No.

 

I hate it when an article title present a question and then draws out the answer until you are over half-way through the material. So I started with the answer on this post.

 

Of course you could have guessed that answer pretty easily. But as I have been thinking about this issue lately, another dimension to this question came to mind.

 

Turning the way-back machine to 1999 – I was involved in a start-up as part of the Dot.Com boom (and bust). We had a technology that provided Enforceable Online Transactions. We calculated that there were 50 billion transactions every hour, or something like that, on the planet. And we only had to capture a fraction of that to get rich. Sadly – that was not the result. But at the time many people would ask me if I was afraid to take the risk of having a job like that. Start ups are a risky place to be. I could lose my job at any time.

 

My answer to the less-risky people in my life was that I thought they should be more afraid for their jobs. I was developing new and valuable skills and knowledge while theirs were going stale. At some point, technology and innovation would automate or displace their jobs – which has happened, although not to everyone – yet.

 

So this same thought occurred to me recently but in a different context. My Dot.Com experience lead me in to a constantly innovating career path. For example, I was a pioneer in the legal pricing space. And I continue to embrace and lead new ideas and approaches. So I have considered my job positions to be relatively safe, since I am leading the change and not being eaten by it. But then I realized even with that approach, I still have risk. With all of the chaos right now in the legal market (merger mania, etc.), who knows what the future holds for any of us. Positions can be eliminated or dramatically altered or firms can implode or merge into other firms.

 

Crap.

 

But then I thought back to my Dot.Com thinking. It’s not that any job I have will necessarily be sustaining. It’s that I am always reaching for new and exciting skills and experiences. Stay nimble and stay adaptive. That’s the best strategy for staying “safe” in this new, fast-changing job market. Adding another layer to this – it’s not just about staying up on tech. Understanding blockchain will have some value. Understanding how to turn that knowledge into revenue and profit has a much higher value.

 

Which brings me back to my prior point – if you are in an old-school “safe” job, you should be worried. And in an ironic twist, if you are risk averse and want to be safe in your career, you better take some risks.

Over the past month I have given about a dozen talks in large conference settings with hundred of people, or at smaller intimate partner/ counsel lunches, or for people spanning the globe via webinar. The discussions have ranged in content and theme but all were legal industry favourites including:

  • the state of the legal industry 10 years out from the great recession of 2018;
  • the seat change from Baby Boomers to Millennials in firms, and what that means for the way work is done, how people are motivated and what success looks like;
  • competitive intelligence – what is means in and for the legal industry right now;
  • personal branding for lawyers and non lawyers and why it matters; and
  • emerging legal technology tools, adoption techniques, use cases and efficiency plays;

In each room and with each discussion, there have been those who have heard it all before, who are frustrated by the inertia of the industry and who bristle at hearing it all again. But the majority of the market whether in house or outside counsel, senior partner or fresh faced associate, law clerk or technologist are very much grappling with what to do and how to make sense of all of the changes happening in the industry. The proverbial “they” suggest that the only constant is change.  And the legal industry is very much in the middle of it. There are changes to the way the law is practised, with more and ever changing legally focused technology, reduced hourly billing in face of less demand and more alternatives to traditional firms, predictive analytics around litigation, artificial intelligence supporting contract review and the list goes on. These are changes unique and special to the legal industry, whereas the need to define a personal brand, to provide the right kind of feedback to engage millennial employees and stay one step ahead of the market, are universal business concerns not unique to the legal industry at all.

When taken together, it is not just the pace of change that seems overwhelming but also the various types of change that are making moving ahead a daunting task. Should the focus of industry training be on soft skills like communications or harder more disciplined skills like the rule of law? Should we teach coding to lawyers or law to coders? These are tough questions, questions with no definitive answers for the moment. We need the legal industry to adapt to the ways of the post internet/AI world with new business models, new compensation and reward models and much more client focus. This we know. How each firm or department gets there – will be entirely culturally specific and one organization’s first move may be another’s crowning jewel.  Just as every firm was created to fill a specific void and found its own niche, so too will each firm find its way to adapt.  Or it won’t, and some firms will go the way of the dinosaurs….but maybe there is another way. A differed approach to thinking about the industry change.

Along with all my own speaking opportunities and sharing of thought leadership, I also had the honour of being a guest at the Toronto Agile Community Conference. The conference was fascinating and what I thought would be a purely tech show turned out to be so much more. Most of the sessions I chose to attend were on Leadership or Culture related to Agile Methodology. One of the insights I gained was around the notion that to be truly agile, one needs to embrace learning, be open to and know how to learn, for true agility comes from the ability to morph and change as needed to meet the demands of a particular moment in time.  While it relates primarily to programming and the building of technology, the methodology underscores the notion that in today’s tech driven world, we should think in terms of job security over role security or place over task. To learn how to learn is where the magic that happens between function, being and makes for a genuinely agile and fulfilling experience.  Wow.

When I think about the legal industry (who are we kidding, I think about the legal industry more than the average person), there is much happening at the intersection of technology, process and people and yet it feels sometimes like we are standing still and not agile at all. What would happen if we took some of the typical industry discussions and applied an Agile lens. How might it all look different, for example might we really be making iterative progress – a key principle of Agile. For example:

  • the state of the legal industry 10 years out from the great recession of 2018;
    • In the last 10 years, law firms have become lean, iterative in their approach to pricing ranging from flat fees to AFAs and even hiring pricing people, law firms and alternative providers are flexible in the way they approach clients with bundled services, new offerings and expert advice…that’s pretty agile for an industry that spent the last several hundred years billing exclusively hourly, rarely ever bidding on work and maintaining large staffs of people at all levels of the organization.
  • the seat change from Baby Boomers to Millennials in firms, and what that means for the way work is done, how people are motivated and what success looks like;
    • Firms have embraced VPN technology, many lawyers work from home, their cottages or their client’s offices. Non-partnership track streams are popping up at many firms, as are insourcing offices, diversity and inclusion initiatives all with a healthy dose of pro bono work all in an effort to make a new generation of lawyers feel happy and fulfilled;
  • competitive intelligence – what is means in and for the legal industry right now;
    • Firms and lawyers have acknowledged that the legal industry is a competitive business. Investing heavily in business development and client account management is driving priorities in firms. A recent BTI report even suggested this will be an area of continued investment in 2019 and beyond. The last decade has solidified the shift from focusing only on the practice of law to a focus on the business of law.
  • personal branding for lawyers and non lawyers and why it matters; and
    • If job security rather than role security are part of the new Agile world, then you need to be able to sell your capabilities not your function. Know who you are and be able to adapt, think about your genuine self as you would role models like Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah, even Snoop Dogg who have reinvented themselves time and time again in a effort to stay relevant and be successful. Lawyers and non lawyers in the industry now need to do the same.
  • legal technology tools, techniques adoption, use cases and efficiency plays.
    • With all the talk of lawyer robots taking over the world, I feel like this bullet is already Agile. Firms and departments are starting to embrace design thinking and agile methodology into their processes and ways of thinking about technology adoption, they are hiring Chief Innovation Officers and building out think tanks and tech incubators. That’s meta. That’s agile in action.

The industry is a buzz with change, new tools, new techniques and new ideas, of that there is no doubt. There is some sense that we have seen it all before, and we know how this movie ends, but I don’t think we do. I also think that we are moving things along at a pretty rapid pace when you consider where the legal industry was just 10 years ago and where we are today. Sure, there is SO much more we can and should be doing, and if you are unsure what I am referencing here, just read all of the 3 Geek Posts prior today or listen to The Geek in Review podcast.  Instead of continuing to lament the rate of change, we need to embrace the new status quo – and help our firms and departments make the most sense of what is happening in a way that aligns best with strategic goals, organizational culture, appetite for technology and general market savvy.  Technology is here to stay, and we need to continue to learn how to use it best for the sake our clients and our industries.  I know there are many 3 Geeks readers and contributors that are willing to help too if you need it (just ask!).  Part of being Agile, is knowing what you don’t know, failing fast and finding new answers. So while you may feel like the record is skipping, I promise its just making a new agile sound.  So sit back and enjoy the record.

 

Sometimes when you drop by Greg’s office, he will ask if you’ll sit down for an interview for the Geek In Review Podcast. This week, Scott Mozarsky, Managing Directory for North American at Vannin Capital fell into that trap, and even Marlene jumped in on Skype and joined the conversation. Scott was the former President of Bloomberg Law and has been in the legal media industry for decades. During the discussion, Mazarsky talks about how the Knowledge Management skills found in law firms can be applied to some of the same analytics and processes found in Litigation Finance. He also walks us through how Litigation Finance is changing, and that a lot of business is being driven by the needs of large law firms… not just plaintiff work.

In the segment that Marlene and Greg are now calling Information Inspiration, Greg discusses how, even after multiple years of security training, it took a episode of the Reply All podcast to finally scare him straight and up his security game. Hackers are no joke, and using strong passwords, encryption, and password managers are a must in today’s scary… scary world.

Continue Reading Podcast Episode 17 – Scott Mozarsky on Litigation Financing and Its Ties to Knowledge Management

On this episode of The Geek In Review, we talk with the new Executive Director of the American Association of Law Libraries, Vani Ungapen. Vani discusses her initiation into AALL and having to learn all of the different acronyms that Law Librarians like to use.

Greg was inducted into the College of Law Practice Management as a Fellow. While at the CoLPM meeting, former Harvard Law School President, Martha Minnow discussed her mission as the Vice-Chair of the Legal Services Corporation, and the need to help those who cannot afford legal services to not fall through the cracks.

To dovetail with Martha Minnow’s topic, check out the work that is going on with The Bail Project, which created a rotating bail fund to help those who are sitting in jail, primarily because they cannot post bail. Greg ponders if there is something that legal associations could do to support these types of projects in support of access to justice issues.

Marlene went to the latest Ark Group KM meeting (apparently there was a Fortnight dance involved?) While she was there, she asked Vivian Liu-Somers, Ron Friedmann, Phil Rosenthal, Phil Bryce, and Meredith Williams-Range about how does Knowledge Management impact innovation.

Perhaps the most exciting change this week is that we have new music from Jerry David DeCicca. Jerry is a well-known Americana musician and former lead singer of The Black Swans. There is a law library link in this music in that AALL member, Eve Searls, sings back up, and plays keyboard and Wurlitzer on Jerry’s latest album, Burning DaylightWe are very excited that Jerry is letting us use his fabulous music on the Podcast. Check out his Spotify, and iTunes channels.

If you have comments or suggestions, please tweet us at @gebauerm or @glambert.

 

I’ve gotten a bit of grief from friends and colleagues for starting a series of blog posts on lessons I learned from my time as a musician and composer that I now use every day in my capacity as a legal technologist, then building to the announcement that I’m starting my own consulting company, and then immediately dropping off the face of the earth again.  I will come back to that series shortly, I promise, but as you can imagine I’ve been all consumed with the new company for the last few months.

As I write this, I am sitting on a train from New York to Boston to attend the College of Law Practice Management Futures Conference, where I and Geek #1 will be inducted as fellows.  Toby and Casey are already fellows, so we’re quickly approaching Phase 2 of 3 Geeks World Domination, (ed. – First rule of 3GWD: We don’t talk about 3GWD, Ryan!) but my 4-hour train journey gives me a bit of time to reflect, regroup, and rewrite.

The interesting thing about starting a company in the midst of a series of posts about lessons from a past life, is that it makes me think a lot about how I’ll use the lessons I’m learning today in my future endeavors. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in recent weeks that I’m planning to keep in mind as I go forward.

1) Approach new opportunities as if you know nothing.

This has been really easy in the last few months, because while I know a quite a bit about what Sente Advisors does for our clients, I started the company knowing very little about actually running a company. Knowing nothing, and knowing you know nothing, allows you to sponge up experience and gain an understanding very quickly.  In some cases, knowledge – or the self-perception that you are knowledgeable – can blind you to new learning opportunities.

2) Starting a business and working for yourself, is like having 2 jobs and no income.

I had been a freelancer for years when I worked as a musician.  I often held multiple jobs and temp jobs, and I scraped together income to pay for my music habit. So I figured working for myself would be kind of like that.  I joked for the first month or so that I was finally unemployed again.  But the reality is owning your own business is like having 2 separate jobs.  One is the job you want to do; the work that your company was created to do, and the other is actually running your company.  Oh, and for the first few months, you won’t have any income.  Good luck!

3) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

It’s easy to get into the mindset of ‘it’s us against the world’ when you’re starting a new business.  But you’ve got friends, former co-workers, fellow startups, and even former employers that will likely offer guidance, support, and if you’re lucky, even office space. People that have started their own companies know how difficult it can be and, in my experience so far, they are eager to help others succeed too.

4) Surround yourself with smart people that have compatible and complimentary skills.

This is probably the most important lesson of all.  Don’t do it alone.  When I was first thinking of starting a company, I thought I’d just ‘go out on my own’.  Thankfully, I had a few people that liked my idea and said, “would you be interested in working together?” I can finally announce my partners in Sente Advisors.

Shashi Kara, formerly VP – Solutions Consulting at Neota Logic, is the Chief Technologist at Sente.  I’m pretty good with technology.  Shashi’s better.  And tenacious, and frankly a bit OCD.  He’s currently meeting with vendors daily building out our sandbox of legal innovation tools.  (Also, he came up with the name Sente when I was hopelessly stuck. Anyone want to hire Super Magic Legal Techno-Wizards?)

Dan Pryor, formerly Sr. Consultant and Account Manager at HighQ, is the Chief Revenue Officer at Sente.  In addition to being a smart and talented technologist in his own right, Dan is commercially minded in ways that Shashi and I never will be. Without Dan’s skill in managing the pipeline, negotiating contracts, and speaking in a British accent, Sente would just be another techno-nerd consultancy struggling to make ends meet.

The primary extra-technical skill that I bring to the table is my interest and ability to get up in front of large groups of people to talk about technology and try not to make a fool out of myself.  While that is quite a useful skill to have in general, it turns out to be a lot less helpful than you’d think in the early stages of starting a business.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for solo consultants, solo lawyers, or anybody trying to do anything by themselves, but having a talented team of people with a diversity of skills and capabilities who can shore up each other’s weakness and further strengthen the company’s core offerings is a much better way to do things.

At least, in my admittedly limited experience thus far.

Brandi Hester, Applications Development Manager for Hunton Andrews Kurth, discusses how the modern Applications Development team focuses less on actually developing applications from scratch to providing a services, security, access, and connecting the dots on all that data. She walks us through the plethora of “AAS” (as a service) options which law firm IT departments use, and she talks about “Shadow IT” groups found in law firm departments and practice areas. Brandi also shares some great insights on being a woman in a field that historically has favored men in app dev roles.

 

Continue Reading Podcast Episode 15 – Brandi Hester and the Modern Role of a Legal Applications Developer

On this episode we will talk with Jeff Marple, Director of Innovation, Corporate Legal at Liberty Mutual Insurance company. Plus, we have our monthly update on government action in legal information from AALL’s Director of Government Relations, Emily Feltren. So, it’s an action packed episode, so grab a drink of your choice and settle in for a good one.

 

15:13 – Jeff Marple, Director of Innovation, within Corporate Legal at Liberty Mutual discusses what it is like to be the innovations guru within a large corporate legal environment. The key is incremental change, lots of communications, having the customer in the room, and publicly executing poor performing processes or projects in the town square.

 

07:22 – Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations at American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), gives us her monthly update on happenings in the legal information field in regards to government actions. AALL submitted an amici curiae brief in the recent PACER class action, National Veterans Legal Services Program et al v. United States of America, which is currently on appeal. AALL made the points that PACER Fees Harm Patron Access And Legal Research Instruction and that PACER Fees Impede Law Libraries’ Responsibility To Preserve Legal Materials.

There are a number of bills at the federal level focusing on opening up access to PACER. Is free access to PACER on the horizon? Seem that there are a number of politicians looking to do just that.  Continue Reading Podcast Episode 14 – Jeff Marple and the Art of Incremental Change; Plus “Free PACER”?

On the latest episode of The Geek In Review:

Laurent Wiesel, Founder and CEO of Justly, talks with us about leaving his BigLaw partnership to create a startup focused on litigation analytics. Wiesel discusses how he saw that there was a growing gap between what clients were asking on issues of pricing and process, and what law firms were able to deliver. Greg (@glambert) talks about his ability to post an actual written blog post this week about who is the customer.

Legal Startup CEO, Laurent Wiesel

Continue Reading Podcast Ep. 13 – Litigation Analytics with Laurent Wiesel of Justly

I live in an environment which there is a passion to drive innovation. We want to make things better, cheaper, faster, seamless, more intelligent, and a hundred other adjectives to support our goals. When I read an article this morning from Mark A. Cohen on Forbes’ website this morning, I felt like he was speaking my language. Cohen starts off by saying that one of the reasons law firms struggle with keeping pace with business innovation “is that there are too many lawyers involved in legal delivery and too few logistics, supply chain, and management experts, technologists, project managers, data analysts, and other professionals/paraprofessionals.”

Operations is where it’s at! Right? Just ask a group like CLOC. Operations is in the title for Pete’s sakes.

Then I saw Jeff Carr’s tweet regarding the article, and it got me thinking in a completely different direction. Continue Reading Law Firm Innovation: When the Client is Not the Customer

On this episode, we interview Alameda County Law Library Director, Mark Estes, and get his insights on how modern county law libraries support their communities, and how their communities support them.

Marlene and Greg were interviewed by Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway for The Digital Edge Podcast.

Should vendors put out surveys which they directly sponsor and write? If they do, it might not pass the sniff test.

Marlene (@gebauerm) discusses the creepy ideas behind Augmented Eternity, as well as the proper methods behind YouTube apology videos.

Marlene is also speaking at the ARK Group Knowledge Management conference in New York, October 23rd-24th.

Greg (@glambert) recommends listening the CBC’s new podcast, Undercover: Escaping NXVIM, and the ideas behind a manipulation process called “Engineered Epiphanies.” Plus, why you shouldn’t name buildings after people who are still alive.