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 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