which I have convinced myself is therefore unsustainable).

Even the bullshit bolsters my sense of purpose. Many people went to law school because they like to argue. Yet there is little argument about where we are headed. There is plenty of resistance in the particular—not that, not here, not yet. But the resistors dissemble precisely because there seems to be a general acceptance that things will never go back to the way they were. That the New Normal will become simply normal. When, not if, is the question.

Which is an extremely long way of saying, please don't read me as a cynic. I don't merely believe we can do better, I believe we are doing better. My reflections on failure and the maddeningly slow pace of change are attempts at tempering my own optimism. The more we see the world for what it is, the more we are capable of steering it toward what it should be.

The full bullshit arc:
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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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