No matter what happens during this economic, political, health, and social crisis, Olga Mack reminds us that our skills are ours to keep. Olga is the CEO of Parley Pro, and brings her wisdom to the podcast on what lawyers and other legal professionals need to do to take care of themselves and thrive through the good times and the bad. Olga is the CEO of Parley Pro, a company that developed an innovative contract lifecycle management (CLM) tool, but she is so much more than that. A prolific speaker, a thought leader in the legal industry, a litigator, a transactional attorney, an in-house, as well as BigLaw attorney alumni. If you can name it, she’s probably mastered it. We sit down with Olga to talk about a range of topics and share in her wisdom and experiences. Come along for the ride.

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Information Inspirations
Artificial Lawyer and Legal Examiner both covered stories about a unique type of litigation funding company called LawAsYouGo. While they tout their ability to enhance Access to Justice (A2J) issues, there are a number of issues that we’d like to see addressed with how they actually create a positive influence on the A2J movement.
Our friends at Legal Innovators produced a White Paper called “Restoring Lost Hope: How to finally achieve meaningful diversity and inclusion in the legal industry.” Bryan Parker and Jon Greenblatt cover the issues of current and historic racial discrimination in the legal industry and suggestions on how to move forward. One major issue that we worry about is the fatigue that seems to be setting in on certain segments of the population. Now is not the time to rest, or think we’ve learned enough. Sharing this paper with the powers that be at your organization might be one way to help power through and look for meaningful ways to encourage diversity, inclusion, and equality.
In a recent Lindsey, Africa, and Major survey, women partners are paid an average of $332,000 less than their male counterparts. Business Insider looks at this report and explains how one of the best options for female partners to increase their pay and their happiness, is to leave and go to somewhere else.
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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 88 – Olga Mack on Valuing Your Skills, Reputation, and Determination

Gender and diversity analysis is necessary to the success of law firmsIn fact, diversity metrics are quite openly a common ask from law firm clients.   Firms may not often have this sort of information readily available, due to siloed information and custodial/privacy concerns.  We get the scoop from  Phil Flora from Leopard Solutions about their new searchable gender and ethnic diversity platform, how it works, what it reveals, who can use it, and why.  We discuss what was found in terms of the top 200 and below in terms of racial diversity and there is room for improvement.  Quite a bit.  If firms want to establish a baseline for improvement, this platform might prove a good way to start.

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Information Inspirations

Mike Whelan, the author of Lawyer Forward, is doing something crazy. He’s starting 90 episode podcast series called the 90-Day Known Expert. During this time, he plans to teach lawyers how to leverage their writing and publishing skills to become both known in the industry, as well as seen as an expert in the industry. Best of luck on your adventure Mike!!

Professor Bill Henderson lays out a two-part series that wants to turn law firms away from their Rainmaker model into a team model. It worked for Goldman Sachs, why not for BigLaw? (Part One. Part Two.)

Christina Herrmann, Chief Talent Officer at Shipman & Goodwin penned a LinkedIn article reminding us that law firms are a business and that to have a competitive advantage, the C-Suite needs to be filled with the proper talent for what’s coming post-COVID.

Need a visual representation to help you identify common cognitive biases? We have a chart of 50 for you to peruse.

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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 As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.


Marlene Gebauer:  Welcome to the Geek in Review. The podcast focus on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert:  And I’m Greg Lambert. So Marlene, I just love reconnecting with old friends especially during this crazy year of 2020,

Marlene Gebauer:  who doesn’t love connecting with old friends? Continue Reading The Geek In Review Ep. 87 – Phil Flora on Leopard Solution’s New Gender and Ethnic Diversity Tool

David Kamien is the CEO of Mind Alliance and is someone who understands that in order to truly collaborate with your clients, you have to understand their needs on a granular level. That means capturing the data in a way that proactively predicts legal and regulatory risks that companies like them are likely to face, but also list the probable impact that those risks are likely to impact them specifically. While this may sound like a pipe dream to some, and a delusion to others, Kamien thinks that improving the state of data in law firms through knowledge graphs and taking concrete, and logical steps toward improving and leveraging data, will help get law firms to where they can leverage the data in ways that will truly turn them into counselors to their clients. It means creating a data strategy for the firm that creates higher levels of sophistication so that the data turns into answers, and those answers turn into the types of action that clients are willing to pay for. Law firms should not sit back and wait for this to magically happen. If you want to generate value, you are going to have to collaborate very closely with clients. And in this day and age, that involves data.

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Information Inspirations
Most of us in the information profession have touted our skills as fact finders. In this time of misinformation on the Internet, that skillset is needed more than ever and seems to be showing up more and more in the media as they look for Misinformation Experts like the University of Washington’s Information School, Jevin West. West appeared this week on one of our favorite non-legal podcasts, Make Me Smart, where he uncovered some of the reasoning behind the cult that is QAnon, and why its ability to manipulate information makes it so popular, and so hard to convince those believers in the conspiracy that it really is misinformation.
Staying in touch with clients and others isn’t simply about setting up the next Zoom meeting. Julie Saravino produced a great list of ways to have that personal interaction with others in a way that “ups your game” and makes you stand out from those who still rely upon Zoom, email, and phone calls.
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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 As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 86 – Using Data to Really Know Your Clients and Predict Their Needs – David Kamien

A law firm’s primary function is to enable lawyers to practice law. In fact, many of us on the operations side of the law firm business have heard the complaints of lawyers that there are too many “other tasks” that take away from their practice of law. On today’s episode, we talk with the CEO of Williams Lea, Clare Hart, about the challenges she and her company have faced during the pandemic, and what she sees happening as we push through the current situation, and what will happen as we eventually find our way to the other side. Whether it is the issues of working in the office or at home, or it is outsourcing, virtualization, or elimination of tasks, the world is going to look far different post-COVID than it did pre-COVID.

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Information Inspirations

We know that you may be overloaded with webinars and online training, but trust us when we say that both Legal Value Network and Legal Operators are pushing out some great content. Marlene mentioned that in one of the webinars the presenter mentioned that “what go you here today, won’t get you there tomorrow. You have to improve with fewer resources.” So true.

Crisis brings out creativity. That is evident with the way that protesters across the country, and probably the world, are using CARRD to set up single-page websites that host relevant information for those attending the protests or looking to help or learn more. CARRD and other one-page sites combine easily accessible information with the elegance of web design, especially for the mobile devices that protesters rely upon while out in the streets.

Brick and mortar stores aren’t the only types of businesses that needed to find ways to pivot in 2020. Relation-based businesses such as Mary Kay also needed to change their business strategy, sales, and relationship models. Are there parallels between these types of relationship-based businesses and law firms? Most definitely.

If you’re looking for a fun couple of podcast episodes that combine libraries, true-crime drama, and legal podcasts, then Laurence Colletti over at Legal Talk Today has what you need. In a two-part interview with Travis McDade, they tell the story of how the Pittsburgh Carnegie Library ended up missing $8 million worth of artifacts and didn’t even realize it for years. Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 85 – Williams Lea CEO, Clare Hart on Letting Lawyers Do What They Do Best… Practice Law

The i.WILL professional networking forum is a culmination of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP’s CIO, Andrea Markstrom’s passion for empowering women. i.WILL (Inspiring Women Igniting Leadership & Learning) works to connect, professional women across different industries and leverage this network to help give these women the guidance to build upon their leadership skills. i.WILL now has a foothold in New York, New Jersey, Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, and (with Marlene’s help) soon coming to Houston. There are over 400 members within the network and growing. Andrea discusses the three pillars of the organization of Networking Events, Giving Back and Paying Forward, and the Grant Fund called i.WILL Accelerate. Andrea puts it best when she describes the mission in that, “We are strong women. We are smart women. We have experience. We all have a story to share, and we can learn from each other.”
To learn more about i.WILL, contact Andrea via LinkedIn and she can get you on the mailing list. There is an upcoming event called the Board Boot Camp in coordination with The Fourth Floor.

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Information Inspirations
While we talk about the value of Data Scientists, it could be Social Scientists like Dr. Zeynep Tufekci who are really the best situated to understand how information (or “the truth”) needs to be exposed to the public. Trying to manipulate the truth because you’re afraid that the public might do something bad with it, is actually not a good idea. (See Dr. Tufekci’s keynote at the 2015 CALI Conference)
What can you do with professionals like Firefighters who have open work schedules? Perhaps a version of the gig economy might leverage them into a B2B model. David Heim-Buck is trying that very thing with his new start-up, Hidrent.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 84 – Andrea Markstrom and the i.WILL Forum. Women Empowering Women

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we have seen many firms expand and publicize their diversity efforts in the community. Many of these efforts are part of pro bono programs supported by individual firms. Brenna DeVaney, Director of Pro Bono Programs and Pro Bono Counsel at Skadden and the Law Firm Anti-Racism Alliance (LFAA) have a different approach–leverage the legal and technical expertise of law firms and legal vendors as a whole while working with legal services organizations and race equity advocates to battle systemic racism long term. Brenna provides us with some insights into the mission of the LFAA and its plans for the future. [PDF of LFAA Mission]

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Information Inspirations
Bon Appétit? Apparently not if you have dark skin. Greg discusses how Bon Appetite’s popular Test Kitchen got derailed due to racist policies. He also ponders how individual freedom can hamper good solutions–in this case the use of COVID-19 tracing apps.
For those of you who can’t take being on another online call, Marlene has a hack for you. You can use pre-recordings. And while the end result is great, the effort might not be worth it. But if you do choose to pre-record yourself nodding and sipping coffee, spend your free time listening to Marlene’s summary of the recent copyright litigation of Thomson Reuters v. ROSS Intelligence.
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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 83 – The Law Firm Antiracism Alliance – Brenna DeVaney

How successful have firms been in handling the stress of adjusting to the needs of the market, knowing how to present that message to clients, and understanding how a sustained firm culture plays a critical role in their ability to cope? Barbara Malin, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Jackson Walker, LLP, and Jennifer Johnson, CEO of Calibrate Legal discuss the critical role marketing, business development, and firm culture play in times of crisis. Our guests tackle some very tough questions about whether firms know and embody their culture and if cultural bias hampers their ability to succeed. They also highlight how firms have adjusted their business development plans to support clients in light of COVID and anti-racism movements.


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Information Inspirations

Are you feeling inspired this August? We certainly are. From identifying songbirds via neural networks to Deloitte Legal’s AI pro bono project in the UK to pornography suits in Martha’s Vineyard, we share our thoughts on the news of the week.

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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 As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.

Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 82 – Law Firm Culture and Marketing, and How to Market Law Firm Culture – Barbara Malin and Jennifer Johnson


We’ve been off for a month and we come out swinging for this #Barpacolypse #Diplomaprivilege episode. Each July, thousands of law students and attorneys are required to sit for and pass the bar exam in their states if they wish to practice. The fairness, bias, and necessity of the test has been called into question in the past (Note: the exam is a relatively recent method to determine attorney competency to practice), but COVID 19 may finally force states to do away with the bar examination. The public has called administration of the test into question, due to COVID 19 health concerns, and the response from state and national bar examination boards and state courts have been a hodgepodge of confusion and guarding the status quo.

Today’s guests, Professor Cat Moon from Vanderbilt University, Brian L. Frye, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington, and recent Georgetown Law School Graduate, Stefanie Mundhenk are digging deep to expose concerns and implications surrounding the 2020 bar exam and to examine creative approaches, such as Diploma Privilege and supervised practice, that not only will protect their health but may prove to be a better gauge of attorney competency. And if you think the bar exam is a good gauge, please see an excellent My Cousin Vinny tweet thread.

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More reading:

Continue Reading The Geek In Review Ep. 81 – #Barpocalypse – Cat Moon, Brian L. Frye, Stefanie Mundhenk

[Ed. Note: Today’s post comes from guest blogger, Steve Nelson from The McCormick Group. – GL]

Representatives from virtually all large law firms are claiming that innovation is critical to their future. Indeed, in the recently released Altman Weil, 2020 Law Firms in Transition Survey, 75 percent of the responding firms reported including innovation initiatives in their strategic plan and also have created special projects focused on innovation.

But when it comes to empowering professionals within the firm to move those initiatives forward, a McCormick Group White Paper revealed quite a different story.  We found that a majority of firms don’t have senior officials with clear innovation responsibilities, and that outside of the AmLaw 100, those officials are quite rare. The report, entitled   ”Innovation and Value Professionals in the AmLaw 200,” revealed that 37 of the AmLaw 100 firms have an innovation professional with a Chief or Director title. However, there was a significant dropoff in the second 100 as only nine of those firms had a high-level professional with an Innovation title.

Our study was based on a thorough review of AmLaw 200 law firm websites, LinkedIn, and the Leadership Directories guide to Law firms.  We focused on those professionals who hold Chief or Director titles in three specific types of disciplines:   innovation, client value, and legal project management.

We classified innovation in a number of ways:

  • Internal innovation—Perhaps most common in the technology realm, this type of innovation is focused on improving processes so that the firm operates more efficiently. While this type of innovation invariably does have an impact on client service, its primary focus is internal. An example of this is the creation of financial dashboards so that the firm can better track things like billing statistics, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.
  • Legal process improvement—-Often accomplished as an outgrowth of legal project management, this type of innovation is focused on improving the delivery of traditional legal services in a variety of ways. This would include the use of alternative staffing so that the most cost-effective service providers are handling key aspects of a legal matter.
  • Cataloging —Innovation that is designed to keep clients better informed on various legal developments. An example of this would be a real-time state-by-state regulatory catalog that will update the clients on developments in particular legal areas.
  • Uniform document preparation—-This type of innovation largely uses artificial intelligence to create templates of documents that are commonly used in the practice of law. An example of this would be a protocol for nondisclosure agreements that would allow for the alteration of documents based on a set of computer-generated queries.
  • Predictive analytics—-Again, artificial intelligence would be used as a basis for this type of innovation. An example would be to use data retrieved from different court cases to predict how a particular court might determine the result from a particular set of facts.
  • Data sharing focused on improving client service— This would often involve the creation of protocols so that the firm and client can share important data about current engagements (or even the client portfolio as a whole), whether it be the status of cases, the billing process, staffing, or other data important to the client.
  • Direct operational service to the law department— Because law firms often have much more data and technological expertise than corporate law departments (particularly small law departments), firms can provide advice and services to help the client organize its own internal operations. (This is an example of where innovation and client value intersect.)

Client Value and Legal Project Management

In the area of value, we focused on professionals that interact with the client and the leadership of the law firm with the goal of improving service to the client. Include were those officials who handle client feedback, as long as they played a role in ensuring that client suggestions were incorporated in current and future engagements.

We also focused on those professionals who had legal project management and project improvement in their purview, but we did not include pricing professionals who merely analyze data and suggest pricing alternatives to partners.

We did not limit our analysis to those officials with “innovation,” value,” or “legal project management” in their titles.  Among the officials included in our analysis were those with the following titles:  Chief Legal Operations Officer, Chief Practice Officer, Chief Practice Management Officer, Chief Services Officer, Chief Knowledge Management and Client Services Officer, Director of Legal Services Delivery, and Chief Knowledge Services Officer.

Key Findings

We studied the AmLaw 200 firms included in the 2019 edition of the American Lawyer. We found the following:

46 firms had a Chief-level or Director-level officer with an Innovation title and 12 similar professionals with a value title.  (Two of those had had the dual Chief Innovation and Value Officer title).  27 firms had a chief or director with a legal project management title.  Finally, there were 16 firms with other high-level professionals with innovation and value within their purview (see above listing for examples of those titles.)

All in all, 70 firms or 35 percent of the AmLaw 200 have a Chief or Director handling innovation, value, legal project management, or a similar function.  Of those firms, almost half, or 34, have leadership officials with responsibility for two or more of these functions. Three firms have three different disciplines managed by a Director or Chief. (Those firms were Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper, and Shearman & Sterling).

The following charts reveal that the larger firms are more likely to have these officials than those firms in the AmLaw second hundred.


Different Models and Reporting Structures

We also studied a variety of models and reporting structures for innovation and value in law firms. Among them:

  • The unitary model, in which there is a Chief Innovation and Value Officer, who is in charge of both the innovation and value functions.  Examples of these are Ballard Spahr, Blank Rome, and Thompson Hine. Generally, these report to the Chief Operating Officer and/or the Chairman.
  • Separation of the innovation and value functions into two different departments, with a chief or director heading each function, and again reporting to a COO. Examples include BakerHostetler, Reed Smith, and Goulston & Storrs.
  • A slightly different model which does separate the innovation and value functions, but with reporting responsibilities to a Chief Practice Officer or another person with a strong background in Innovation and Value, but who is taking on increased responsibilities in related functions.  Examples include Baker McKenzie, Perkins Coie, and Barnes & Thornburg.

Career Paths of Chief Innovation and/or Value Officers

We studied 29 professionals with chief innovation and/or value titles, and found some interesting results:

  • Just under half of those were attorneys, and virtually all of those had practiced law in large firms.
  • Nine had previous high-level jobs in knowledge management.
  • Seven had held previous high-level positions in pricing or legal project management.
  • Six had previous positions in strategy, program management, or as a chief of staff.
  • Three previously had practice management roles.
  • Four had previous experience in a major accounting or consulting firm.
  • Two had previous experience in financial services.

Future Career Paths

We also discussed future roles that these professionals are likely to play in the evolving legal environment.

We expect those officials to take even greater leadership positions at the firms. Historically, the route to the Chief Operating Officer in law firms was limited to those with experience in internal finance and general operations. However, we believe that experience with the actual lifeblood of the law firm—the actual engagements with clients—will be more important in the long run.

So far, we are unaware of anyone who has made the jump from an innovation or client value position to the COO slot at an AmLaw 200 firm.  There are a few who are currently COOs at smaller firms. And Steven Petrie, the current COO of the Americas for White & Case, had been Chief Strategy Officer for Faegre Baker Daniels and Director of Practice Operations for that firm before that.

What we have seen is the elevation to the role of Chief Practice Officer or some similar title.  Those positions are leadership roles focused on the delivery of legal services, as opposed to functions such as internal finance, technology, and facilities.  For several years now, Three Geeks co-founder Toby Brown has been the CPO at Perkins Coie, where he is in charge of innovation and value, as well as partner recruiting. At Barnes & Thornburg, Jared Applegate became Chief Legal Operations Officer in early 2019, after serving as the Director of Pricing (which encompassed legal project management as well) for several years.

A somewhat different elevation occurred at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner two years ago when Chris Emerson was promoted from Chief Practice Economics Officer to Chief Legal Solutions Officer.  His current position also includes being the leader of Cantilever, Bryan Cave’s firm’s legal operations consulting group, which enables corporate law departments to operationalize the delivery of legal services from all types of legal providers.

Also included in the report are:

  • The impact of Covid-19 on the acceleration of innovation in the legal sector
  • The importance of London in the development of innovation and value
  • Profiles of nine law firms and their leading innovation and value professionals
  • Other resources for information on innovation and value.

(Steve Nelson would like to thank Cassie Battle for her contributions to the report and this article.  For a copy of the full report, please contact Steve at

Steve Nelson is Executive Principal with The McCormick Group, where he conducts partner-level searches and searches for high-level administrative professionals for law firms. He is a Fellow with the College of Law Practice Management.

The 2020 PLLIP Summit is set to kick off on Friday, July 10th.  For the first time ever the Summit will be presented as a virtual event.  While over the past several months, we all have experienced and possibly, over experienced Zoom, WebEx, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime, the Summit promises to be an unforgettable experience. 

We asked each speaker to provide some insight into what you can expect from their session. 

Keynote Address: Reinventing the Modern Law Firm From Information Out: Embracing the Power of Practical Innovation and the Impact of Raising Your Profile

Ari Kaplan, the 2020 Summit Key Note is an accomplished legal industry analyst and a sought after speaker.  He has provided the following sneak peek into his presentation.

The movement fueling legal innovation and reinvention has accelerated during the current crisis. Law firms started the year by reimagining the delivery of legal services, enhancing client service initiatives, and reevaluating their competitive landscape, but the theory has become practice and pilots have rapidly become reality in a reconfigured, remote-first environment. 

Knowledge leaders now have an influential seat at the table with firm management committed to the seamless execution of internal legal operations. In addition to understanding how to navigate this new landscape, these individuals have an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their talent and ability in a virtual world. Their efforts highlight the array of activities they have been influencing throughout their career. 

This is a moment where they can support their teams creatively and comprehensively to empower forward momentum. I am honored to be sharing ideas with this community to help fuel success.

The second session will be a panel discussion with three distinguished librarians from diverse libraries.

The Way Things Were, and the Way Forward: How We Coped, Managed and Succeeded in Unprecedented Times

  • Andre Davison (Research Technology Manager, Blank Rome)
  • Tina Dumas (Knowledge Management and Library Manager, Nossaman LLP)
  • Amy Eaton (Director of Library & Research Services, Perkins Coie LLP)
  • Moderator: Jeremy Sullivan (Manager of Competitive Intelligence & Analytics, DLA Piper LLP)

Moderator Jeremy Sullivan provided the following insights into the panel’s preparations for this discussion.

While changes and challenges, both large and small, have always been hallmarks of law librarianship, it is safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. In a short while, a cascade of events forced us all to change the very way we do business, and while we can imagine what things will look like when we get to the ‘new normal’, none of us can be entirely sure when that day will come. During times like these, when the way forward too often seems obscured and uncertain, hearing from colleagues and peers is a tried and true method to help find one’s bearings.

To that end, we have assembled a panel of distinguished law firm librarians who will point to some universal experiences, perhaps vent about common frustrations, and provide insights into new opportunities, new ways of thinking, and new approaches to our work. If anything, these voices will remind us that we’re not alone, that we can drive change, and that our efforts to provide knowledge and information however and wherever it is needed, is more important than ever.

Communicating through the Colored Looking Glass: How to Connect and Collaborate Better with Those You Work With 

Alycia Sutor from Growth Play will run our final session. Alycia is a skilled trainer and speaker.  Her upcoming session will help us see that everyone has particular inclinations and natural preferences that impact how we prefer to communicate and relate with others.

We all recognize the importance of teaming and collaboration, but the idea is often easier to think about than achieving in practice.  That is why we asked Alycia Sutor of GrowthPlay to talk about the concept of communication styles and how it impacts our ability to create outstanding teams and collaborative groups.  Having sat through Alycia’s sessions before, one of the great takeaways was the appreciation there is no well-rounded leader, only a well-rounded team.   

Knowing our own style can give us insight into why we get along with certain people and why we clash with others. Knowing how others prefer to communicate gives us the ability to bridge the gaps so we can connect and collaborate more effectively. 

Having spoken with Alycia, we are eager to attend this session to:

  • Assess and identify our own personal communication style
  • Gain an understanding of the four major communication styles
  • Learn the cues to help us identify another person’s style
  • Discover communication practices to flex to another person’s style

Registration for the Summit is open through July 7th.  Registration for attendees is $25. Complimentary registration for unemployed members, unemployed nonmembers, and student nonmembers is available by contacting and is subject to verification. You will receive a promo code that must be entered using the online payment form.

Most important, we understand that networking is one of the best benefits of the Summit, hence, there will be a Virtual Happy Hour after the Summit! Registrants will receive more details from PLLIP in the next few days.

The 2020 PLLIP Summit has been generously sponsored by Thompson Reuters and Lexis Nexis.