When three legal innovators gather together in their town of Houston, the topic drifts toward the interesting innovation and creativity hubs happening around the city. Both inside and outside of law firms. In a special “after-hours” episode of The Geek in Review, we talk with Norton Rose Fulbright US’ Head of Innovation, Zack Barnes. The conversation is a diverse as the city. We talk about the The Ion innovation epicenter and Zack’s interest in how these types of innovation hubs can use help from the law firms within the city to help guide entrepreneurs in the early stages. 
In addition to the conversation revolving around legal innovation and creativity, we also talk on Zack’s experiences with creating and writing patents as a start-up entrepreneur himself, and finding other start-ups to invest in for companies like Halliburton. One big difference between innovation within corporations and innovation within law firms is the story that the innovators need to tell. At corporations, it’s about establishing a viable product, where at law firms, the story is more around the value and the relationship enhancements to the clients.
Zack also describes how he went to college to be a mountain bike racer and how that love of speed expanded to a faster, but less bone breaking hobby of racing Corvettes. To top things off, we lubricate the discussion with some wonderful local Houston beers. Buckle up and grab your own favorite beverage as we talk all things innovation and happenings here in our favorite city of Houston. Let us know if you are ever in town and we can take you to one or more of the great innovation and brewing spots around town.

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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 159 – After-Hours with NRF’s Zack Barnes

We are all pretty familiar with the phrase “Legal Tech.” Maya Markovich and Yousef Kassim would like you to also become more familiar with the phrase “Justice Tech” as well. In fact, they have a new trade association focused on this issue called the Justice Technology Association or JTA. Justice Tech is defined as those companies which build tech solutions which are designed to improve or open access to legal rights, improve outcomes, and increase equity within a system that is stacked against users who are often going it alone in the justice system. Yousef Kassim’s product, EasyExpunctions.com is one example.
Maya Markovich is the Executive Director of JTA, and along with founders like Yousef Kassim and a diverse board of advisors, JTA is looking to leverage technology to help those seeking access to justice. This group of founders and advisors are not limited to lawyers, as access to justice is not a problem that can be solved by lawyers alone. JTA brought in engineers, policy advisors, academics, venture capitalists, and a wide range of other professionals to help guide the mission of the trade association. You can learn more at JusticeTechAssociation.org.
LegalWeek Crystal Ball Question:
We wind down our series of LegalWeek Crystal Ball responses with another former guest, Steve Embry. Steve recently wrote on his TechLaw Crossroads blog about the desire to be in the office less, and what that means for law firms when it comes to office space, training, and culture. Embry doesn’t see it as all doom and gloom as some law firm leaders might.
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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 158 – Justice Technology Association’s Maya Markovich and Yousef Kassim

For many of us, what we think of when we hear “American Lawyer Media”, we think of lots of print newspapers, magazines, The American Lawyer, and the AmLaw 100/200 lists. Bill Carter, CEO of the newly re-branded ALM, sees the tremendous value of the data that ALM collects much more than just the news articles it produces. When Carter took over the reins at ALM in 2012, he evaluated the company like a consultant, and determined that the best path forward was through consolidation of titles through the evolution of law.com; moving away from individual subscriptions to an enterprise model, and; focus on the wealth of data compiled by ALM and find ways to leverage that data as the path forward for the company. We have an amazing look into what ALM is doing these days and a peek at what Bill Carter would like to do in the near future.

Links to Items Discussed:
LegalWeek Crystal Ball Answer

This week’s Crystal Ball answer comes to us from Ken Crutchfield of Wolters Kluwer. Ken is monitoring all of the exciting legal technologies that are springing out of the AI explosion and who will be the winners, and who will be the losers as things shake out.

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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 157 – ALM’s Bill Carter – It’s All About the Data

[Note: We are big supporters of legal standards here at 3 Geeks, so we asked Damien Riehl to convert his presentation at the SKILLS conference into a blog post regarding the work being conducted at SALI for Legal Matter Specification Standards. – GL]

This is a brief introduction to The SALI Alliance. SALI (which stands for Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry) is a nonprofit that provides a framework to standardize legal data to improve legal business management. SALI’s Legal Matter Specification Standard (LMSS) includes 10,000 tags that enable users to extract legal insights — both for legal substance and business. SALI’s LMSS codes improve business intelligence initiatives; data-science initiatives; AI initiatives; and interoperability among clients, legal service providers, and tech and data providers.

Generating insights from data requires first having structured, tagged data across business systems. SALI provides that structure, serving three types of stakeholders. Here are some examples:

  1. Buyers (i.e., clients) frequently want to know “Which firms and service providers are the best fit for a particular legal matter?” 
  2. Providers (e.g., firms) want to respond, “Of course, we are the best fit for you, client.”
  3. Vendors want to provide solutions that support other stakeholders. 

[IMAGE CAPTION: Each blue item is a SALI tag.]
Buyers/Clients have multiple questions as they manage their portfolio of suppliers and individual matters. In the questions below, each bolded item in point brackets is a SALI tag (field). 

  • Who has experience in this particular <Area of Law>
  • Which is likely to provide this <Result>
  • Which have provided <Document> at what cost? 
  • How does the cost differ in <Jurisdiction_X>? 
  • In <Jurisdiction_X>, what is the risk of litigation for <Claim>?

Other key tags that buyers need include Services, Objectives, Causes of Action, and about 10,000+ other items. SALI counts all of these.

Providers (e.g., firms and alternative legal service providers) want to expand existing client relationships and create new ones by determining:

  1. Which other law firms are providing <Service> in this <Area of Law>? 
  2. Which competitors does this client also hire for <Service>? 
  3. Which other <Areas of Law> might our client need? 

The SALI tags enable firms to generate those types of analytic insights. 

Vendors provide applications (e.g., analytics, billing, research, eDiscovery, legal project management) that are fueled by SALI. The standard’s 10,000 tags are the underpinning for many of the industry’s most-advanced AI and data-analytics projects. And because vendors are adopting SALI’s LMSS — as a data standard — that data is interoperable. Vendors, firms, and clients can move data amongst themselves interchangeably. 

Tagging Professionals’ Work Product

As lawyers and legal professionals deliver legal services, they create documents. Unknowingly, that work product creates “hidden data exhaust” — language to be mined and tagged using SALI fields. SALI tags can be used on (1) matters, (2) documents, and (3) tasks.

  • Matter tags. Organizations can tag their legal work at the matter level. For example, SALI has tags that can categorize a matter under:
    • Area of Law (e.g., Banking Law, Intellectual Property Law)
    • Service (e.g., Advice, Disputes, Transactional)
    • Industry (e.g., Health Care, Real Estate)
    • Location (e.g., EU, China)
    • Forum and Venue (e.g., N.D. Cal., NY City Court, Immigration Court)
  • Document tags. Users can also tag particular document types and components:
    • Document Types (e.g., Merger Agreement, Motion to Dismiss)
    • Document Components (e.g., Claims, Contractual Clauses, Remedies)
    • Actor / Player (e.g., Borrower, Acquiror, Plaintiff, Third-Party Defendant)
  • Task tags. SALI has also collected many tags related to legal work itself:
    • Events (e.g., Closing, Appraisal, Due Diligence, Oral Argument, Trial)
    • Services (e.g., Deposition, Settlement Practice, Appellate Briefing Practice)
  • Thousands of other tags.

So with SALI’s 10,000 tags, organizations can cover both high-level tagging (e.g., matters) and granular tagging (e.g., documents with “legal propositions” that include “breach of contract” and “borrower”). 

Timekeeping entries also include data exhaust. For example, a patent-infringement case (SALI tags: Patent Law + Dispute) could output time entries that include the words “deposition” or “affidavit” or “summary judgment brief” — each of which is a SALI tag. So a user can tag up time entries to determine how long it takes to perform a particular task (e.g., deposition) for a particular legal area (e.g., Patent Law + Disputes).

Nearly every piece of legal work product can be mined for value. That value can be quantified using SALI tags.

Manual Tagging vs. Programmatic Tagging vs. Hybrid

Organizations could tag their matters, documents, tasks, and timekeeping in several ways — each with varying degrees of effort.

  • Manual Tagging. Tagging items manually is very accurate, though time consuming. 
  • Programmatic tagging. Some SALI-endorsing vendors (e.g., Fastcase, Intapp) use SALI tags to extract these types of granular items programmatically — automatically, without human intervention. Users can have standardized, tagged-up data — ready for analytics and interoperability — with less or minimal effort from users (e.g., lawyers, firms, clients).
  • Hybrid Tagging. Organizations could do a mix of these, running queries (programmatic) with a QA step (manual) to ensure accuracy.
    • For example, organizations seeking all motions to dismiss could query their DMS for `(motion /2 dismiss)` and then:
      • Select all
      • Deselect false positives
    • This hybrid approach can both:
      • Expedite tagging
      • Improve precision (accuracy)

Insights from SALI Tagging

Tagging enables advanced and powerful analytics. Once you’ve tagged up matters, documents, or timekeeping — using standardized SALI codes — those tags can provide analytic insights. 

For example, after populating a dataset with SALI tags, you can obtain insights to questions like “Show me all our patent litigation matters where we represented computer and high-tech clients who were defendants.”  The image below shows the value of tagging using SALI tags.

Because each of the things that I’ve just described is a SALI field, users can run a query on the SALI tags Patent Law (Area of Law) + Dispute (Service) + Computer & High Tech (Industry) +  Defendant (Actor / Player). 

Notably, SALI wisely separates Areas of Law from the Service provided:

  • Area of Law = Patent Law
  • Service 
    • Disputes (e.g., patent litigation)
    • Regulatory (e.g., patent prosecution)
    • Transactional (e.g., patent licensing)
    • Advisory (e.g., patent advice)
    • Restructuring / Bankruptcy (e.g., patent assets)

 

That separation of Area of Law from Service greatly simplifies the SALI taxonomy — and increases its power. For SALI’s dozens of Areas of Law, there is no need for Area of Law to be bogged down by five subtypes (e.g., Disputes, Regulatory, Transactional, Advisory, Regulatory/Bankruptcy) for each area.  Instead, permitting the “tagging” gives the same results, but in a much more simplified form. Fewer tags and more flexibility.

In addition, tagging the Service also permits users to run queries on a particular Service (e.g., Regulatory, Disputes, Transactional) across many Areas of Law (e.g., Banking Law, Patent Law, Health Law) and many different Industries (e.g., Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals).

Industry Interoperability

Because SALI is a legal-data standard, which has growing adoption from the legal industry’s biggest players, it enables interoperability across the legal ecosystem. Much like the financial industry has ISO and FIBO — which enables banks and financial institutions to move money and data across organizations — the legal industry now has SALI, which enables clients, providers, and vendors to move data across organizations. 

Because more and more players use the same SALI tags, interoperability is now possible. In the past, people were counting the same item (e.g., Banking Law), but interoperability required mapping all the fields between each of the legal ecosystem’s thousands of players. That’s time-consuming and expensive.

SALI is solving that problem: As a standard, it can provide interoperability. Since everyone uses the same SALI tag for Banking Law, all of the stakeholders (e.g., firm X, client Y, vendor 1, vendor 87) can move data between each other. The SALI API working group is currently crafting the SALI API language. If you’d like to join in that work, please let us know.

 

Bridging Substantive Law and the Business of Law

One of SALI’s biggest strengths is that it merges two aspects of legal practice:

  1. Substantive Law. How do we win or lose? How do we get the deal done?
  2. Business of Law. How much will it cost?  What is our profit margin?

SALI tags help with both because they are related. 

  • Business of Law. How much does a Deposition cost? 
  • Substantive Law. Well, that depends — is it a…
    • …depo for Patent Infringement Claim
    • …depo for Slip-and-Fall Negligence Claim

Substantive factors affect business variables. SALI counts both. With SALI tags, one is able to determine both: 

  1. How do various tags affect cost? 
  2. And how do we use those insights to deliver services more effectively?

Browsing SALI’s LMSS: WebProtégé

 

All 10,000 of SALI’s tags are displayed in the Stanford tool WebProtégé. Using the tool, you can easily explore the SALI taxonomy/ontology by both browsing and searching:

  • Browse the various types and subtypes using the left-hand side arrows 
  • Search for specific terms, jumping directly to its location in the hierarchy

Because WebProtégé has connected its thousands of tags through conceptual relationships, that enables technologists to more easily bring together disparate concepts. A common scenario: “A new potential client is in the Transportation Industry — what have we done in that area?”

Because SALI has connected the tag Maritime Negligence with Maritime Law and the Transportation Industry, a quick query for Transportation Industry can show results with all Maritime Negligence documents.


Multiple Parentage. Also important, SALI tags can have multiple parents, which reflects the world — and legal concepts — and how they work. For example, you could ask three lawyers “What kind of claim is Negligent Misrepresentation?”

  • Lawyer 1: “It’s a Negligence claim.”
  • Lawyer 2: “It’s a Misrepresentation claim.”
  • Lawyer 3. “It’s a Defamation claim.”
  • All three are right. How do you choose?

With SALI, you don’t need to choose: It’s all three. Because that model (multiple parentage) reflects the legal reality: Negligent Misrepresentation is a negligence claim and a defamation claim and a misrepresentation claim. Search for “negligence claims” tag and you’ll get Negligent Misrepresentation. Same with a search for “defamation claims” tag.  All roads lead to the right answer.

SALI’s 10,000 tags are filled with this kind of thoughtful complexity — which can better provide user simplicity. SALI tags reflect the legal world — both in substance and in business.

Conclusion

In a sense, SALI’s 10,000 tags are the DNA of the law: Nearly everything that matters, both to legal business and to legal substance. SALI has collected 10,000+ fields/tags that matter. Our membership — and our number of tags — both keep growing.

Would you like to help shape the SALI legal-data standard? Please visit SALI.org or email info@sali.org.

When it comes to dockets, the holy grail for most of us has always been state trial court dockets. Nicole Clark, CEO and co-founder of Trellis also felt that way when she was practicing, and decided that she would find a way to access and obtain that treasure trove of data that was always just out of reach. Nicole sits down with us this week to tell us the story behind her mission to seek out local court information, clean up the data, and create a method of analyzing that data. As anyone who has ever worked with trial court dockets, you understand how difficult a task this really is.

Nicole says that Trellis is on a mission to add a county court a day and to find additional ways that the information can be sliced, diced, and analyzed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) processes like natural language processing (NLP) and through upcoming API access. She also walks us through some of the unique ways her customers use the data, and that the value of trial court data isn’t just limited to the legal field. The once elusive state court data is now becoming more and more available through platforms like Trellis, so the opportunities for legal researchers to take advantage of this wealth of information is expanding, literally by the day.

In a first, Nicole and Trellis is offering a free trial for TGIR listeners:

Listener PerkTrellis is providing Geek In Review podcast listeners with complimentary 14-day access to its state trial court research & analytics platform!  Gain insights and intelligence on judges, verdicts, opposing counsel, motions, rulings, dockets and other legal issues.  Click here to try Trellis for free today.

LegalWeek Crystal Ball Question

This week we ask Casetext’s Robert Armbruster to look into his crystal ball and tell us what he sees in the next few years when it comes to our expectations on how search tools like Casetext will evolve.

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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 156 – Nicole Clark on Trellis and State Trial Court Docket Analytics

We have a number of repeat guests on the show this week, but all with new stories to tell since their last appearance. 
Nikki Shaver and Jeroen Plink have joined forces to launch Legaltech Hub. Their mission is to provide a single place for those of us looking at legal technology so that we can have a clear picture of who are the players in legaltech solutions. We talk about how the two began their collaboration efforts to expand upon Nikki Shaver’s original idea for Legaltech Hub and launch it as a startup business. 
For those of us in the legal industry, whether it is a practicing lawyer, knowledge management, IT, library professional or other allied professionals, we all understand that when it comes to evaluating technology in the legal industry, it can be overwhelming. Jeroen and Nikki discuss how they set up the structure of Legaltech Hub, and who are the intended, and even the aspirational users of this system.
We also discuss the competitors in the industry and how they believe Legaltech Hub distinguishes itself from the pack.

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A quick shoutout to our friend Chevazz Brown for the resent launch of his DiversePro mobile app. 
Crystal Ball Question
This week’s LegalTech Crystal Ball question is answered by another TGIR Alumni, Sameena Kluck. Sameena sees an improvement in personal branding and authenticity in the legal profession.
Alumni Episodes:
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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 155 – Nikki Shaver and Jeroen Plink on the Launching of the Legaltech Hub

For those of us who went to law school, a large percentage probably assumed we’d graduate, take the bar, and practice law. But, sometimes life takes you in a different direction. Today’s guest fits that mold, and also decided to talk with 15 other law school grads who also found careers outside the traditional legal practice. Adam Pascarella is the Founder of Second Order Capital Management, and the author of the new book, Reversed in Part: 15 Law School Grads on Pursuing Non-Traditional Careers. Within the book, you’ll also find two former TGIR guests, Ayelette Robinson and Richard Hsu.

Reversed in Part is designed to give inspiration and some practical insights from professionals who followed their passions and how their legal career experiences helped them along the way. Adam tells us how he essentially used the interviews to help guide himself into a career outside of BigLaw and take the risk to start his own business.

LegalWeek Crystal Ball Question

This week we hear from Michael Burns, Chief Revenue Officer at Steno on what he sees for the legal industry when he peers into his crystal ball. For the industry to improve, it’s going to take the help of allied professionals, automation, and even API integration to make it a reality.

Congrats to Marlene

For those who haven’t seen yet, Marlene was included in the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech 2022Such a great list of leaders, including five former guests. It was nice of the ABA’s LTRC to give us an additional list of eleven more leaders who we need to get on the podcast!!

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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 154 – Adam Pascarella’s “Reversed in Part” – 15 Stories of Non-Traditional Careers After Law School

[Ed. Note: Welcome guest blog post writer David Kamien, Founder and CEO of Mind-Alliance System. – GL]

To produce company profiles and intelligence reports (aka business intelligence or competitive intelligence reports) that help partners and Business Development (BD) managers prepare for meetings and respond to RFPs, law firms should keep five core principles in mind. Deploying technology at the nexus of BD and Research Services is a core focus for Mind-Alliance, and we’ve learned these best practices over the years.

1) Deliver Tailored Reports Quickly

The fastest way to produce company reports is to complete templates automatically using API-driven feeds from multiple data sources. When partners and BD managers have templates set up for different use cases—something they can do themselves or have research teams do for them—they can get most of a report completed in seconds, leaving analysts time to focus on writing executive summaries and completing report sections that require substantial research and analysis. Partners benefit greatly from having time to absorb the information in a report and to ask colleagues deep questions. When analysts must painstakingly complete templates by searching data sources and manually pasting the information they retrieve, they typically can only produce 5–7 reports per week. That number can potentially increase by an order of magnitude when API automation is introduced.

Understanding your internal client’s context and why a partner requests a report at this particular time is key to tailoring a report’s data, structure, and format and delivering it at the right time. For example, partners may need very different information depending on their practice group, the industry of the target company, recent events, the issues and work to be discussed, and other factors.

Analysts who create company report templates in Word struggle to maintain custom template versions for all the partners and BD managers across the firm. Semi-automated report template creation enables research teams to create and manage ten times more report templates.

Producing company reports manually is a massive drain on Research Services teams and comes at the expense of anticipating and deeply clarifying requester needs. With effective automation, firms can provide every partner with profiles about their clients and prospects on-demand and facilitate BD collaboration.

2) Use High-Quality Data Sources

Using high-quality data sources and delivering reports with current information is key to earning and maintaining the reader’s trust. At leading firms, the research and information professionals buy data feeds delivered via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to supplement desktop subscriptions that must be searched manually via Graphical User Interfaces. Experienced research analysts  know which companies and products supply the highest-quality data for each field used in a report and when it is wise to compare answers from different sources. That knowledge should get documented in thoughtfully-designed report template setups, instead of existing only in the analysts’ minds or notes.

3) Foster Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

Increasingly, law firms recognize that building effective collaboration and knowledge sharing between teams involved in BD is vital to spotting and seizing opportunities in a well-coordinated manner. While interacting with each other, partners, BD managers, and research analysts should be able to comment directly on report content, suggest edits, engage in Q&A exchanges, and discuss BD next steps. Research analysts should be able to divide and conquer the work required to complete a company report, something that is not easy to do in real time with legacy approaches.

Most law firms lack this capability because they produce company profile reports as static PDF, Word and PPT documents, which they distribute as email attachments.  Email is an inefficient medium for interacting with other readers in the firm and does not lend itself to discussing report content with colleagues, which should ideally be supported both asynchronously and synchronously. Dynamically updated company profiles serve as a single source of truth. With legacy approaches, static document reports are short-lived, as each time an update occurs, they need to be exported as PDFs again.

4) Leverage Analytics and Reporting

With analytics and reporting about company profile report production and consumption, Research directors and BD teams can

  • Spend money strategically and wisely on data. They can know which data they use most frequently in reports and other requests and adjust their purchases accordingly.
  • Know how much of their analysts’ time is spent on manual copy-paste work when producing reports rather than on higher-value analysis and engagement with internal clients.
  • More easily collect feedback from report consumers and determine which people, company reports, and BD guidance contributed to winning new business.

Large law firms already spend millions of dollars per year to license data from external providers. Their Finance, Knowledge Management, and Marketing departments spend extensive resources managing internal financial, relationship, and experience data. Yet most firms struggle to bring this data together in useful ways for partners and BD professionals.

5) Leverage Artificial Intelligence and NLP

Storing the information in reports in a knowledge graph makes the content from all past reports significantly more findable and reusable. Think of a knowledge graph as a database where the meaning and relationships of the data are unambiguously defined, connected, and tagged based on ontologies that use formal semantics to support reasoning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications such as chatbots. Leading firms are using taxonomies and ontologies such as the SALI Alliance LMSS and the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) in tandem with Natural Language Processing technology to tag unstructured text with metadata.

With a knowledge graph, users can get direct answers to natural language questions, as one does on Google with a query such as, “Where are Apple headquarters?” that receives the answer, “Cupertino, CA” in a knowledge panel. If research reports are stored in document management systems as Word or PDF documents, the content is rarely reused and cannot be used to answer natural language questions.

Recommender systems can leverage knowledge graphs to suggest data fields and natural language questions to include in reports, taking into account the user’s recent activity and interest profile. Knowledge graphs can also lower the cost of data management by facilitating data integration and alignment, breaking down traditional data silos across various systems more easily.

Where to go from here?

Law firms that can’t provide all lawyers with high-value, on-demand reports about all clients and prospects are increasingly at a disadvantage. You might be wondering if your Research and BD teams follow these principles when producing company profile reports. Mind-Alliance can conduct an audit of your current capabilities against these five core principles. We will evaluate your processes and technology against our assessment framework and provide you with a report highlighting gaps and suggesting how you can make improvements. Reach out if this is of interest.

Mind-Alliance’s MindPeer BD platform facilitates report design and integrates data from APIs so research analysts produce higher-value custom reports at scale and get more value from data resources. Sign up here for a no-strings-attached demo to see it in action.

On the most recent Legal Value Network podcast, hosts Chad Main and Keith Maziarek interviewed Professor Richard Jolly from the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management about law firm leadership and how difficult it is to teach leadership skills to partners. Jolly uses the analogy of foxes versus hedgehogs. Where foxes are very adaptable to their environments and hedgehogs are animals who do one thing very well. They also go into the benefits of narcissistic personalities in the legal industry, but I may save that topic for another time.

The part of the conversation which caught my attention begins around the 31:50 mark of the podcast. Professor Jolly tells us how he realized that most people in law firm leadership did not want to be leaders. They most definitely did not want to be in leadership training.

There was, of course, the usual excuse of “it takes me away from billing time.” Jolly says:

“One of the things I remember, for years I was running leadership courses for law firms for partners. And, I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but it took me quite a number of years to realize that the partners didn’t want to be there. This was taking them away from their billable hours. I remember I ran this two-day leadership course for them. And it was a Friday and a Saturday, of course, I didn’t want to take away too much client time.”

So, problem one is minimized. Now on to problem two: What do you want to cover in the leadership training? Professor Jolly proactively addresses this issue with the law firm partners:

“I sent out a form in advance about what are your objectives what you want to get out of this training? And one of the lawyers, he wrote, and at the time I was devastated by it, but with hindsight it just makes you burst out laughing. He said, ‘My one objective is to avoid all roleplays.'”

Okay. We’ll be there, but I don’t want to do anything that may make me uncomfortable or expose any weakness in front of my peers. This caused Professor Jolly to come to realize why lawyers don’t want to be in leadership courses to begin with.

“lawyers don’t want to be leaders, they want to be the trusted experts, and maybe even the trusted advisors. That’s their professional identity. And I realized they didn’t want to be in leadership courses.” 

It makes sense if you step back and think about it. Lawyers aren’t there to lead clients, they are there to guide clients through a process. Advise them on the least risky manner in which to proceed. To be there to help them when they are in need. 

So what’s the problem with being a trusted advisor with no leadership skills? The biggest issue is that these lawyers also run the business of a law firm. They have to manage teams, negotiate new work, and operate a business that may have hundreds of people depending upon these lawyers to be successful and profitable. I’ve heard more than one keynote speaker say that law firms are profitable despite the lawyers rather than because of the lawyers. It also fits the narrative of Richard Susskind and others who complain that it is hard to tell millionaires they are doing something wrong.

Professor Jolly tackles the topic of negotiation skills head-on. Lawyers must negotiate with their clients on the scope of the legal matter. That’s how prices and expectations are set. When the scope changes, then the lawyer and client are supposed to renegotiate the terms so that there is transparency on the work performed and the price paid. The problem?

“And most lawyers have done no negotiating training. And what I realized is that part of the problem here for law firms is you just haven’t been trained to negotiate. And you’re dealing with world-class negotiators, who not only have been trained to do it, they do it as part of their daily lives. And professionals are terrible at it. So your whole thing about the charging out of scope for billable hours. So often, we just avoid those difficult conversations. Because we don’t like conflict. We don’t like talking about that. And we sort of rather hope it’s all okay.”

Hope is not a strategy. But many of us see it happen all the time. 

So the moral of the story here is that we can’t just set up leadership training for law firm leadership and expect it to actually produce new skills in these lawyers. Professor Jolly actually adjusted his own approach to moving away from running leadership courses to more one-on-one coaching. And specifically for those who are in “genuine leadership positions in the legal world.” And one of the key pieces of that coaching is focusing on negotiation skills. 

The discussion between Professor Jolly, Keith Maziarek, and Chad Main has many more nuggets of information, so I highly recommend listening to all of it. But, I did want to point out the best comment that Professor Jolly mentioned about why some clients love the fact that their outside counsel tries so hard to avoid conflict and lack negotiation skills.

“The problem is because lawyers are so smart, they think they can use their cognitive capability to win in situations. And so often, I won’t tell the details of the story here, but one client said, “You know what, when I’m with my external counsel, it’s just so easy to negotiate with them.” He said “sometimes, you know, it’s like clubbing baby seals,” is the analogy he used. And I was shocked. It’s such a terrifying metaphor. But I think that law firms, because they rely on their intellect so much as lawyers, I think there’s a sense that we must be good at negotiating. But I think that’s the key problem.”

Check out more of the conversation at the Legal Value Network podcast, Professor Richard Jolly (Northwestern) & Keith Maziarek (Katten) on Legal Tech Adoption, Lawyers as Hedgehogs or Foxes and Why Narcissistic Personalities Help in the Law

 

When the pandemic began, many law firms prepared for the worst by furloughing or laying off lawyers and legal professionals. Many of these same firms then found themselves at a disadvantage when the hiring spree began in the fourth quarter of 2020. Leopard Solution‘s Phil Flora joins us this week to talk about the numbers that they tracked over this time on hiring and movement in the legal industry. Pre-pandemic, there were 6,000 – 7,000 open jobs at any given moment. Currently, that number is 12,000+. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

Phil Flora discusses a number of issues around how law firms and others are managing, recruiting, and retaining talent in such an active market. Of course, money is the traditional approach for law firms, and that is no exception this time around. However, Flora points out that there are a lot of “greats” going on in the market, including the “Great Pause”, the “Great Resurgence”, and the “Great Reflection” to name a few. And while money will be one piece of the solution, legal talent is wanting many more adjustments in order to keep them content and in place. This includes more work flexibility, mentoring, and even more social awareness by the law firms when it comes to how they align with societal goals.

Crystal Ball Question

We asked Norton Rose Fulbright’s Zack Barnes to look into his crystal ball and predict what he sees for the legal industry. Barnes’ future expands upon the ability for the legal market to expand upon the sandboxes created by Utah and Arizona to allow for ownership of law firms beyond the licensed attorney ranks. For true business innovation, there needs to be diversity in the ownership ranks.

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Music: Jerry David DeCicca

Transcript

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 153 – Phil Flora on What Law Firms are doing in the Battle for Talent