One of the best things about the legal industry is that there are multiple pathways to success. We are all trained issue spotters, and our guest on this episode identified an issue and founded a new company to fix that issue. Brian Powers is the CEO and co-founder of PactSafe, a high-velocity contract acceptance platform used by such major companies like Angie’s List, UpWork, BMC, TIVO, and others to handle large volumes of clickthrough agreements. We talk with Brian about what motivated him to take on this challenge, and how he sought out to change the way businesses approach these types of contacts, and bring efficiency to the market place, and the legal industry through technology and process improvements. Brian is just one more example of those in the legal field who has found an alternative path through identifying inefficiencies, and finding ways to correct them.

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Hat tip to Kristin Hodgins for her tweet this week when she saw that someone said that if law firms are going to us AI, we need ways to collect structured data. Hodgins tweet reply was spot on when she said “Guess who are experts at structured data? Librarians. Google didn’t destroy us; it help us by reducing low-value work like rote retrieval from our duties & allowed us to focus on high-order skills. AI will do the same.” Well said!

Information Inspirations:

We’re doing AI Wrong

Zach Warren interviewed Brad Blickstein in a law.com article this week about how law firms are looking at AI the wrong way. When it comes to AI and law firms, Blickstein says that “[AI has] become a top-down thing: What are we doing about AI? It’s like asking, what are we doing about databases? It’s a crazy question. The question should be, what problems do we have, how do we solve them, and is AI or some semblance of AI a potential solution for that?”  Brad’s company, Blickstein Group, is producing a Legal AI Efficacy report that is due out this summer.  Continue Reading Brian Powers on the Entrepreneur Lawyer

It was roughly ten years ago when I learned that half of my library co-workers at my law firm had been let go due to the financial crisis, and the downturn in the legal market. Thus ushered in “The New Normal” of having to constantly do more with less. But it also kick started a new era of change in the legal information field, and opened up opportunities for those willing to lead and guide the profession through that change. A decade later, it is time to evaluate where we are, and the current state of the profession.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) recently released its State of the Profession 2019. The report provides a data-driven inventory of the things law librarians and legal information professionals do for their organizations, which runs the gamut from AI implementation to legal research and writing instruction to pro se expertise to customer service to metadata management. It’s the first time this data has been assembled in one place for all law library types, and I’m pleased that it gives me an opportunity to toot our collective horn.

First, for those who don’t know (see page 7), law libraries are product experts with purchasing power.  For example, 100 percent of firm/corporate law libraries manage their organization’s research databases and 97.3 percent are responsible for negotiating the contracts for these services.

Second, I’m thrilled that the report showcases law librarians’ adaptability. Of the 27.4 percent whose law firm/corporation had an AI/machine learning initiative, 68.4 percent involve the library. Law librarians also regularly manage or contribute to: competitive intelligence, business development,  marketing, professional development, management, and strategy in firms/corporations. Our peers in government and academic law libraries showed the same ingenuity and productivity.

Third, the report is very helpful as an informational tool for benchmarking services, staffing, operations, budgets, professional development, and strategic planning. It’s available in print and digital from AALLNET.

The ABA Journal published a more extensive article on what’s in the State of the Profession 2019, including quotes from AALL President Femi Cadmus. As the immediate Past-President of AALL, I am quite proud of the work that was put in on this report, including work by my podcast co-host, Marlene Gebauer. Law Librarians and Legal Information Professionals have a lot to offer, and this is one way of putting the data behind our collective actions.

Not many people can make the transition from Ph.D. in Genetics and Genomics, and then to the legal analytics field, but Dr. Carla Rydholm is someone who did just that. For nearly the past decade, Dr. Rydholm has been leading the charge of data analytics at Lex Machina. She is charged with not only acquiring the data large amounts of data but also maintaining that data as it is updated. Dr. Rydholm stopped by Greg’s Houston office, along with episode 10’s guest, Kyle Doviken to tell us about transitioning from pure scientist, to her current role, and what drives her passion for data analytics, and how the data is used to tell the story, and help attorney’s understand what’s previously happened, and use that as a guide to better understand where they may be headed. It’s a very insightful conversation.

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Marlene WIns an Award!

The Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals (PLL-IP) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is giving Blogger of the Year status to our very own Marlene Gebauer for her outstanding work on this podcast. Congrats Marlene!! Continue Reading Dr. Carla Rydholm on the Value of Legal Data Analytics

 

I was recently listening to an episode of Without Fail called “The Tragedy Expert.” Kenneth Feinberg talks about how he has become the expert in administering funds that are distributed to victims and families of tragic events like 9/11, or the Newtown shoot, or the Boston Marathon bombing. He talks about becoming an expert, but that each case is unique and has to be handled like it is the most important case he’s ever handled before. The show’s host, Alex Blumberg, asks Feinberg if having gone through these cases so many times, does he feel like he’s the expert and can give some type of guidance because he is an expert at what he does. I really liked his response.

Absolutely not. It’s as if it’s the first time I’ve ever done one of these. Be careful about confusing the substantive terms and conditions of the program, where we’ll build on what we’ve done before, from the emotional response of victims and myself, to the individual cry that comes from the victim.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how well you know your topic, if you can’t apply it to the specific situation you are currently handling. You have to engage with the client, who may be going through one of the most important (and expensive) events in their lives. Continue Reading Technology Doesn’t Change Who You Are… It Magnifies Who You Are

 

A few creative go-getters ready to pitch their ideas — ideas that beat out all the others to reach this stage.

A panel of judges comprised of the industry’s thought leaders, waiting to be wowed.

A rapt audience, eager to see who will sink or swim. It’s the showcase of a major network (legal knowledge network, that is), truly “must-see” stuff.

It’s not Shark Tank. It’s the return of AALL’s innovation tournament.

Ready to jump in?

Continue Reading Put Your Shark Hat On – AALL’s Innovation Tournament

Should law firms invest in more competitive intelligence? Asks Ron Friedmann. Um. Yes. Always yes. And not just law firms but every business should invest more in CI.  Investing in knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know and knowing what the market knows – about you and otherwise – is an investment every business should make.  In the above mentioned article, CI is described as “The deeper the insight, the better. Competitive intelligence serves that purpose. It helps win business and improve service delivery.”  The article goes on to talk about the ways CI can help law firm business development and marketing efforts, this post was expertly timed to come out in advance of the Legal Marketing Associations annual conference being held in Atlanta this coming week.  The revisiting a February 2019 survey and calling for more CI is a great start,  CI can help with business development.

But positioning CI only as BD and Marketing support sells CI short.   CI can and should drive business development efforts but CI is much more.   CI should be embedded in practice planning, strategic firm growth discussions, lateral hire diligence, office or practice expansion proposals.  To borrow and expand on the SCIP.org definition of CI, it is a systematic and ethical program for gathering, analyzing, and managing external and internal information that can affects your business.  There are a few key elements to that definition that get lost when we think of CI as only competitive research to support BD and marketing efforts. Namely, the idea of CI being based on analysis, and a combination of internal and external information gathering.  The aforementioned competitive research leaves out rigorous analysis and negates internal data, which firms are producing in mass quantities and not leveraging very well beyond pricing or resource planning.  We need to bring the outside in. if we are going to truly do meaningful CI for our firms. CI needs to be systematic, it needs to be ongoing not only tied to a specific RFP or a moment in time, it should evolve with the firm and inform any business decision that requires both avoiding surprises (the fall of a competitor firm, the exit of an entire practice of lawyers from your firm to a competitor) and forecasting for the future (did we see e-sports coming as a burgeoning area of law?). Continue Reading More CI? That’s Axiomatic

On this episode of The Geek in Review Podcast, we have a wonderful conversation with Steve Embry of the TechLaw Crossroads blog. Embry walked away from his AmLaw 200 partnership almost a year ago to follow his passion to become a full time legal blogger. He discusses how there is an art to storytelling, and as a lawyer, there are different ways to present those stories. Storytelling is a skill which needs to be honed, whether that is through legal blogging, or through leveraging technology to present your story in a courtroom environment. Embry’s passion in this new phase of his life is palatable throughout this interview and even inspires those of us who have been blogging for years to remember why it is we do it.

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Information Inspirations:

Ernst and Young is poised to swoop in and acquire Thomson Reuters’ managed legal services company, Pangea3. Marlene wonders what this means for the future of both the Big 4 entering the legal market, and what the future objectives of Thomson Reuters in the legal industry. Continue Reading Stephen Embry – The Passion Behind Legal Blogging

For years the prevailing wisdom has been there are no economies of scale for law firms. In the classic economics sense this is true. Having more lawyers does not reduce the amount of time it takes to perform legal tasks. So it does not matter whether you work at a firm with a few lawyers or with hundreds of them. The work has always been very manual so larger scale does not impact the time it takes to get things done.

However … there are other economies of scale to be gained from size in a law firm. These economies exist and are emerging on the business side of firms. One might jump to the conclusion these will primarily be IT based, automating lawyer functions and such. But those functions are still early stage and not yet having widespread impact. Instead these economies of what I will call value, are coming from other corners of the firm.

This thought came to be recently when discussing diversity goals with a client. My firm has just over 1000 lawyers. At this size we can afford to have a chief diversity and inclusion officer (who is awesome by the way). A firm with 100 lawyers is unlikely to afford such a role. A firm that size is more likely to task a partner with that function, so it is not their day job. Continue Reading Economies of Scale for Law Firms?

On this episode of The Geek In Review, we talk with Joe Lawson, Deputy Director of the Harris County Law Library in Houston, Texas. With Harris County being the third largest county in the United States, there is a large number of attorneys, judges, and citizens who use the law library for various reasons. In 2018, there were over 24,000 filings of self-represented petitioners. That is a lot. Dallas County, by comparison, had 6,000 in the same time period. Lawson believes that there is a duty of the law library to help train lawyers, not to just be more efficient in their personal practices, but to help them have more capacity to help assist pro se litigants. Lawson’s calculation is that a 3% increase in capacity, through advancements in technology usage, could help eliminate a majority of the pro se issues in the county.

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Back from South By Southwest (SXSW)

Greg returned this week from SXSW and a trip to Northern California. Although the music was great, it was the educational sessions which took up most of his time in Austin. Panels on Gen Z, and the art of Storytelling where two of the topics that caught his attention.

INFORMATION INSPIRATIONS

Washburn Law School in Kansas allows their 3L students to finish their last year of law school actually working in the industry. In their “Third Year Anywhere” program, students receive first-hand experience working with mentor lawyers in one of six different areas. They complete their educational portion of the curriculum through online courses. Is this an outlier in legal education, or a potential trend for other schools to follow? Continue Reading Joe Lawson – How a 3% Increase in Lawyer Efficiency Can Solve a Pro Se Problem

Today’s Guest Post is from Shashi Kara, my partner in Sente Advisors. – RPM

This article about companies not getting the value from innovation that they were expecting, got me thinking. How do we know if an innovation is valuable?  I would argue that the value in innovation isn’t in a specific innovative product or process, but the knowledge gained over time as the flow of innovation leads to new learning and further iterations.

Apple G4 Cube

In July of 2000, one month after I started working at Apple as a doe eyed graduate, they introduced the Power Mac G4 Cube.  It drew lots of enthusiasts and fans because it stuffed so much into such a small package.  The only other “Power Mac” in Apple’s line up at the time was an enormous 30 lb tower.  Many point to the G4 Cube as being the beginning of the Apple’s modern golden age whereby design and hardware were so seamlessly linked that Apple was able to bring about products no other company could build. Continue Reading Innovating for the Power… and the Sex