There’s more to strategy than having a shelf full of binders labeled “Strategy [Insert Year].” That’s what this week’s guest, Matt Homann from Filament, tells us. Matt’s influence in the legal market goes back a couple of decades, and he’s been a voice in the blogging sphere for a number of years. At Filament, he works with legal, as well as other industries (like the St. Louis Cardinals) to help leaders better relate and guide their organizations. As he puts it, “we help smart people think together better.” Matt believes that the way we tell our stories will help people join in on the overall efforts and strategies of the organization. It’s easy to tell our stories to like-minded people, but we also have to tell (and sell) our story to those who are opposed to the strategies. More importantly, we have to reach those in the middle, who could go either way. If you convince that 50-80% of people willing to join you if you give them the right motivation, it can change the entire momentum of your organization’s efforts. (5:25 Mark)

Links to Topics Covered:

Monday Morning Meeting Newsletter
Unreasonable Request Post (and Poster)
Idea Quarantine
Powerpoint Bingo


Information Inspirations

We flip this week’s episode and try something new. Our information inspirations segment will come after the interview. Let us know (@gebauerm or @glambert or call 713-487-7270) and let us know if you like or hate this new setup.

Why isn’t data privacy a bigger deal?

There’s a great episode of Make Me Smart which discusses Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. That section is responsible for the social media and overall Internet that we have today. What caught Greg’s ear on this show was that co-host, Molly Wood, went on an absolute rant about how private and government entities are still not taking our privacy data as seriously as they should. Just this week there was a breach at US Customs where facial recognition data was hacked. With things like DNA databases, and other personal data out there in unsecured databases, and with penalties being relatively light, Molly was not a happy camper. (36:32 Mark) Continue Reading Ep. 42 – Matt Homann Says Binders of Strategy are Useless… And You Should Listen to Him!

I wrote a few weeks ago that technology doesn’t change who you are, it magnifies who you are. One thing technology can do, however, is question where the ethical line is when it comes to how we apply new technologies. I ran across three things this week that specifically asks the question of where do we draw that ethical line?

Work Smarter, Not Harder – But, can I still get paid like I’m working harder?

The first article came from Fast Company’s Gwen Moran. In her article “Is it unethical to not tell my employer I’ve automated my job?” One employee posted on a message board that they were able to create an algorithm that essentially turned 40 hours of hard work into two hours of smart work. This situation runs parallel to what we see in legal work. Are we paying for results, or are we paying for hours worked? How would we reward a fourth-year associate if they found a technique that took 40 hours of billable work and reduced it to two? Would we pay for the result, or pay for the time? If we pay for the time, then we may be encouraging inefficiency. If we pay for results, we may be placing pressure on employees that the technology may eventually replace them. (The person who created the algorithm, purposefully put errors in the process so that it can’t completely replace them.)

Technology Makes Cheating Easier… and Cheaters Easier to Catch

The second article was a Marketplace report on “How AI is catching people who cheat on their diets, job searches and school work.” We may all fudge our facts from time to time. Whether that is sneaking an unapproved snack on your diet, borrowing a line or two from someone else’s written work, or even when applying for a new job. Well… there’s an algorithm for that. The technology is out there (or is being developed) which makes cheaters easier to catch. Perhaps you want an app that virtually slaps your hand when you sneak a candy bar, or skip a workout. Or you want to detect plagiarism in a law student’s work. Or, you want the actually truth about a job candidate’s experience. Modern technologies and algorithms are there to help. Darrell West from the Brooking Institution’s Center of Technology Innovation says it is hard for us to escape the effects of big data. “Artificial Intelligence can detect cheating just because it can compare what we say with what we do.”

Advancements in Modern Technology Can Even Catch a Killer – But, did I agree to that?

I was catching up on my podcasts after a week in Ireland, and I listened to the two-part series from the New York Times’ The Daily on A New Way to Solve a Murder. Unintended consequences are pretty common in technological advancements. One such technology is genetic testing sites may become the new defacto database for criminal dna testing. People submit their dna to these companies with the desire to find out more about their heritage, but one side effect is that when you have over a million dna samples, you have a very good database to catch a killer who left their dna at a crime scene. The federal CODIS dna system has over 11 million convicted criminals in their system. However, there is a bit of a bias in that there is a large representation of poor black males from urban areas in the system (draw your own conclusions on why that is.) The dna sites like 23 and Me, however, tend to have an older, whiter, and more middle-class slant. While the CODIS system has to have an exact match, the private dna sites are designed to trace family trees. Where’s the ethics in it all? The podcast covers a few cases, including the Golden State killer, who were discovered using these privately collected dna sites. Should their be an opt-in or opt-out for the participants? Where’s the ethical line now in moving criminal dna methodology to the private sector?

It’s hard to argue that there is a huge upside to using the technology in a way that most people who submit to the database didn’t agree to. The question also arises on how the technology changes the way we “prove” what happened. Instead of working a case to narrow the suspects and then using the dna to identify the culprit. The process is turned on its head, and the DNA is used to identify hundreds or thousands of relatives, then working back to narrow the possible suspects. Is that the new ethical line?

As we adapt to the new technologies, and all of the unintended consequences, we have to ask ourselves, as a society, where do we draw the ethical line? It’s not a simple question, or a simple answer. But, it is one that we constantly need to be asking and answering.


Late last month, on behalf of Thomson Reuters, I had the privilege of facilitating a mini Hack-A-Thon with 30ish lawyers from Cassels Brock at their annual Lawyers Retreat. The idea was to take lawyers who are already out of the office and give them some time to reflect on their workflows, their technology use and how they can work to make their firm better.

Based around the premise of “don’t you wish the firm had an app for that?”, the lawyers used the time to first generate dozens of ideas using traditional Design Thinking methodologies like Crazy 8’s before collectively voting on one idea.  Once we had a selected idea, in teams by table, each group iterated on the idea as they built out prototypes.  Always up for sharing, the lawyers presented their prototypes to the room and then finally voted the winning solution or “app”.  As with many Hack-A-Thons, the decision to undertake and explore learning in a fast paced creative way can be more important than the outcome. The event, hosted by Mark Young and Tilly Gray, Cassels Brock Partners and leads at FourLines, demonstrated that if given the opportunity, lawyers can not only think creatively and come up with solutions but they can have fun in the process.  Given the rigid nature of practice, we tend to generalize that lawyers don’t “get it”.  Or that firms are not innovating quickly enough or are not thinking of ways to provide faster, better service to clients that is efficient and effective.  We believe that billing models and business models need to change and that once those elements are fixed, a “new law” will emerge. That may be true.  I do believe the industry will get there one day, likely soon. But until there is wholesale change which will only happen over time, firms need to provide opportunities, methodologies and frameworks to allow lawyers to step outside of their day to day pressures and think differently. Whether through a facilitated Hack-A-Thon, a Design Thinking Workshop, Personal Branding Session, Book Clubs, Coffee Chats or other means, it is vital to give smart, busy people a break from working in their typical ways and allows them a safe environment in which to experiment with thinking differently. It is in these breaks that true creativity and innovation can flourish.  Right now, as the industry is attempting to keep up with the pace of technology and generational differences, it needs to harness all of the creative power it can to bring about real change and identify new process management to the industry.

Processing power and speed have increased incrementally since 2007, competition for law firms and demand for legal services has been dramatically altered since 2008, and we find ourselves trying to change a centuries-old profession. It took years to get us here but we don’t have the luxury of spending as many years trying to change the culture.  Participating in the Hack-A-Thon, a fast paced, low fidelity, tactile event, reminded me how important it is to give people an opportunity to stop and think, to take a break from the files on their desks, to talk to their colleagues and to have some structured fun with pipe cleaners and ping pong balls.  Lawyers, technologists, administrators, management: whatever the role everyone has

something to contribute.  Every member of a firm has some creativity to bring to bear that can change process and workflows for the better, or to innovate on what came before, to iterate and move the profession forward into the new era of analytics, AI and beyond into the new reality of the post millennial practice of law.   The session also reminded me that segregating people into the roles they play, rather than the ideas they can contribute, diminishes the investments we make in people. Data and technology don’t make decisions; people do, and true insights into the flaws of existing process and our clients feel can only be articulated by people.

Congratulations to the lawyers who participated and the management at FourLines who had the bravery to bring a Hack-A-Thon to their annual lawyers retreat.  Let’s continue to find opportunities to give people across the industry pipe cleaners, Post It Notes and creative license. Who knows what problems we’ll solve next or how quickly!

Brad Blickstein, Principal at the Blickstein Group, a research and advisory firm for both in-house and outside law firms, joins us to talk about legal operation, and his recent experiences at the 2019 CLOC Institute in Las Vegas. As with many great conferences, the programming between 9 AM and 5 PM is good… but the conversations from 5 PM to 9 PM (or 5 AM, this was Vegas), are what makes the gathering really special. We’re calling it #CLOCAfterDark.
There’s a lot going on in Legal Operations, and the Blickstein Group has put out a Law Department Operations survey for over a decade. He gives some great insights on the relationships between in-house counsel and outside law firms. While there’s a big difference between the business operations in a company versus a law firm, the attorneys tend to be cut from the same cloth. Groups like CLOC are positioned perfectly to help lawyers understand the roles they need to play to protect their organizations. Blickstein stresses that Legal Operations is a broad topic, and that CLOC is part of that movement, but is not all there is within the movement. There’s a lot going on, and the opportunities are pretty expansive these days. (12:00 mark)

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Information Inspirations
Copyright is not something to LOL about. The Houston Independent School District was slapped with a $9.2 Million copyright violation for copying study guides. Even though they cleverly blocked out the warning on the guides that “copying of these materials is strictly prohibited.” Be careful out there when it comes to thinking it’s okay to copy and distribute materials which have copyright protection. It can cost you millions. (2:50 mark)
AI Sharecroppers. We all know that data is king these days, but not all data can be automatically gathered. At least not effectively. There is an underclass of labors out there who are being used to help gather and identify data needed to power AI programs, known as “human labeling.” As the name “sharecropper” might imply, they do a lot of work… but don’t make a lot of money. (5:25 mark)
Algorithm Problems creates Human Liabilities. We rely upon automation, AI, machine learning, and other technology to advance our society, but when those fail, it’s not the automation that takes the blame. It’s usually the human that is around at the time. MIT Technology Review talks about how we have a 21st Century tech problem that’s being adjudicated under 20th Century morals and laws. (7:05 mark)

Continue Reading Ep. 41 – Brad Blickstein on Legal Operations and #CLOCAfterDark

In our 40th Episode, Greg and Marlene interview Erin Levine, an attorney and founder/CEO of Hello Divorce, a service that makes divorce more human and accessible by offering legal help and wellness support throughout the process of dissolving a marriage.   Offered in California, Hello Divorce offers access to resources and tools and different service levels, from basic to concierge to a la carte access to independent fixed fee attorneys.  Erin highlights that the legal process can be confusing, dis-empowering and expensive and that Hello Divorce is a necessary guide to help people navigate the system in a way that doesn’t destroy them financially and emotionally.  While divorce representation is a consistent legal need, Erin highlights that there are many other parts of the process that are also necessary which don’t require attorney skills.  She leverages various forms of process improvement including outsourcing, automation, smart contracts to make the service application scalable.

Part of what is interesting about the discussion (and there are lots of interesting parts) is that Erin stands the idea of aggressive and hostile divorce action on its head.  While Erin has critics, she maintains the benefit of taking down level of tension and fear between the parties.  In fact, 92% of divorces started with hello Divorce have concluded without having to refer out to full rep attorneys. (10:17 mark)

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Information Inspirations

According to  Aliqae Geraci from Cornell and Shannon L. Farrell from University of Minnesota wrote an article entitled “Normalize Negotiations!” we teach librarians a lot about management skills, but we’ve lacked in teaching them basic skills like salary and promotion negotiation skills. There is a place for the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to teach their members these skills. (4:05 mark)
Continue Reading Ep. 40 – Erin Levine on the Efficiency of Divorce as a Service

When you think of algorithmic governance, you may go right to things like predictive law enforcement, or risk assessment of setting bail or prison sentences for those in the criminal justice system. However, algorithms have a much broader application in the legal system, far beyond those criminal justice aspects. Drexel law professor, Hannah Bloch-Wehba walks us through number examples of other areas which algorithm governance is being used. Broad areas which she labels as “typical poverty law settings” of welfare… medicaid… child protective services for example, and those area are continuing to expand. Court systems, administrative law departments, and other government agencies are relying upon algorithms to help with larger and larger caseloads.
Algorithms, in and of themselves, are not inherently bad. In fact, it can be very helpful in streamlining processes and alleviate the burden on different government agencies in how to handle these issues. But is it fairer than what we have now? We don’t have a good way of demonstrating that. Professor Bloch-Wehba sees the overall effect of algorithms as creating a newer playing field that is bumpy in different ways than the old one. There’s still a human element in algorithms, not just in the creation of the algorithms, but also in the acceptance of algorithmic outcomes by those who are tasked to apply them. Add to this, the “black box” which some algorithms live, and how governments are relying upon private industries to create these processes, and an inability for the government to be able to discuss how they work. Can governments give up their duty to be transparent in the name of algorithmic efficiency? How far will a democratic society tolerate with algorithms which it may not fully understand, or trust?
We cover all of these questions and discuss Professor Bloch-Wehba’s upcoming Fordham Law Review article, “Access to Algorithms,” which will be published later this year. (10:35 mark)

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Information Inspirations
Archive and Delete are not the same. Garry Vander Voort of LexBlog writes about a disturbing trend he is seeing on apps where you might think you are archiving a magazine or a podcast, but in reality, you’re deleting it. He has a few suggestions on how developers can use better descriptors, including some good ol’ library terms. (2:27 mark)

Continue Reading Ep. 39 – Hannah Bloch-Wehba on Who is Governing the Algorithms?

Jim Hannigan, the Director of Legal Project Management at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP and a member of the leadership team and standards committee at SALI Alliance walks us through the importance surround data standards when it comes to legal matters. Creating standards is the first step in allowing those of us in the legal services industry to speak the same language, and create ways of comparing apples to apples when it comes to marketing pitches, prior experience, or matter pricing. Hannigan discusses why SALI was created, the release of the first set of matter standards in January of this year, and what to expect at the LMA P3 Conference next month.

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We also discuss the current situation with Wolters Kluwer experiencing a ransomeware attack which shut down most of it’s online resource tools. WK has been very open about what happened, and is keeping a public statement page open as they begin to bring services back online – although, others may not agree. Just another reason to watch out for those phishing emails!

Information Inspirations

Legal innovation needs to learn some new tricks.” Rae Digby-Morgan at Wilson Fletcher, tells us that you can’t just slap “legal” or “law” onto a process and think that it makes it special. In fact, the legal industry may be a bit too much insular and should open up to non-legal experts to come in and advise us on how to improve our processes. She also reminds everyone that process improvement does not equal innovation. The value-add results of process improvements are expected by our clients… and is the floor, not the ceiling. If you want to separate yourself from the competition, being truly innovative will help.

How a Google Street View image of your house predicts your risk of a car accident. Standford University and the University of Warsaw in Poland have tested Google’s Street View images of individual’s houses to determine how likely they will be to file an auto insurance claim. Reportedly, they improved predictability by 2%. Scary! Marlene wonders what are the next factors in determining future actions? If you run 5K’s, or donate to non-profits?

Kim Kardashian and Legal Team Help Free 17 Prisoners in 90 Days. Although neither Greg nor Marlene watch KUWTK, or follow Kim on Instragram, they have nothing but good things to say about her work to help free 17 people who were imprisoned and drug related charges. Some serving life sentences. If you’re going to have power and fame and a platform, using it for social justice is a great way to use it.

Listen, Subscribe, download Jerry’s music, and Send Us Tweets and Voicemails, Too!!

Don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and comment. You can tweet @gebauerm and/or @glambert to reach out. Call us at 713-487-7270 with suggestions. And, thanks to Jerry David DiCicca for the music!

Continue Reading Jim Hannigan – SALI Alliance and Why Matter Standards … Really Matter

Welcome to a mini-episode of The Geek In Review. Shot on location in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Law School Stress??  No Kidding!

This week, we continue our discussion on how law students can have a stressful time in the three years they are in law school. We can’t change what happens during law school, but we’ve asked some experts to tell us what they do to help law students reduce stress as they prep for finals, and what they can do to be successful as summer associates in law firms.

We finish our series about how law schools are reducing stress by hearing from the following schools:

  • Howard University
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Houston
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Georgia State University
  • University of Texas

We appreciate these schools (and the ones from last week) taking the time to tell us what all they are doing to help students deal with finals.\

Hey Summer Associates… Listen Up!

We also talk with a number of AmLaw 100 firms about what their expectations are for how summer associates can have a successful tour of duty at their firms. Greg and Marlene were at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, and they asked a number of their fellow attendees what they do to help summer associates succeed, or what their expectations are for how law schools should prepare them for this work, and what they allow from outside vendors in regards for training as assistance during the Summers’ time at the firm.  Continue Reading Advice for Law Students – From Reducing Stress to Nailing Your Time as a Summer Associate

David Whelan, the Director of Legal Information & the Great Library Society of Ontario, discusses his recent article “The No Legal Research Provider Landscape,” and how lawyers, law librarians, and the legal industry looks at legal information services. Do you need to have multiple resources like Westlaw, LexisNexis, Bloomberg or others, or can you get by with just going with one (AKA “Sole Provider.”) Do you even really need to go with one of the big services, or can you survive off of the resources provided by the local bar association? Or are there even fewer options for solo small firm environments? David covers  this, plus when things are “good enough” for some lawyers to feel comfortable in their practice. And, how that usually runs counter to law librarians and other practitioners who would never be satisfied with “good enough.”  (18:30)

De-Stressing the Law Students During Finals

We skip Information Inspirations this week to have a little fun. Anyone who has gone to law school knows that finals time can be stressful. We reached out to a number of law schools to ask them what they do to help students reduce their stress levels during this time. We get some great answers from:

  • The University of Georgia (5:10)
  • Tulsa University (5:40)
  • University of San Diego  (6:17)
  • University of Illinois (6:30)
  • University of Arkansas Little Rock (12:26)
  • Richmond (12:50)
  • Boston College (14:14)
  • Yale (14:38)

Thanks to all of these schools for sharing. There’s some great programs going on at all of these schools. We have a few more who left us messages today, and we’ll make sure to get those on the next show.

If your school is doing something to reduce the stress levels of law students, call us on the Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a brief (30 seconds or so) voice memo, and we’ll get it on next week’s show.

One of the things we learned from Yale’s Law Library Director, Teresa Miguel-Sterns, is that New Haven apparently does have excellent pizza. (16:05)  Marlene, with her New Jersey skepticism says that she’s going to have to try that out first hand. So look out Connecticut…

Government Action on Legal Information

Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations at the American Association of Law Libraries, gives us a monthly update on what the government is doing in regards to advancing access to legal information. (7:40)

Listen, Subscribe, download Jerry’s music, and Send Us Tweets and Voicemails, Too!!

Don’t forget to subscribe, rate, and comment. You can tweet @gebauerm and/or @glambert to reach out.
Call the Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270, and let us know if you have ideas on topics we should cover in future episodes.

As always, thanks to Jerry David DiCicca for his original music.

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 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