The social media platform Fishbowl is designed to create an anonymous but verified space for professionals to socialize with others in the same profession. CEO and co-founder Matt Sunbulli joins us this week to talk about FIshbowl’s entry into the legal industry social media space. It’s been about eight weeks, but there is already a large number of attorneys and other legal professionals using the platform to discuss issues ranging from what’s an appropriate salary range, to advice on lateral moves, to is it okay to vape in the workplace. The answer to that last one is a solid, NO!
Fishbowl creates an optional identification for its users which range from anonymized job title (Attorney, Partner, etc.), to “works at X law firm,” to full identification, based on the user’s needs on individual interactions. Because users have to sign up with their real names and be verified by your work email and LinkedIn profile, there’s a self-policing aspect to the platform. This seems to have tamped down the Troll factor you find on other platforms like Reddit. Because it allows for anonymity in the posts, users are more comfortable about asking questions to peers or others in more senior roles. It’s a very interesting concept of professional anonymity that brings us some very interesting conversations that we just don’t find on other professional networks like LinkedIn.

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Information Inspirations
The American Association of Law Libraries has allowed for full Open Access to the Law Library Journal and Spectrum magazine. The Open Access movement in professional journals and publications is something that has been occurring in academic circles, and once again, AALL is leading the way for other professional organizations to promote professional writing and promotion for its members.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 65 – Matt Sunbulli on Fishbowl’s Entry into the Legal Industry Social Media Space

While we may have had a tough time pronouncing things correctly, this week’s guests said all the right things when it comes to being a leader within their organizations. Laura Toledo, Communications and Marketing Manager at Nilan Johnson Lewis PA in Minneapolis, and Kevin Iredell, Chief Marketing Officer at Lowenstein Sandler LLP in New York, discuss their year-long experience in the SmithBucklin Leadership Institute. Both are leaders within the Legal Marketing Association, which sponsored their attendance at the institute. While people in leadership positions may feel that they need to have all the answers, Toledo says that she learned it is okay to be patient and learn more about the situation before just going with her gut reaction. Iredell stressed that the key to being a great leader is making sure that you’ve given those who report to you all the tools and support they need in order to succeed. The Institute brings together leaders from different industries and helped both of our guests understand that the legal industry does not have a monopoly on stressful situations and the need for solid leadership. Take a listen, and learn more from their LMA article, “Leadership That Pays it forward.”

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Information Inspirations

Greg points to a recent TED talk article from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic called “Why do so many incompetent men become leaders? And what can we do about it?” The article and video are about as harsh as the title implies. While Chamorrow-Premuzic takes liberties at the expense of men, pointing out that the traits of bad leaders skew toward men, the traits of a good leader do not have a gender bias. We have a tendency to value confidence over competence, narcissism over humility, and the belief that leaders can do anything rather than know their limitations. This inspiration dovetails nicely with our guests today. Continue Reading The Geek In Review Ep. 64 – The Leadership Journey with Laura Toledo and Kevin Iredell

Jimmy Baikovicius from Montevideo, Uruguay [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Last Friday evening I attended Winter Jazz Fest, an annual New York City tradition that sees hundreds of performers playing a dozen or more venues over a few nights each January. I made it to 5 concerts at 5 separate venues in the Village before finally hailing a cab and heading back to Brooklyn at 1AM on Saturday morning. All of the acts I saw were memorable. Some of them were amazing performers. Some played incredible music. I would likely go out of my way to see one or two of them perform again, and dare I say it, I may even (gasp) BUY an album or two. However, by far, the most remarkable act I saw that night was The Legal Innovation Project.

Of course, that was not actually their name, but T-LIP, as I have come to call them, played a brand of technical speed jazz reminiscent of a frenetic Spyro Gyra on Quaaludes. It’s not my favorite style of music and I don’t know that I would have enjoyed simply listening to their session, but watching the interaction between the musicians on stage was Epic Theater beyond anything Brecht ever achieved and would have justified the cost of the festival ticket on its own.

The drummer and the bassist were mostly heads-down, steadily plowing forward, seemingly unconcerned with (or possibly unaware of) anyone else on the stage. The pianist intermittently slapped at keys, his eyes darting back and forth over sheet music laid flat across the open Steinway. Two soloists, unfortunately out front and facing the audience, stared intently at music stands in front of them. They would occasionally half-turn and give each other furtive glances of confusion. Every once in a while, one would raise an instrument and blow a few tentative notes that appeared to have no relation to the chords or beat being laid down by the rhythm section. Continue Reading The Hep Sounds of The Legal Innovation Project

With the new decade comes a new tagline for The Geek in Review introduction. Let us know what you think of the change.

Ellyssa Valenti Kroski is the Director of Information Technology/Director of Marketing at New York Law Institute and is the editor of the new book, Law Librarianship in the Age of AI. Whenever there is a monumental shift in technology and processes, there will be winners and there will be those who are left behind. The authors of this compilation give the readers a path to better understanding what Artificial Intelligence is, and what it isn’t. Ranging from the basic understanding of AI concepts to listing specific tools occupying the AI space within the legal industry, to the benefits, risks, and ethical issues surrounding the tools, this book covers a lot of ground. It’s definitely worth checking out.

In addition to the book, Ellyssa discusses her other books and projects, including makerspaces and using escape room activities for professional development and end-user training. She will be running an escape room event at the  Ark Group’s 14th annual Law Firm Library, Research & Information Services in New York, NY, March 12-13, 2020. The escape room is called Escape the Library: The Search for Alexander Hamilton and the Missing Librarian: A Time Travel Adventure. Apparently, Alexander Hamilton did not die from his duel with Aaron Burr but is actually a time-traveler. Whether true or not,  it sounds like a lot of fun. Attendees can get a 20% discount on the conference by entering the code “ESCAPE” when registering.

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Information Inspirations

We’ve covered how BigLaw is adopting the Mansfield Rule to increase diversity within the ranks and is basing that rule upon the National Football League’s Rooney Rule. Hopefully, BigLaw does better than the NFL has. When the Rooney Rule was adopted in 2003, there were three black NFL head coaches. At one point, that improved to eight. However, habits persist and after nearly seventeen years in, the NFL coaching ranks are back to exactly where we started. Three. If BigLaw is to do better, it must be vigilant, and firms not complying should be called out.

Marlene’s inspiration discusses what happens when your career so encompasses your life, that you can’t separate yourself from your job. In a recent  Harvard Business Review article, author Janna Koretz discusses the effects of what psychologists call “enmeshment” where professionals are so intertwined with their career identity, that they lose their self-identity. She describes ways to understand if your identity has become enmeshed with your career, and methods to break free of that enmeshment. The example she uses is a partner at a large firm, and we all probably know that this type of career/personal identity enmeshment is very prominent within the legal industry.

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Please take the time to rate and review us on Apple Podcast. Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 63 – Ellyssa Valenti Kroski on Law Librarians in the Age of AI, & a Hamilton Escape Room

A recent mini-epiphany got me thinking again about legal innovation. This epiphany came during a review of some survey results on the culture of large law firms. And like many epiphanies, it came from just one small comment, which served as the straw.

The survey was of law firm business professionals on their roles and challenges within big firms. Most of the responses talked about how they are primed and ready to drive change. The one small comment, paraphrased, noted that lawyers, especially partners, will not tolerate failure or imperfection.

This is nothing new for law firm professionals. However, in this context, the message for me was that innovation will be punished unless it happens without any failures or hiccups. This is of course anti-innovation. Innovation is a process of experimentation, working through mistakes to find solutions that meet needs.

So yet again, I am bearish on innovation in the legal profession. The people with the skills and desire to help law firms change have a serious incentive to sit and wait to be asked for some assistance. Raising your hand can lead to bad consequences. So why do it?

I apparently am a slow learner because I continue to not only raise my hand but move forward with change initiatives. There are a number of like-minded people out there.  That being said, the real problem is that this strong disincentive to change is built deep into the culture of firms. Lawyers (rightly so when it comes to client output) are very focused on eliminating risk (a.k.a. failures). But they then carry this culture deep into the business side of their firms, many times crippling the very efforts they will need to sustain their businesses.

And I started off the year so optimistic about 2020.

Oh well – I made it to January 6th.

While we try to put out a Geek In Review podcast episode weekly, we average about 40 episodes a year, so the math tells us that we skip a week every month. Still, not too shabby if we say so ourselves.

We have a number of interviews and ideas lined up for 2020, but we wanted to take a quick look back one last time at 2019 and point out a list of episodes that were popular with our audience. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet, give it a try and let us know what you think.

Before we start the list, we wanted to thank all of our guests who have taken the time to talk with us and put up with the joys of building a garage band style podcast… and all the technical difficulties that entails. We’d also want to thank Jerry David DeCicca and Eve Searls for the music that you hear on the podcast.

Let’s jump into the ten most popular episodes:

Number One: The Pros and Cons of Working Remotely

We have twelve stories from legal professionals and what they see as the benefits and detriments of working from non-traditional spaces.

Number Two: Data Science Superhero

Jennifer Roberts discusses her work as a Data Scientist in the legal field. She thinks that law firms are just scratching the surface when it comes to the value of data. Continue Reading Top Ten Geek In Review Podcast Episodes for 2019

The past ten years have been what University of Tennessee Law Professor Ben Barton calls “the lost decade” for law schools. In his new book, Fixing Law Schools: From Collapse to the Trump Bump and Beyond, Professor Barton walks us through the issues he sees with the current structure of legal education in the United States, and ways to actually fix it. The book focuses on three areas that need correction:
  1. The cost of legal education is simply too high, and cannot be maintained.
  2. Technology has to be leveraged within the educational curriculum to help future practicing attorneys to do more work, charge less, and make more money in the end.
  3. Regulations have to be focused on the outputs of legal education, and be given teeth so that students are more likely to succeed.
While the book title is about the lost decade of the 2010s, the root of the problem goes back well over a hundred years. Professor Barton talks with us about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go so that we really are Fixing Law Schools.

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Information Inspirations

We keep it short and sweet this week (mostly because neither of us has finished our holiday shopping.)
Wireframes are becoming less relevant — and that’s a good thing – In his Medium article, Sean Dexter argues that using wireframes is basically old school now, especially given the rise of Agile product development, and Lean UX processes. Today’s visualizations require more on-the-fly modifications which standard wireframes just don’t allow. Newer products like Think Sketch, Adobe XD, or Figma are the modern tools you might want to check out.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 62 – Professor Ben Barton on Fixing Law Schools

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org and we take a deep dive into the issues in this matter. Kyle Courtney, Copyright Advisor at Harvard University, and Ed Walters, CEO of Fastcase have strong opinions in this matter, and were both involved in submitting Amicus Briefs on behalf of Public.Resources.Org. Join us for this engaging and informative conversation as we look at what the arguments are from both sides, and how Justices’ questions may shape the outcome of this case.
For more information on this case, check out the oral argument transcript [PDF], or listen here, and a primer with supportive materials from Ed Waters’ on Medium.
We also catch up with Emily Feltren from the American Association of Law Libraries to hear what else has been going on in Washington, DC in regards to legal information (we skip the impeachment stuff.) Believe it or not, there are things actually getting done in DC despite all the obvious gridlock.

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Information Inspirations

Our very own Toby Brown is the inaugural guest on the new podcast, Pricing Matters. Toby is well known for his contribution to the establishing of pricing professionals within large law firms, and he gives us a peak behind the curtain of what he has accomplished over the past decade and a half. He even gives us a parallel story of how pricing issues resemble actions taken by HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines. Check it out!
KM Is Dead… Long Live KM. It turns out that if you want to be innovative in law firms, look no further than what your Knowledge Management team has been working on for some time now. There’s been a big boost lately in how KM is helping innovative law firms move forward with a 360 degree view of their knowledge, and better understanding their clients.
Sometimes we inspire ourselves. Greg recently read about an Australian law firm going through an identity crisis on whether it should see itself as a law firm, or as a professional services consultant on legal issues. The story line fits almost any company, industry, or organization where there is a paradigm shift in what they do. Check out his LinkedIn article where he reworks the story to fit nearly anyone facing change.
Is Data Science dying? Marlene says no. However, firms trying to implement data science techniques are finding that dirty data and antiquated ideas are limiting its results and driving data scientists away from working for them.

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Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 61 – Deep Dive on State Copyright Issues with Kyle Courtney and Ed Walters

I recently attended a conference that included both law firms and clients. One of the clients had a slide showing his company’s savings by bringing work in-house. It was the classic approach of comparing billing rates for law firm lawyers to hourly compensation rates of equivalent level in-house lawyers. Even though this lawyer was not a client of my firm, I still held my tongue on critiquing his math, since that would have been bad-form.

So I am doing it here.

That math is a poor representation of the situation. It is not very thoughtful and a bit lazy. But hey – I’m sure it looks good for the CFO. Here’s what it initially leaves out:

  1. Benefits (medical, dental, vision, life insurance, etc.), which add about 40% to the hourly comp number.
  2. Basic Overhead (offices, phones, computers, etc), which probably doubles the comp number
  3. CLE requirements costs
  4. And probably a few other costs I am forgetting

This approach also ignores a number of other costs that should be there, but aren’t. At a law firm, lawyers have a significant amount of support (f.k.a. overhead) that allows for more efficient and effective work by the lawyers. But in-house teams can’t or don’t provide this. This includes:

  1. Library and research services
  2. Knowledge Management
  3. Professional Development
  4. Legal Project Management
  5. Pricing
  6. Legal specific technologies
  7. Support from Finance
  8. Presentation support (e.g. trial support)
  9. E-Discovery support
  10. And on and on …

Think about all of the operational support a firm provides its lawyers that an in-house team can’t and you will realize that lawyers without this support will be far less efficient and effective. And think about all of the newer investments in innovation that firms are now making and will be making in the near-term. This all means the cheaper hourly rate comes at quite a cost.

Finally – a very important resource these in-house lawyers loose is the support, oversight and mentoring of seasoned partners. Clients prefer to hire associates away from firms at the 5-7 year mark precisely because they have been learning from these same partners. So they indirectly acknowledge this is very high-value stuff.

Basically clients hiring trained lawyers from large firms are buying a very nice car with a full tank of gas, but not giving much thought to who will be taking care of this car (that has no warranty) going forward. And then they brag about how owning is much cheaper than renting.

Admittedly, law firms also have a profit margin. But they receive this when they earn it.

My prediction is that we are reaching the peak of the trend of client bringing work in-house. This has historically been a cynical trend and with the predicted recession approaching, having large head-counts will lead to other problems for in-house departments.

On top of all of this is one of my other rants. This same client went on about how rates for senior associates were way too high, given their skill level. Having recently rebuilt a house, I find this a bad place to give your attention. Instead of focusing on the cost of inputs, you are far better off talking about scope, outcome and total cost. A focus on input costs may well drive you to compare hourly costs such as this client did, leading them to think they are getting more for their dollar when they may not be. Clients who want to truly get more for their money will be far better off partnering with the law firms to develop innovative ways to accomplish this.

Rant complete.

We all love our pets and think of them as part of our families. Even though we might love them as much (or more) than we love people, the legal system does not allow them the same protection. That doesn’t mean that there are no rights for animals, in fact, there are many specific laws designated to protect them. In this episode of The Geek in Review, we bring on four experts in researching Animal Laws, not just in the US, but worldwide. We talk with the following members of the American Association of Law Libraries’ Animal Law Caucus:
  • Alex Zhang – Law Library Director and Professor of Practice at Washington and Lee University School of Law
  • Stacey Gordon Sterling -Law Library Director and Professor of law – Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana
  • Katie Ott – Reference Librarian – Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford University
  • Sarah Slinger – Reference Librarian and Lecturer at Law – University of Miami Law Library
Whether it is legal issues ranging from which parent gets the pet in a divorce, or how an orangutan is granted “personhood” in Argentina, to animal testing on cute beagles (yes… that’s still going on in the US), our experts from the Animal Law Caucus cover these issues and more.

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Information Inspirations
There is a lot of tech opportunities in America, but one of the unrealized places are on Native American Reservations. The Make Me Smart podcast talks with a Native Financial Officer about the upcoming Wiring the Rez conference.
One Texas Federal Judge asks if you submit a brief more than 10 pages long, that you make a recording so he can listen to it, rather than read it. Sounds like an opportunity for some talented legal podcasters with better voices than Greg.
Despite some of the best efforts to make things better, even allies can come up short when it comes to racial bias in the workplace. One leader in the Social Justice non-profit area shares her story, and it mirrors some of the same situations we see in the legal industry.
To understand Algorithmic Bias, you must first understand the different types of discrimination, and how they apply to the bias. It’s very complicated, but here’s a primer to get your started.

Continue Reading The Geek In Review Ep. 60 – The AALL Animal Law Caucus: Acknowledging and Researching Animal Rights in a People-Centric World